It has been a little while since I’ve posted a course review and that’s because I’ve tried to play locally in recent weeks to save some money for this trip. If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll know that I tried to keep that up to date so now I’m sorting through all my pictures and thoughts from the trip.
I met up with a friend in Denver to play some courses in the area as well as to hit up a couple of Nebraska’s top courses. We were looking for a quality course close to the airport for a Friday afternoon round before hitting the road. Our flights arrived in the morning and we had time to get some lunch before heading over to the course for our 2pm tee time. Thankfully there is no shortage of decent courses within a short drive of the airport based on some research and limited personal experience. We found the tee time at Green Valley Ranch for $51 and decided to give it a try.
The course works its way through a housing community and homes can be seen from every hole, but I don’t think they will normally come into play. They are set back far enough from the course so that I didn’t feel like every homeowner was watching me hack it up. Barking dogs and loud music could still be distractions, but I personally don’t think the homes ruin the experience. This area of Denver is pretty flat and like a couple other courses that I’ve played nearby, there is not much elevation change except for a few holes on the back nine. I was expecting it to setup like an inland links course, at least visually, and there are some holes lined by fescue and mounding. However, quite a few holes have a wetlands feel to them with many forced carries and well placed trees. Overall, I think the designer created a lot of interesting holes with a boring piece of land.
We played the Black/Blue combo tees which play 6807/71.7/131. I even think there is a championship set of tees that are not listed on the scorecard so there might be ten different sets of tee boxes allowing anyone to try their hand at the course. I thought the course was a little tougher than the rating and slope, but that is probably because it was my first time playing here. There are plenty of natural hazards as well as man made hazards and fairway bunkers. That made it tough for me to pick clubs and lines off the tees. However, it is still my type of golf course as the fairways are wide and there is plenty of room to track down a wayward tee shot without always having to drop. I didn’t find it very difficult off the tee at all. Plus, many holes allowed for multiple options off the tee which is always fun.
I like having to hit accurate approaches in order to walk away with good score, and that is what I thought the course required. It seemed that every green had a big ridge or spine so it was tough for me to keep the ball from trickling out an extra five or ten feet. The greens certainly required some spin on the approaches and short game shots to get it close. Throw in a few collection areas around the greens and it got a lot tougher once I left the tees. Because of all this I’d call it a second shot course. I struggled to save par with an average iron, but I still had an outside chance to do so with a great chip or a 20 footer.
The course condition was a reflection of what we found the rest of the trip in the Denver area. Everything was in fantastic shape. Apparently the area has received a lot of rain so everything was green and lush in the middle of summer. The tees and fairways were like carpet and many didn’t have a blade of grass out of place. The greens rolled with some speed and nothing bumped off line. The rough was grown up a bit and thicker so I had to try to dig some shots out of there. Considering that there were a lot of groups out when we played (4.5 hours to play) I expected there to be more ball marks and divots but that wasn’t the case. Like some of the other courses that I’ve played in the area over the years, I think Green Valley Ranch is a little overpriced but it turned out to be a good choice near the airport.
#1 (348 yard par 4):
This is a shorter opening hole that is more open than it looks from the tee. It is most likely going to be a long iron, hybrid, or 3 wood to keep it short of the fairway bunkers down the right side. There isn’t much room on the left side before a shot could run into the hazard so that needs to be avoided.
#2 (577 yard par 5):
Even at the higher elevation, this is going to be a three shot par 5 for the average player. The layup should avoid the three or four fairway bunkers and be played around a lone tree short of the green that can grab a mishit shot.
#3 (436 yard par 4):
I think the tee shot is the easiest shot on this hole as it plays to a large fairway. The approach is a little uphill to a semi-blind green where distance control with an iron is rewarded.
#4 (318 yard par 4):
This is a short par 4 that could be driveable under the right conditions. If someone is going directly for the green it will play shorter than the yardage as it moves a little left. The smart play is out to the right and there is plenty of fairway out there so someone can hit a variety of clubs to leave their favorite yardage into the green.
#5 (216 yard par 3):
I think that this is the toughest hole on the front nine. It is a long par 3 with a raised green and played into the wind when I was there. The green is smaller and felt like it was designed to receive a mid iron and not a long one. There is trouble left too so a par is well earned.
#6 (421 yard par 4):
This is a straightforward par 4 that plays a bit downhill. The tee shot can be played out over the cart path which will give a good view of the green and all the flag locations.
#7 (338 yard par 4):
I’d call this a tricky hole. It is shorter so a layup off of the tee will leave a short iron into the green. The best play is going to favor the left center of the fairway to avoid a tree down the right side. The flag was on the left side when I played, but I could only see the top of it and ended up with a longer birdie putt than I thought.
#8 (166 yard par 3):
I love this par 3 because it requires a precision iron shot for a birdie, but someone could still end up with a par after an average shot. The green slopes off on the front and back into chipping areas so anything in there is going to require some good touch.
#9 (520 yard par 5):
This wasn’t my favorite hole but I’m not sure I played it right. I tried to chase a 3 wood up by the green and hit it in trouble. The fairway is large, but there is trouble right on the tee shot which cuts across the hole as it moves right. Then there is trouble on the left and right sides all the way up to the green. It could be risky to try to lay it up after a tee shot in the rough. If I played here a bunch I think I’d try to lay it up most of the time.
#10 (417 yard par 4):
This is a dogleg left par 4. The aggressive play off the tee is down the left side either over the bunker or just right of it with a driver. The conservative play is something less than driver and out to the right. From there an accurate iron is needed to a green complex that has trouble lining both sides and gets narrower from front to back.
#11 (420 yard par 4):
This is one of the hardest holes on the course because of the forced carry off the tee. The hazard plays all down the right side but there is room to miss left and still end up in the fairway. However, that will add some distance to an already long approach.
#12 (531 yard par 5):
This is one of my favorite holes on the course because there are different ways to play it. An aggressive tee shot can carry a lot of the water and give someone a chance to get up near the green in two shots. The other options is to play it down the left side as a three shot hole.
#13 (143 yard par 3):
The sun was at a bad angle when I got here, but it is a short, downhill par 3. There is a ridge in the middle of the green that can be used to feed the ball to a pin on the right but a flag on the left is most likely going to be offer the best birdie chance.
#14 (347 yard par 4):
This is another short par 4 that can allow for a good score. I don’t see much advantage to hitting driver and trying to cut the corner as there are some deep bunkers and a narrow neck of fairway up by the green.
#15 (435 yard par 4):
The 15th starts a stretch of tough closing holes. It is a long par 4 that moves right around bunkers and water. The fairway is large and finding it is the most important shot on this hole. From there it was a mid iron for me to a green with trouble on the left side that needed to be avoided.
#16 (378 yard par 4):
This is one of the more interesting holes on the course and I believe the tees were up when I played. The hole moves left and there is a group of trees in the fairway down the right side that need to be avoided. I think the play off the tee is right at the trees trying to leave 130 to 150 yards into the green.
#17 (199 yard par 3):
This is going to be a mid or long iron par 3. The green has a section on the left that is tucked behind some bunkers so it could be tough to get it close to a flag back there. The flag was on the right when I played so a miss just short of the green shouldn’t cause much trouble.
#18 (597 yard par 5):
The closing hole is my least favorite hole on the course. It is a long par 5 that is a double dogleg. It goes a bit from right to left and then from left to right with trouble on both sides. The layup has to be played out over the hazard to a blind landing area. Any layup that goes left has a chance of kicking into the hazard down the left side. I personally like an easier closing hole to get me excited about my next round, and this isn’t one of those.