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Denver: 72 holes in 72 hours

By Mike McAllister
SI.com


story.fossil.trace.jpg
Adjacent to Fossil Trace's No. 12 green are 64 million year-old trace fossils of palm fronds and tricerators footprints.
DENVER COURSES

Arrowhead Golf Club: Yardage/Par: 6,682/70. Greens fees: $45-$110, cart included. (303) 973-9614.

The Ridge at Castle Pines North: Yardage/Par: 7,013/71. Greens fees: $75-$120, cart included. (303) 688-0100. http://www.theridgecpn.com.

Fossil Trace Golf Club: Yardage/Par: 6,831/72. Greens fees: $36-$50. $14 cart fee per person. (303) 277-8750. http://www.fossiltrace.com

Green Valley Ranch Golf Club: Yardage/Par: 7,241/72. Greens fees: $18-$35, $12 cart fee per person. (303) 371-3131. http://www.gvrgolf.com/

Alternative courses: Buffalo Run, Fox Hollow at Lakewood, Highlands Ranch, The Heritage Golf Course at Westmoor, Lone Tree.

NEXT WEEK
Next week we'll travel to the Atlanta, Georgia, area.
YOUR E-MAIL ALERTS
Denver (Colorado)
Golf

(CNN) -- Golfing in Denver has its advantages. The beauty and majesty of the Rocky Mountains to frame your shots. The high altitude (and thin air) to give you a little extra oomph off the tee. And generally great golfing conditions in the summer and early fall.

Of course, there are some disadvantages. Unless you're planning to pack your skis in your golf bag, your timeframe is limited. And that high altitude often comes with a price, generally in the form of a headache or breathing difficulties.

But golfing in the mountains -- and by that, we mean really big mountains -- is an experience not to be missed. Of course, to really get inside the mountains would require some extensive miles on your rental car. To play 72 holes in 72 hours, that's just not a luxury we can afford. So in choosing our courses, we've tried to minimize the driving time while still making sure you get some breathtaking views and scenery.

Speaking of extensive miles ... after flying into far-from-downtown Denver International Airportexternal link on Friday morning, here's how we'd play it the rest of the weekend:

Friday afternoon

Arrowhead: Bring your camera (but remember, no snapping pictures on the backswing!). The Robert Trent Jones Jr. course in Littleton is considered a photographer's paradise, thanks to its red rock formations. In fact, Jones was once quoted as saying he was "overwhelmed by the magnificent gifts that nature" bestowed on the property. Because of its appeal, the course hosts lots of tournaments, so you may have to be flexible with your tee time. But the trip -- Littleton is about 25 miles from Denver -- will be worth it.

Saturday morning

The Ridge at Castle Pines North: Castle Pines, a Jack Nicklaus-designed private course, plays host every year to The International, that PGA Tour event with the funky scoring system. The Ridge, designed by Tom Weiskopf, is a nice alternative for those in the public sector. Managed by Troon Golf, it offers excellent service, and you can count on finding the course in good shape (while providing great views). Darrell Fuston, the director of golf at the Ridge, says on the course's Web site that the front nine has a "links-style feel" while the back nine "descends into a heavy forest of Gamble oaks and Ponderosa pines."

Saturday afternoon

Fossil Trace: Since opening in 2003, this course nestled near the Rocky Mountain foothills in Golden has drawn rave reviews. Golf magazine named it one of the top 10 new courses you can play. The course also offers a bit of historic -- make that prehistoric -- perspective. Adjacent to the No. 12 green are 64 million year-old trace fossils of palm fronds and tricerators footprints. Yep, it's not every day your approach shot lands near a dinosaur track. In addition, there are clay mining equipment relics throughout the course to serve as another reminder of the land's previous purpose.

Sunday morning

Green Valley Ranch: Like Fossil Trace, Green Valley Ranch is considered an excellent, affordable public course. Golf Digest, in fact, ranks this as one of its 150 good value courses in the country. The Colorado Open championships will be held here in the summer of 2005, just four years after the facility opened, so the locals know that the course, which features natural wetlands, creeks and cottonwoods, is a gem. Make sure you have plenty of energy for the finishing hole, which goes 643 yards from the back tees. Check out the GVR Web site for more playing tips.


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