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Of all the amazing attributes Denver gets credit for (craft beer! fitness! marijuana!), its golf courses languish low on the list. That’s a shame, because the Mile High City boasts a litany of intriguing, well-tended layouts that ensure you’ll have a swinging good time no matter what your handicap is. Here are four courses to help you get started:
If you don’t know a wedge from a wedgie
In golf jargon (there is such a thing and, yes, it consists of more than just four-letter words) “nine-hole executive” means “easy.” So it goes at Family Sports Golf Course in Centennial, which boasts six par 3s, two par 4s, and a par 5. But don’t think of this as just a golf course; consider it a learning opportunity. Along with a two-tiered, heated driving range—which doesn’t sound too appetizing in June, but will be a welcome retreat come January—Family Sports holds playing camps for juniors every week this summer. For $295 ($285 for residents) golfers ages 8 to 17 get four days of on-course instruction, learning how to transition their games from the range to the fairway. Rates: $17 Monday through Thursday, $18 Friday through Sunday; $9 cart fee; 6631 S. University Blvd., Centennial; 303-649-1115
Give One Year of 5280 for just $16.
If your game is a little rusty (or you’re getting over the shanks)
No, you don’t need penicillin; a round or two at City Park Golf Course should provide safe refuge for the hosel rockets or banana slices you’re firing into adjacent fairways. (Being hook-happy, though, might put you through the windshield of a passing Subaru.) Built in 1913, City Park only has one water hazard that comes into play, tree trouble is in short supply, and it plays much shorter than its 6,700 yards. That being said, City Park isn’t a pushover—you still need to string together four decent shots to par most holes. Plus, it’s green and lush (sometimes rare for a municipal course), and boasts what might be the Mile High City’s best panoramic views of downtown and the mountains. Rates: $27 weekdays, $37 weekends; $15 cart fee; 2500 York St.; 720-865-3410
If you’re ready for a golf staycation
Just outside the clubhouse at Heritage at Westmoor, we passed a gentleman demanding a rain check, despite the fact that there wasn’t a drop in sight. During his front nine, he said, the wind had become so violent that his ball wouldn’t stay on the green. But we’re brave and young and dumb, so we threw caution to the … well, we played anyway—and lucky we did. The layout reminded us of a great Scottish course, not only because of its vulnerability to the elements—there are no trees, and the north side of the course is perched on one of those rises that begin to emerge on your way to Boulder on U.S. 36—but also because you feel removed from civilization for a bit. Unlike most courses built in the late 1990s and early 2000s, cookie-cutter homes don’t loom over the fairways. And while playing in Scotland feels a bit like wandering blindfolded through a pasture—loads of blind shots, forcing you to aim at sheep or yockers (rocks) to hit the green or fairway—Heritage at Westmoor doesn’t hide its hazards. Now all you have to do is navigate them. Rates: $40 weekdays, $45 weekends, $30 twilight (after 3 p.m.); $15 cart fee; 10555 Westmoor Dr., Broomfield; 303-469-2974
If you’re only a Nike sponsorship away from going pro
We finished only seven holes at Colorado National Golf Club before one of this spring’s seemingly endless downpours sent us home. But that was more than enough to get us itching to come back to Erie. First off, the course can be severe. It has to be. The practice spot of the University of Colorado at Boulder golf team, it needs to be both long and lean to get the Buffs ready for Pac-12 play. That becomes evident standing on the tee box of the second hole, a 600-yard par-5 that just…keeps…going. And you can’t just arbitrarily bomb a driver and three-wood because the contouring of the hole winds over a creek that threatens to sink your drive, past bunkers poised to beach your layup, and around a lake positioned just close enough to the green to make you nervy standing over your approach shot. But what’s great about Colorado National is that I—an extremely talented golfer (at least in my own head)—challenged myself from the far back tees, at 7,700 yards, and my fiancé—a far more talented (and attractive) golfer, but still a beginner—had just as great a time playing from the front tees, at 4,800 yards. Rates: $75 Monday through Thursday, $85 Friday through Sunday, $35 twilight (after 3 p.m.); cart fee included; 2700 Vista Pkwy., Erie; 303-926-1723