Like oil, Pokémon, and oversized jeans, golf is no stranger to booms and busts.

In the 1920s, cats who had gotten fat during the Jazz Age spent their considerable disposable incomes to erect private playgrounds with majestic names like Cherry Hills Country Club. Then came the Great Depression and World War II. About 70 years later, a kid from California with a fondness for wearing red on Sundays inspired his fans to flood their local fairways, inciting an explosion of new courses. Then came the Great Recession.

The number of U.S. golfers dropped from 30 million in 2007 to 24 million in 2019, according to the National Golf Foundation (NGF). People decided they’d rather hike, run, or Netflix than spend five-plus hours of their precious weekends in tacky pants beseeching a little white ball to please, please get in the hole. Then came the pandemic.

At first, golf simply offered people an outdoor alternative to spending every waking hour cloistered at home, wondering if that cough was COVID-19. But by late 2021, folks were hooked: 56 percent of golfers surveyed by the NGF admitted (probably out of earshot of their loved ones) that the sport had become more of a priority. American golfers played a record total of 531 million rounds in 2023, more than 10 percent higher than the five-year average from 2015 to 2019.

COVID-19 drove those numbers, but what strikes many in the industry as different about this boom is—to put it vaguely—the vibe. In Caddyshack, the 1980 takedown of country club culture, Rodney Dangerfield’s character outrages stuffy Judge Smails when he blasts Journey during his round. Today, the only complaint lodged against the ear-splitting music would be the fact that it’s Journey.

Perhaps that’s why Coloradans finally seem to be taking golf seriously. (Well, in the way they take, say, drinking craft beer or climbing fourteeners seriously.) With the Centennial State’s litany of free outdoor activities, harsh winters (compared with swing-happy havens such as Florida and Texas), and Western values, residents never took to the erstwhile elitism of pre-COVID-19 golf culture in a big way. Now, rounds in Colorado are up 16.5 percent since 2019, startup clothiers across the state are competing to see who can dream up the most ridiculous designs, and the most anticipated golf resort in the country is being built just 50 miles from Denver.

On the following pages, you won’t find any tips for straightening your slice or perfecting your putting. Instead, we’re teeing off on all the ways people, no matter their abilities, can join the party raging through the state’s golf community. It’s time, Colorado, to let the big dog eat.

Jump Ahead:

Where to Go

Welcome to Weld County’s RainDance National

scenic course
RainDance National. Photo courtesy of Chris Wheeler/Great Divide Pictures

Martin Lind believed that the Great Recession would destroy him. Between 1985 and 2008, his Water Valley Company had built roughly 4,400 residential units and a 27-hole semiprivate golf property called Pelican Lakes Golf Club in Windsor, northeast of Loveland. The late 2000s housing crisis, however, had crippled his business. “But there’s an old saying,” Lind says, “ ‘If you owe a banker a little bit, you’re screwed when bad times come. If you owe a lot, he’s screwed with you.’ That’s how I survived the recession.”

In 2010, before his future was secured, Lind met with a pro golfer named Fred Funk over a potential business deal that never happened. But before Funk departed Windsor, Lind drove him to a nearby parcel of land that he owned. Lind saw potential for a world-class golf course in the topography. A decade later, after the housing boom had made Lind flush again, Funk, working with golf course architect Harrison Minchew, returned to Weld County to begin construction on RainDance National.

The 18-hole facility opened in July 2022 and immediately earned second place in Golf Digest’s ranking of the best new public courses in America. As Lind had envisioned, the designers embraced minimalism by moving as little earth as possible to create an undulating track that climbs and falls with the natural terrain. It also stretches to 8,463 yards, making it the longest golf course in the United States. And Lind still has big plans for RainDance: He intends to turn it into a northern Colorado version of the Broadmoor, the hospitality mecca in Colorado Springs that offers visitors the chance to play two lauded golf courses.

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RainDance National. Photo Courtesy of Chris Wheeler/Great Divide Pictures

While the Broadmoor evokes the glamor of The Great Gatsby, RainDance embraces Weld’s agricultural roots. Its pro shop is housed inside a former grain silo. On the driving range, golfers ping balls off old farming trucks and tractors. In the past year, Lind has added Hoedown Hill, a small ski hill, and the Grainhouse, an on-site restaurant inside another decommissioned silo. Future plans call for guest cottages and a convention center. “We’ll be the farm and ranch version of the Broadmoor,” Lind says.

