Flying to a new city, lugging clubs through the airport, relying on Mother Nature to deliver…the traveling golfer faces a demanding checklist. But none of them are as weighty or as intoxicating as this question: Where should we play?
Without a local sherpa to curate a list of the best courses, or local knowledge to understand where to get the most bang for your buck, where you do it can be a bit of a guessing game. In that case, I tell you that you can rely on this golf website. If you find yourself in Denver, golf clubs in hand, Arrowhead is a must visit for visual stimulation alone.
Located in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains just south of Denver, Arrowhead is simply provocative. Mountain golf can feel that way for people coming from flatter lands. Yes, your workouts will fly further with increased elevation, and that’s fun. But most of the excitement comes from the auburn outcrops you play on, far from, around and even above.
We pegged it for mid-April, just days after the Masters ended, finding that spring golf in Denver shares the stage with erratic weather. GOLF.com’s resident golf great, Dylan Dethier, opted to go with multiple layers of pants and multiple sweatshirts, just to beat the wind.
But as the sun finally rose and the wind settled in, we had the course to ourselves, free to smack darts across the rocks, play wild slices around jagged corners, even do a little bit of rocking. escalation when a ball was missing. The surrounding spiky flora meant that any targeted search for golf balls proved fruitful.
Back to the sediment stingers: there’s something special about aiming for rocky peaks, the same way there’s something special about aiming for your driver at the edge of the Empire State Building at Ferry Point in New York. You don’t get that anywhere else. The blind 5-iron that needs to launch over the top of the outcrop, hold the wind, and run its full distance? It’s fun golf. Don’t worry about golf.
As we passed from hole 7 to 8, a member of the course crew stopped, impressed that we had played it in 45 degrees and gusts of 30 miles per hour. He wished us luck on our arrival, adding that when we hit 14, be sure to play the back tees. “You only have to play one shot from this tee. You won’t regret it,” he said.
I am happy to report that he was absolutely right. On paper, the 14th at Arrowhead is a standard par-4, spanning 365 yards with a tiny forced carry. It’s nothing more than a driver and wedge, even for mid-length hitters. But what it lacks in architectural brilliance from fairway to green, it more than makes up for with a tee shot you’ll never forget.
“I feel like I’m in a Golden Tee video game,” Dethier said as he smashed the tee. That’s a pretty accurate assessment. Anyone who’s ever spent time on the trackball knows this scene is straight out of the arcade.
It was Mr. Robert Trent Jones Jr. who stuck a starter box there, probably one of the best mountain starter boxes you will find in the whole country. It’s on the furthest corner of the property, right on the edge of a state park and, well, the rest of the wilderness. Turning back from your tee shot is a lot to take in.
If 14 doesn’t do it for you, another hole in Arrowhead will. It could be #3, where playing the wrong club sent my ball over one of those outcrops and was gone forever. It could be 5, where Dethier tried to play hero ball with a 3 mega wood slice around a giant rock column blowing in the wind.
Most likely, however, your favorite will be the hole before No. 14. Arrowhead’s 13th (pictured above) will stay with you long after your round.
The par-3 plunges downhill towards the green, splitting the red rocks that shoot into the sky on either side. The effect is that you are directed to the green, forced to carry the front bunker but stay short of the back pond. Boulders left and right, bunkers with the same reddish hue, green grass beneath your feet, wind-whipped sapphire water and a defiant gaze at a distant downhill flag? This kind of golf is elementary and full of elements. The kind you won’t forget.
Check out a short clip from 13 and 14 below.