The mountains’ little-big course
summit daily news
Summit County, Colorado
LEADVILLE – It’s pretty rare for any athlete to be able to stand at the pinnacle of their sport, but that’s where I was Thursday morning.
Of course, I mean this literally.
Walking to the second green at Mount Massive Golf Course near Leadville, the elevation is just a wedge short of 10,000 ft. This makes it the highest point on any golf course in North America.
I was actually standing at the top of golf.
Sure, I didn’t really do anything except pay my greens fee and plot along the first hole and a half, but this – along with the wedge I had just hit to about 10 feet – was a pretty rewarding feeling.
It was for my wallet, too. Beyond being the highest golf course elevation-wise, Mount Massive happens to be one of the lowest courses in terms of price.
The course may not have the rolling fairways, the bigwig designer credits or the risk-reward layouts of some of the higher-end mountain tracks, but what this little course lacks in prestige it makes up for in experience.
With the Sawatch Range looming in the distance, including the Fourteener that gave the course its name, the nine holes of Mount Massive weave through a solid grove of evergreens with neatly manicured fairways, smooth greens and whispy-but-sparse rough. The course has the feel of a true “muni,” where there’ll be more T-shirts and PBRs than Polos and Grey Goose – and certainly more hacks than sticks.
Really, this is a course for every Tom, Dick and Harry, not Tiger, Jack and Arnie.
That’s not to say it’s your average public course.
First off, Mount Massive only has nine holes, but the scorecard is set up to switch tees at the turn. That way you can feel like you’re playing an 18-hole course, just with only nine greens. To say the least, that’s fairly unique.
And unlike most mountain courses that try to kill your extra high-elevation carry with 500-yard par-4s, Mount Massive is considerably short from tee to green. For 18 holes from the back tees (which combine the “blue” and “black” tees), the total yardage is only 6,170 yards. For longer hitters, the course has two very reachable par-5s (holes 6 and 8) and two drivable par-4s (holes 4 and 7).
Though the yardage makes the course feel like a birdie fest, the size of the greens make it a little challenging. I’ve heard one person compare an attempt to get the ball on the putting surfaces to “trying to land a jet liner on a postage stamp.”
Then there’s the obvious aspect of elevation.
Since it’s not likely any of us are going to ever hold up a Claret Jug or slip on an Augusta National green jacket, Mount Massive holds the secret of reaching golf’s greatest height.
Even if it’s on a 140-yard par-3.
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