RainDance isn’t the only development in the area betting on golf. In Berthoud, semiprivate TPC Colorado became the first course to debut in Colorado in a decade when it opened its fairways in 2018. Rodeo Dunes, a much-anticipated golf resort from the sons of the developer of Oregon’s Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, will open an hour away in 2026. Rather than fear the competition, though, Lind welcomes it—evoking visions of an eastern Colorado corridor that rivals golf-centric destinations such as the Pinehurst area of North Carolina. “They thrive on the economics of golf tourism,” Lind says. “So I think the more the merrier.”

3 Places to Check Out in Eastern Colorado

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Chris (left) and Michael Keiser, developers of Rodeo Dunes in eastern Colorado. Photo courtesy of

Poor eastern Colorado. Despite its rugged allure, it has long suffered by comparison to its beauty-queen kin, the snowcapped Rocky Mountains. In recent years, however, the Eastern Plains have finally gained a following of ardent admirers: golfers, who see in its rolling dunes and wild fescue traces of the Scottish landscape that gave birth to the game.

This newfound American love affair with links-style courses wasn’t sparked in Colorado but on the southern coast of rural Oregon. In 1999, a Chicago developer named Mike Keiser opened Bandon Dunes there, taking advantage of the area’s natural berms to create a links-style golf resort. Today, golfers flock to the destination. After Bandon Dunes became a bucket-list vacation, architects scoured the country for similar tracts of land. While eastern Colorado might lack an ocean, it boasts similar rolling topography, sandy soil, and lack of development.

As a result, the area has become a hideaway of courses that, as opposed to spots such as Castle Pines Golf Club that excavate huge chunks of earth to make their fairways, follow the natural routing of the land. Keiser’s sons have announced plans to open a golf resort here, but they’re far from the first (and hopefully won’t be the last) to plant their flagsticks in the quote-unquote boring side of the state.

  1. Riverdale Golf Club, Dunes course, Brighton: To make this public track, renowned architect Pete Dye and his son Perry moved just enough dirt to create soft hills on the pancake-flat terrain, as well as other features associated with Scottish links, such as pot bunkers and blind shots.
  2. Ballyneal Golf Club, Holyoke: Three years after Bandon Dunes opened, two locals hired Tom Doak, who had recently finished Bandon’s Pacific Dunes course, to craft a similar-feeling private resort course over the sand hills in their hometown.
  3. Rodeo Dunes, Roggen: Michael and Chris Keiser have hired course architects Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore, who designed three Bandon courses, to lay out a course on the public resort.

The Perfect Golf Itinerary for Steamboat Springs

scenic course
Photo courtesy of Chris Wheeler/Great Divide Pictures

A successful golf trip usually requires good friends, a great destination, and lots of cash. Since debuting five years ago, however, the YouTube show Strapped has proven that money doesn’t necessarily buy happiness. The premise: Producers give Denver’s Phil Landes, co-founder of the online golf brand No Laying Up, and a buddy $850 to cover expenses during a golf vacation. The scrimping leads to unique experiences they wouldn’t have discovered if they were flush. We followed Landes’ lead by scouring the state to find a town that offers beauty, entertainment, and budget-friendly green fees for a twosome. Our champion: Steamboat Springs.


      • 6:35 a.m.: You could take the Colorado Department of Transportation’s Bustang service to Steamboat ($56 per round-trip ticket), but once there, the Lyft prices might break your bank. You’re better off driving your car and taking a hit on the gas. Cost: $210 ($105 each way)
      • 10 a.m.: Smash your opening drive at Steamboat Golf Club. Although it’s a small, nine-hole course, the 60-year-old layout offers a mighty view of Mt. Werner. It also features massive fairways that are ideal for working out the kinks that a three-hour car ride is sure to make in your swing. Cost: $90 ($45 per green fee)
      • Noon: Follow the locals to Wildhorse Market Plaza at the base of Steamboat Ski Resort, where you’ll find Cruisers Sub Shop, whose sandwiches were honored as “Best of the Boat” by the Steamboat Pilot & Today. Cost: $22 ($11 each for two tortas carnitas)
      • 1 p.m.: Beginning to bloom in May, the 63 gardens at Yampa River Botanic Park are the perfect place to remind yourself of the superiority of nature over the material world. Plus, admission is free. Cost: $0
      • 3 p.m.: Thought of by many as the best public mountain course in the state, Haymaker Golf Course is nestled in the belly of the Yampa Valley, where its fairways spread out over gentle terrain in the shadow of the ski resort’s peaks. Normally, its price reflects its excellence: $154 per green fee (the price drops to $95 at 3 p.m. in the high season). However, until May 30, the seasonal rate is more than $60 cheaper. The only problem is that the course might not open till early to mid-May if the winter stays late. Cost: $184 ($92 per green fee)
      • 8 p.m.: Enjoy après at new-in-2023 Mythology Distillery’s whiskey garden. The large community fire pit will inspire stories of glory from the day behind you, and the adjacent cornhole court will spark competition for tomorrow. Cost: $30 ($15 per cocktail from the four-option specialty old fashioned menu)
      • 9 p.m.: At five-month-old Brass Kitchen & Bar, co-owner Paul Underwood aims to provide affordable tavern cuisine. Translation: He serves international dishes that taste fancy but use inexpensive ingredients (see: slow-roasted beef instead of tenderloin, though the menu changes with the season). Cost: $66 ($29 for the beef roast Bordelaise, $19 for the ratatouille, and $18 for two glasses of the cheapest red wine)
      • 10 p.m.: Take your chances at an Airbnb or take advantage of the dip in tourists in May by booking a mud-season special at Colorado-based Gravity Haus, a slopeside boutique hotel whose interior exudes upscale ski cabin vibes. Cost:Starting at $99 per night (for a room with two queens)
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Uncork a drive at Haymaker Golf Course, then unwind in Gravity Haus’ heated outdoor pool and hot tub. Photo courtesy of Gravity Haus


