ASPEN, CO -In the last twenty years, the golf scene in the Roaring Fork Valley has gained nationwide prominence with the addition of exciting new courses with provocative challenges. However, this was not always the situation. There was a time in the 1970s and 1980s when the only course in Aspen was the Aspen Golf Club, notoriously frequented by a rowdy crowd more focused on imbibing adult beverages than chalking in a serious round. That era has passed, to some degree. Nowadays Carbondale and Glenwood Springs have attracted affluent retirees from around the country for private golf and fly fishing clubs, rustic residential communities, and an active four-season lifestyle of Rocky Mountain fun. Arnold Palmer is known to spend Christmas skiing at Snowmass , so the region can stake claim to some sort of atmospheric magnetism for golfers.
The golf season in Colorado is much shorter compared to other golf destinations like Florida, Arizona, California, South Carolina, and Georgia because of the snowy weather, the elevation, and course conditions. Nonetheless, there are a consortium of world-class champion golf courses scattered throughout the immediate Aspen vicinity and the Roaring Fork Valley, including three Jack Nicklaus-designed courses that have popped up in the valley in recent years.
Golfing at an elevation of 8,000 feet in the dry, windy, and thin air can present its own set of rewards and challenges. High altitude golf in Colorado means drives fly higher and further, decreasing the aerodynamic drag on the ball and potentially putting you closer to the pin. On the other hand, thin air also means hooks and shanks are to the extreme, so sea level golfers should be prepared for the occasional mulligan. The high country links are often characterized by long drives, narrow fairways, short approaches, and playing amidst some of the most spectacular mountain topography in the country. Lining up a drive with the peak of Mt. Sopris, Maroon Bells, Pyramid Peak, or the Roaring Fork River is a memorable experience in itself whether you’re a newcomer to the game or a trophy-clinging professional.
While many courses in the immediate Aspen area are exclusive and private, some golf gems like the acclaimed Snowmass Club allow occasional public play. Call in advance for tee-times and to see if arrangements for play are possible with existing club memberships outside the Roaring Fork Valley. Here at Aspen.com, we’ve rounded up a list of the best places around the Roaring Fork Valley to tee-up.
Glenwood Springs Golf Club
193 Sunny Acres Rd
Glenwood Springs, CO 81601
This simple, nine-hole executive course in Glenwood Springs overlooks the Colorado River and I-70. Glenwood Springs Golf Club is a public course highlighted by a 4000-foot ridge that towers above the tree-lined fairways.
Ranch at the Roaring Fork
14913 Hwy 82
Carbondale, CO 81623
Located just past El Jebel between Basalat and Carbondale, The Ranch At the Roaring Fork golf course is oldest golf course in the mid-valley region. Public, relaxed, and downright cheap, The Ranch at the Roaring Fork course is a simple, nine-hole, par 3 chip-and-putt. It is great for a beginner getting acquainted with the game. Be sure to soak in the views of Mt. Sopris and the rocky ridges of the Crystal River Valley.