I was in Colorado for a few days with friends to catch a Rockies game, play some golf, and do some touristy things. We all flew out of Charlottesville on Wednesday after work and had an early tee time Thursday at Red Hawk Ridge before the baseball game.
Unfortunately, the plane that was taking us to Charlotte, NC for our connection to Denver was delayed and we didn’t get into town until mid-morning on Thursday. That was my first time staying overnight at an airport and it isn’t something that I’d recommend! The Thursday round of golf didn’t work out, but I’m optimistic that this won’t be my last trip to the Denver area so I might still be able to play Red Hawk Ridge in the future. Thankfully we still got to catch the game! It was pretty entertaining and Coors Field is a nice ballpark. I’ve included a few pictures below.
Our group was staying on the south side of Aurora and a friend and I were looking for a convenient, and not terribly expensive, course to play on Friday morning. Saddle Rock looked like it fit the bill! While in Denver last year I played Murphy Creek, another course owned by the city of Aurora, and it turned out to be a good value. In hopes of the same, we arranged for a 9:30am tee time.
We got there and had to wait about 25 minutes before teeing off because of a shotgun tournament that went off earlier. We were joined by another twosome and played in under four hours which was faster than I expected. Because it is a city course, and the greens fees are reasonable, slower play could be common. I’m not positive about that so getting the scoop from a local would be best. We each paid $57 to ride which doesn’t seem out of line based my golfing experience in the area.
If you are considering a round here, the biggest thing you should probably know is that Saddle Rock is a community course. Homes are close to all the holes and line both sides of many holes. If that sort of thing bothers you then it would be best to pick another course. Saddle Rock is similar to the back nine at Murphy Creek and Green Valley Ranch. If it was in California then I’d say it looks like Deer Ridge or Shadow Lakes in Brentwood!
The homes certainly take away a bit from what I thought were a great collection of holes that were interesting to play. Maybe a third of the holes have some elevation change which was a nice surprise because the community is located on the “prairie” side of town. We actually got some views of the Denver skyline off in the distance.
Besides the elevation change, Saddle Rock seems to have all the design features which are common to the area. There is some fescue, wetlands, ponds, and cottonwood trees (I think) at the course while it has a prairie “vibe”. Most of the elevation change is on the front nine which has a bit more open feel. The back nine is flatter and I found it to be the more challenging nine. It starts out with a couple demanding holes that play through the wetlands and the back’s minor elevation changes affected sightlines. That put a tiny bit of doubt in my mind about the best lines to pick.
We played the blue tees which play 72.7/135/6941. I didn’t find the course overly penal off the tee, but the more I worked on this review the more I realized that driving the ball is very important at Saddle Rock. There were just a couple scary tee shots, but a good drive left a much easier iron shot than a bad drive. I didn’t drive it great but still manged to get away with a good score except for one hole. I was hitting nice iron shots and putting decent so there are a couple ways to put together a decent score. For a great score though, someone should have to hit their lines off the tee. One of the most difficult pieces to the course were the constant slopes in the greens. I had very few flat putts and plenty of short ones with a cup or two of break.
My last comment is on the conditions. In short, they were great. I had camera problems but, in the sunny pictures, you should be able to see how green and lush the course was. There weren’t any bare patches in either the fairways or the rough. The fairways offered great lies and the ball sat up while the rough was cut shorter but plenty thick. I had to make sure to keep up the clubhead speed and keep the face open, especially around the greens. For the most part the greens rolled well, but a couple putts wiggling early in the round kept me from being too aggressive.
I wouldn’t call Saddle Rock a destination course, but it was a good value and close to where we were staying. We were happy with our pick!
#1 (539 yard par 5):
The opening hole is the shortest par 5 on the course. It isn’t an intimidating tee shot, but there is a hazard to the left and fescue to the right. I guess some folks can get there in two, but it plays longer because the tee shot lands on an upsloping fairway and then there is a hazard short of the green that needs to be carried. It would take a great player and an aggressive decision to reach in two. I mis-hit my layup and didn’t think that I could carry the hazard up by the green so I laid up on my third shot. The landing area for the layup is blind and the fairway runs out so isn’t an easy one. The green slopes some from right to left.
#2 (351 yard par 4):
The 2nd is the shortest par 4 on the course and a good score can be had. It doglegs left so a draw off the tee is the best shot shape, especially to avoid that fairway bunker out there (~230 yards). The approach plays uphill, about a club I’d say, into a green that is surrounded by bunkers.
#3 (407 yard par 4):
The 3rd is one of the tougher holes on the course and one that puts a priority on hitting a couple straight shots. The hole moves a bit left around some fescue and the tee shot plays across the hillside which kicks everything to the right. The fairway bottlenecks up near a bunker and I hit a 3 wood off the tee which worked out well. The approach played about a club uphill into a back to front sloping and (somewhat) heart shaped green. I’d make sure to try to leave it below the hole if possible because I was pin high and had a big breaking putt. Enjoy the views from the green as it felt a bit like being on top of the world!
#4 (366 yard par 4):
The 4th is a shorter par 4 that looks tough and it certainly could be for higher handicappers. The tee shot is a forced carry and plays to a blind, narrowing fairway that runs out around 280 yards (off the tee). Even though the tee shot is uphill, it could still be a layup depending on how far the ball is flying. There is fescue left and trouble right all the way up to the green. Before playing the 4th I’d suggest looking at the satellite image online. I aimed for the radio tower off in the distance and that turned out to be a good line. There are some sideboards left of the green which could feed the ball right. After a good drive, it could be a birdie hole.
