Play the 10 toughest courses in Colorado
Think golf is too easy?
It's the rare golfer who thinks the game has become too easy, a literal walk in a park. But if golf suddenly feels no more challenging than the true-false quizzes given by the cake-class teacher you had – or wished you had – in college, Colorado will oblige the adventurous with a full battery of tough tests.
Our list of the state’s 10 toughest courses, unlike yours, is not subjective. It is based on the objectively calculated USGA men’s rating from the longest tees on all courses in the state. Most of us look at slope to determine the difficulty of a course, because that is the number that applies to the bogey golfer. Rating, however, measures the difficulty of a course for the best amateur golfer, the scratch player with a zero handicap.
The USGA evaluations are based on 10 weighted obstacles, including water hazards, trees and greens speed, plus one more that you’ll notice these 10 tend to share: distance.
“That is the one the bogey golfer cannot overcome,” said Gerry Brown, the Colorado Golf Association’s director of course rating and handicapping. “I think probably the foremost factor for course rating is the length of the tees.”
Here are the 10 courses that should have you shaking in your FootJoys, with distances and ratings as reported by
1. Antler Creek Golf Course, Peyton
No, it’s not the longest course in the U.S.; that would be the International Golf Club's Pines Course in Bolton, Mass., at 8,325. But that one’s a par-73 and Antler Creek is a par-72, with four par-5s longer than 600 yards and one of them at 697. There are three sets of tees at public-welcome Antler Creek with ratings longer than par, but three more-forward sets will please less accomplished companions.
2. Castle Pines Golf Club, Castle Rock
7,614-YARD INTERNATIONAL TEES | 76 RATING | 147 SLOPE
The aspiring Augusta National of the West used to host a PGA Tour event and so there are back tees for the better-than-scratch player, then another set rated 76.1/150. If you’d like to try either, plug in to your network to find a member host.
3. Colorado Golf Club, Parker
7,508-YARD CHAMPIONSHIP TEES | 75.5 RATING | 149 SLOPE
The private Coore-Crenshaw course opened to acclaim in 2007 and hosted the Senior PGA in 2010 and the Solheim Cup in 2013. The women played the course at 7,490 yards – longest in the history of the international competition. Unlike some courses on the list, this one doesn’t get much easier from more forward tees.
4. Colorado National Golf Club, Erie
7,535-YARD CHAMPIONSHIP TEES | 75.5 RATING | 144 SLOPE
Home to the University of Colorado men’s and women’s teams, Colorado National has established a reputation as club-for-a-day for the public, with its impressive clubhouse and indoor practice facility. It lists eight tee options on the scorecard, including the shortest at 4,790.
5. Bear Creek Golf Club, Denver
7,304-YARD BLACK TEES | 75.2 RATING | 148 SLOPE
This private course designed by Arnold Palmer and Ed Seay is the shortest on our list and favors shot-making over muscle. The club prides itself on five-star maintenance, with state-of-the-art equipment and practices.
6. Columbine Country Club, Littleton
7,394-YARD I-TEES | 75.2 RATING | 142 SLOPE
The big news at Columbine isn’t on the 18-hole course, which has hosted men’s and women’s pro tournaments; it’s in the clubhouse – a new clubhouse with three restaurants, workout spaces and member amenities. If the I-tees don’t exhaust you, take a walk on the nine-hole par-3 afterward.
7. Country Club of the Rockies, Edwards
7,337-YARD GREEN TEES | 75.1 RATING | 145 SLOPE
This member-owned club has a Jack Nicklaus course that is more challenging in strategy than it is long. If you’re invited to play here, work on your cardio – even at 8,000 feet, many members prefer to take a caddie and walk the course.
8. Meridian Golf Club, Englewood
7,440-YARD GOLD TEES | 75.1 RATING | 144 SLOPE
Meridian proves that even on a layout without trees, Nicklaus can make a golf course tough. Bunkers and water hazards put shot-making at a premium and make greens elusive. Take care not to lose your wedges along the way.
9. Aspen Glen Club, Carbondale
7,457-YARD GOLD TEES | 75 RATING | 147 SLOPE
Not to be confused with Aspen Golf Club, named top municipal course in Colorado by Golfweek three years running, nearby Aspen Glen is private. Another Nicklaus signature course, Aspen Glen boasts views of Mount Sopris and the Roaring Fork River for those not too engulfed in the challenge to look around.
10. The Club at Cordillera, Mountain Course, Edwards
7,403-YARD BLACK TEES | 75 RATING | 143 SLOPE
Even at an elevation of 8,000-plus feet, Hale Irwin’s gorgeous Mountain Course plays long and hard. Alas, there’s no relief on Cordillera’s Summit Course, which weighed in at 11th on this list with a 74.9 rating and 142 slope.
* Please note that some of these courses may not put markers out on their back tees on typical days, or they may allow play on their back tees only for tournaments or special guests like Tiger Woods. So if you’re determined to play them, call and ask before you go.