      • 7:30 a.m.: Score a latte made with coffee brewed from Ethiopian beans and a breakfast burrito made from scratch at Unravel, Gravity Haus’ in-house coffee roaster. Cost: $46 ($5 per latte, $18 per breakfast burrito)
      • 9 a.m.: Although it’s 50 minutes by car from Steamboat Springs, Yampa Valley Golf Course is worth the commute. Located in Craig, the course runs along the Yampa River and is unmarred by development. Native grasses, cottonwoods, and wetlands fill your view and attract plenty of wildlife spectators. Cost: $100 ($50 per green fee)
      • 2 p.m.: Back in Steamboat, Seedz is a health-food concept that doesn’t taste like one, so you’ll have plenty of fuel for the trip back. Cost: $31 ($15 for a grass-fed burger, $16 for the spicy Asian chicken wrap)
      • 3 p.m.: You’re already $28 over, but the famed cash-only Strawberry Park Hot Springs, whose 102-plus-degree waters will work wonders on your swing-sore spine, is a worthy budget buster. Cost: $40 ($20 per person)

Total: $918

5 Colorado Spots to Swing the Clubs Inside

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Puttshack’s four neon courses could be seen from space (if they weren’t inside). Photo by Parrish Ruiz de Velasco, courtesy of Putt Shack

A recent flood of low-stress, high-entertainment-factor indoor options around the Mile High City has made it easier than ever for folks to give the game a try. “Last year, more people played golf off of a golf course than on a golf course for the first time in the history of golf,” says Matthew Erley, the Denver-based co-founder of a golf-only investment group called Old Tom Ventures. Even better: These five spots provide a welcome alternative to your typical night on the town—no matter the occasion.

1. Puttshack (Vibe: Date Spot)

This RiNo outpost of an international chain opened last year, much to the relief of local twosomes in need of conversation starters. Hand your jacket to the coat check before sidling up to the bar for a playful pre-round tipple, such as the Porn Star Martini, whose name alone should break the ice. If it doesn’t, the Absolut vodka will likely loosen your tongue. Once you’re adequately warm, tee off on one of the four nine-hole putt-putt courses, each boasting quirky obstacles, such as beer pong cups or a trivia question. It’s a spectacle that begs for discussion, when it’s not inspiring laughter. 2813 Blake St.

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Hangar Club strikes a more sophisticated tone. Photo by Tyler Kenyon, courtesy of Hangar Club
2. Hangar Club (Vibe: Group Hang)

Built inside a 22,000-square-foot former Lowry Air Force Base armament annex, the Hangar Club feels less like a bar and more like a bowling alley. Only instead of lanes, 10 high-tech simulators ring the interior. But that’s where the comparison to the smoke-filled bowling edifices of your memories ends. Plush midcentury modern couches and dark-wood armchairs create a Mad Men–style ambience. The result: an immense space that feels intimate, making it the perfect spot to gather 10 or so of your closest friends. 7600 E. 1st Pl.

3. One Shot Back (Vibe: Staying In)

With the rise of simulators, there’s a chance you have a golf-mad friend who’s installed one in her basement. If not, you can always head to One Shot Back in Ballpark. The small size of the building—combined with the mix-and-match vintage furnishings and twinkle lights overhead—give the two simulators here a DIY, garagelike feel. (Proof: A patron had a pizza delivered while we were there.) The one thing you won’t find in any home? The large horseshoe bar, where a barkeep crafted the best old fashioned we’d tasted in quite a while. 2134 Curtis St., Ste. 101

4. South Broadway Country Club, Tennyson (Vibe: Sunday Funday)

This location of a local chain has three simulators and garage doors that open just off Berkeley’s Tennyson Street. On a bright Sunday afternoon, the pedestrian thoroughfare lends a party atmosphere to the place, with bros screaming, “Fore!” as they pass by. Other, less annoying people await their turns on the patio or, even better, at South Broadway’s upstairs cocktail bar, the Crow’s Nest, which offers another open-air patio just off the main room. It’s the ideal perch from which to sip a Transfusion, golfers’ famed vodka-based hangover cure that, taken preemptively, might help ensure your Sunday doesn’t ruin your Monday. 4200 Tennyson St.

5. Over Flyte (Vibe: Game Night)

This Central Park adult play area has no shortage of swingers—whether on the outdoor putt-putt course or inside on the golf simulators. But now patrons can put a little skin in the game: In February, Over Flyte became the first Colorado venue to install Skill Money Games, a technology that lets players bet on their skills. The AI-fueled platform assesses the abilities of the participants and rewards them accordingly. A great golfer might have to knock her approach to within 10 feet of the flag to win money, for example, while an 18 handicapper could hit the jackpot if his approach is within 35 feet. Challenges range from $1 to $20 per swing, with the payouts going from 50 cents to $400. 3120 Uinta St. #300

3 Colorado Golf Competitions Happening This Summer

guy golfing with tower & onlookers
Photo courtesy of Brian Bahr/Getty Images Sports
BMW Championship (Vibe: See the Best)

Until 2006, the PGA Tour stopped in Colorado every year for the International at Castle Pines Golf Club. This year, the PGA Tour returns to Castle Pines from August 20 to 25 for the one-off BMW Championship. The second leg of the three-event FedEx Cup Playoffs, the BMW will feature the top 50 ranked players on the circuit in 2024, all of whom will battle for a spot in the 30-man, season-ending Tour Championship, the winner of which lands a $25 million payday. In other words: Expect to see Rory McIlroy, Scottie Scheffler, and every other big-name tour star this summer.

The TRN (Vibe: Be the Best)

Many local simulator bars offer golf leagues, including the circuit at the TRN, located in Olde Town Arvada. The league, which runs every six weeks, appeals to serious players by cueing up on the simulator whatever course the PGA Tour happens to be playing that week. At the same time, the scramble format, in which two-person teams ($400 per team) only play their best shot from each position, relieves pressure for novices looking for a relaxing night out. No matter your ability, the TRN league is convenient for families with packed calendars. Parents can schedule their weekly round anytime Sunday through Thursday, and if you can’t land a sitter, the TRN has a free nine-hole putt-putt course on the patio to keep your kids occupied.

ParHopper Open (Vibe: Have the Best Time)

Part putt-putt tournament, part bar crawl, the ParHopper Open on May 11 is hosted by its namesake clothing brand and strives for the same happy-go-lucky vibe. Each two-person squad ($50 per team) starts at the Local Drive simulator bar in RiNo before weaving through seven nearby watering holes, including Bigsby’s Folly, Zeppelin Station, and Great Divide, each of which will set up putting challenges and offer drink specials to participants. The tournament features closest-to-the-pin and long-drive contests, but no one leaves empty-handed. Each competitor gets a reversible bucket hat that ParHopper designed specifically for the event.

5 of Our Favorite Local Colorado Golf Brands

Photo by Sarah Banks styling by Charli Ornett

Long lampooned for its tacky white belts and garish plaid, golf fashion after the pandemic boom has become…well, it’s still awful. But now it’s intentionally so, with players donning the most outlandish, wild patterns they can find—designs that, not unlike the sardonic fits worn by Williamsburg hipsters, say to outsiders, “It’s cool because you don’t get it.” Since 2020, new Colorado makers have emerged intent on serving the expanding appetite for flashy style, while others help keep the party going.

Pins & Aces

Known for its crazy headcovers, such as a deceased Kenny from South Park, Arvada-based Pins & Aces also makes a line of beer sleeves ($20), a convenient way to keep seven brewskis cold on the course. Also available: the Liquor Stick ($100), a shaftlike container capable of concealing 25 ounces of any beverage (wink, wink) discretely in your bag.

Legacy Goods

There’s nothing ugly about the custom putters (starting at $450) Jonathan Tenkely mills in his Highlands Ranch garage. Working under the name Legacy Goods, he spends weeks turning a single block of steel into a club that’s perfectly weighted to its owner’s specifications. Plus, he’s often asked to add unique design flourishes, such as “This Ain’t No Hobby,” the personal mantra of one customer.

Ladies Only Golf

Telluride-based Ladies Only Golf is as sophisticated and elegant as you’d imagine a label created by two luxury retail veterans would be. Its Ditsy collection, though, embraces lighthearted fun with a bright floral A-line skirt ($158) and a pink-and-orange retro bodysuit ($118).


ParHopper co-founder Jay Piper takes pride in his Denver-based company’s funky golf shirts, such as the Kaleidoscope ($45), but he’s even prouder of his relationships with local distilleries. For example, he produced a Jurassic-themed polo ($54) tied to the April release of Lost Nine Bourbon, a collab between ParHopper and the Fort Collins–based Old Elk distillery.


The Fairway Fedora ($59) from Carkella, the sister brand of Boulder-based Wallaroo Hat Company, embraces your granddad’s style without sacrificing Gen Z’s passion for skincare: The packable hat provides UPF 50+ protection, the max a fabric can offer.

Who to Know

Babe Didrikson Zaharias

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Photo courtesy of Underwood Archives, Inc/Alamy Stock Photo

First came basketball, in which Babe Didrikson Zaharias earned All-American honors while playing for a Dallas-based insurer’s company-run team. Then she collected two gold medals in the 1932 Olympics only a few years after deciding to take up track and field. That same year, she won a team track competition in Evanston, Illinois—by herself.

It was in golf, however, that she enjoyed her greatest successes: She won a total of 82 tournaments during her career, including 14 straight in the 1940s while living in Denver, where she played at Park Hill Country Club. In 1950, she became one of the founders of the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA).

Today, the LPGA is enjoying record TV ratings. Didrikson Zaharias’ renown, however, seems to be disappearing. “Very few people know about her,” says Don Van Natta Jr., author of Wonder Girl: The Magnificent Sporting Life of Babe Didrikson Zaharias.

Even during her life, Didrikson Zaharias faced criticism that her male peers didn’t. “It would be much better if she and her ilk stayed at home, got themselves prettied up and waited for the phone to ring,” a writer for the New York World-Telegram opined. Didrikson Zaharias married a professional wrestler from Pueblo named George Zaharias, but neither traditional gender roles nor stereotypically female personality traits suited her.

“The critical key to her success was her iron will to be the best at everything she tried,” Van Natta says. By doing so in the face of outsize adversity, Didrikson Zaharias forged a legacy that—though slipping from modern memory—deserves to be remembered.

3 Ways To Be Like Babe
  1. Practice: Didrikson Zaharias hit so many balls that her hands bled.
  2. Talk Trash: To announce her arrival at tournaments, Didrikson Zaharias would announce, “The Babe is here! Who is going to finish second?”
  3. Believe In Yourself: She was “Muhammad Ali before Muhammad Ali,” Van Natta says. “She was running around telling everybody she was the greatest.” Then she proved it.

5 Tips and Tricks from Local Golf Fanatics

In Happy Gilmore, the one-handed golf pro Chubbs theorized that the key to golf was “all in the hips.” That may be true for your swing, but to help ensure you always have a good time on the course, we asked five local golf fanatics for their secrets to keeping things light around the greens.

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Sophia Lee. Photo courtesy of Colorado PGA Section
Sophia Lee (Colorado PGA Cup Series Player of the Year for the 14 to 18 Age Group in 2023…When She Was Only 13)

“Make mini goals throughout the round, like trying to go even par over the next three holes or just hitting the fairway on the next drive. Especially on a tough hole, these goals help me stay positive.”

Tad Boyle (Men’s Basketball Head Coach at the University of Colorado Boulder)

“I like to talk trash on the golf course—typically before I swing, because afterward, I usually hit it so bad I can’t say anything. In the event I hit a really good shot, I ask if my opponent wants to raise the wager. The biggest thing is to have a few laughs and not take yourself too seriously.”

Courtland Sutton (Wide Receiver for the Denver Broncos)

“The secret to enjoying golf is remembering that it’s still just a game that we get to play. There will be ups and downs, but that’s just like life. Each swing and each hole are new opportunities to prove to yourself that you can do it.”

Wesley Schultz (Lead Singer of Denver-Born Folk-Rock Band the Lumineers)

“When playing with a group, it’s best to incorporate games and side bets so that even if you’re horrible at golf or having an awful round, there are moments of redemption. That’s how we do it when we play on the road with the band and crew.”

Frank Bonanno (Co-Owner of Eight Denver Restaurants, Including Mizuna, Luca, and French 75)

“Golf is an opportunity to clear my head—so no drinking, no business conversations, no throwing clubs or grumbling. Just four people playing at a steady clip, appreciating the quiet of one another, the beauty of the course, and the crack of the ball.”

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