#5 (154 yard par 3):
The 5th is the shortest par 3 on the course but I still ended up hitting a mid-iron. I’m not the longest hitter but I was trying to hit a big slice around the right tree to a back pin location. Plus, I think it plays at least half a club uphill. The green slopes from back to front so it is better to have an uphill putt.
#6 (568 yard par 5):
The 6th is a long par 5 that can be reachable after a good drive that ends up in the fairway. Even with a generous fairway, finding it isn’t easy because the ball stays in the air a long time from the elevated tee. If you are good enough to play to a side of the fairway, I’d suggest the left side because there is a mound short and right of the green. You might have a chance to carve a shot around that mound from the left side, but most likely will have to carry it from the right side. The left side is best on the layup too for a clearer view of the green. There isn’t a flat spot on the green! It slopes from back to front, has a back tier, and a bowl on the left side.
#7 (356 yard par 4):
The 7th is a short par 4, but like some of the other shorter 4’s, it plays uphill which adds some distance. The stepped fairway is narrow so a good drive will eliminate the stress of searching for a ball out in some trouble. There are some desert like mounds on each side of the fairway and drawing a decent lie can require some luck. The green’s surface cannot be seen from the fairway which made it tougher to determine where I wanted to land the ball.
#8 (219 yard par 3):
The 8th is the start of a very tough stretch of holes. It is the longest par 3 on the course, but I only hit one club more here than I did on the 5th. I think it is borderline two clubs downhill into a sloping green with some edges that feed off. There is a chipping area short and right of the green which could make for some tricky short game shots to certain pins.
#9 (431 yard par 4):
The 9th is ranked as the #1 handicap and you can probably see why. Water on the right runs all the way up near the green and it is one of the longer par 4’s on the scorecard. The fairway is generous and there aren’t any fairway bunkers but the water was in my mind while teeing off. It is a good driving hole because if someone challenges the right side of the fairway then it will leave a shorter second shot. I hacked it down the left side all the way to the green and still had an outside chance at a par so that’s the place to bail out!
#10 (404 yard par 4):
The 10th is ranked as the #2 handicap, but I think it should be in the #1 spot! Most of the landing area is blind from the tee because it plays over creek with some tall vegetation growing from it. The creek runs up to the green and the fairway is narrow, so there isn’t much room to miss. Aiming out towards that cart in the picture (and the tree just left of it) should be a good line. To do over I probably would have tried for a draw 3 wood off the tee. From the fairway that tree on the right can come into play so shaping it left to right might be handy. Some slope right of the green can kick the ball to the left.
#11 (575 yard par 5):
The 11th is the longest par 5 on the course and it was one of my least favorite holes at Saddle Rock. The hole moves right and plays back over the creek which came into play on the last hole. The best tee shot will start at that tree off in the distance and fade before the fairway runs out around 280 yards off the tee. The bigger hitters are going to have to layup to avoid the creek which I think is nuts considering the distance. I ended up short and left of that tree and had to carry the creek hitting a low hook. The layup should avoid some fairway bunkers before things open up for the third shot.
#12 (393 yard par 4):
The 12th is going to require some strategy. The tee shot should be played straight through those trees before the fairway runs out and the holes moves right to the green. There are some trees down the right so I’d favor the left side off the tee and try to hit it ~240 yards. The good news is that the fairway is wider than it looks. However, more trees short of the green might have to be carried on the approach. The green slopes from back to front and anything missing short of the green can trickle back down a false front.
#13 (449 yard par 4):
The 13th is the longest par 4 on the course and it is pretty straight up to the green. The tee shot narrows after the fairway bunkers and if you don’t hit the fairway, you can have a blind shot into the green like I did. There is some mounding to the left of the fairway which can lead to an awkward lie for the mid or long iron approach. It is open short of the green so the ball can be chased up onto it.
#14 (184 yard par 3):
The 14th is a mid-length par 3 that allows a chance for a good score with an average shot in the correct spot. I’d make sure to avoid short and right and err long and left. The ball could get a nice kick off slopes on those sides towards the center of the green.
#15 (369 yard par 4):
The 15th is the shortest par 4 on the back and should allow for a short iron approach. The hole can be challenged with driver off the tee by carrying the left bunkers which are ~240 yards to get over. I did that and had just a sand wedge into a slightly elevated green. There is a small false front so carrying the ball into the green with the proper spin is important to keep it there. Playing to the right side of the fairway, near another fairway bunker, should leave the best angle into the green.
#16 (204 yard par 3):
The downhill 16th is similar to the 8th, just a tad shorter. I hit a club less than normal to adjust for the drop to the green and that turned out to be a good decision. The pin should be pretty accessible unless it is in the back left. Judging the distance properly could lead to a makeable birdie putt.
#17 (568 yard par 5):
The 17th is the last par 5 on the course and one where the bigger hitters could get up near the green in two. The best line off the tee is in-between those fairway bunkers before the hole moves slightly left to the green. The green complex is a bit strange as there is a bowl in the front of it and the rest slopes from right to left. Don’t miss the green long because the ball should get a big bounce into a hazard.
#18 (404 yard par 4):
The 18th offers any number of scores to finish. It is a mid-length par 4 that plays over a creek on the approach. I played my tee shot out towards the right bunker which was ~275 yards off the tee. That left me with a mid-iron into a green that angles from front left to back right along the creek. I didn’t think the creek would be in play as much as it was, so if you don’t have the right club favor the left side near the green.
Couple Pics of Coors Field: