The mountain West–a rugged region that stretches from the Colorado Rockies to the Sierra Nevada of northern California, Utah and into Idaho–is unquestionably the most diverse terrain in the country. You can do it all here when it comes to outdoor recreation: ski, hike, swim, water sports, fishing–you name it. Within the last decade, golf has surged in popularity, as many destinations have melded into hybrid resorts that serve as ski havens in the winter and golf hot spots in the summer.
In Colorado, golfers can expect thin air and dense treelines that frame each hole. The "mile high" helps golfers hit the ball a lot farther, usually a club longer than they're used to. Heading westward toward the California's and Nevada's Sierra Nevada, golfers can expect several lakes, rivers, streams and perhaps the most beautifully wooded forests in the world. The courses out this way tend to retain authenticity to the natural terrain, hence the huge variances in elevation challenges that you'll find on most golf courses in the mountain West.
The Mars-like red rocks and windswept terrain of Utah yield some stiff challenges and scenery that simply cannot be duplicated.
When To Go We suspect the 10 feet of snow you may encounter will make finding your golf balls a tad difficult. That being said, spring through fall are the best seasons to visit. Summers are also fantastic, but don't be surprised by sudden increases or decreases in temps, as places like Edgewood Tahoe sometimes see light flurries every month of the year. Summer temps generally average in the 80s in the summer and in the 60s during the fall and spring.
How To Get There For Rockies destinations, fly into Denver International. Only 150 miles separate you from the tarmac and the mountain resort towns due west from the Colorado capital. For Coeur d'Alene, your best bet is the airport in Spokane, Wash. Lake Tahoe and the Carson Valley are best reached via Reno, and the drive to each is less than two hours.
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Best Places To Play_ÊGolf Tips Selects _Ê The Club At Cordillera Edwards, Colo.
Worth the pricey fare considering the four terrific layouts: Summit by Jack Nicklaus, Valley by Tom Fazio, Mountain by Hale Irwin, and Short by Dave Pelz. With those name associations, you can bet it's a premier destination. The Lodge and Spa at Cordillera is just down the road from Vail and Beaver Creek.
www.cordillera-vail.com Red Sky Ranch Avon, Colo.
Red Sky Ranch's golf courses include Tom Fazio and Greg Norman layouts that are both brawny and beautiful, yielding great views of Vail's back bowls. The only means to get on at these private tracks are to stay at one of Vail's fine resorts, but it's worth it considering the awe-inspiring golf. www.redskyranch.com
Golf Tips Selects (cont.) _Ê Keystone Resort Keystone, Colo.
Two courses anchor this beautiful resort. The first is Keystone Ranch, a rollicking Robert Trent Jones Jr. design. The second is the River Course, designed by Michael Hurdzan and Dana Fry. Both courses are immensely scenic, yielding photo ops from every spot on the property. The 60-year-old Ranch Clubhouse's menu is to die for.
www.golfkeystone.com Edgewood Tahoe Stateline, Nev.
This George Fazio design has perhaps more spectacular views than any other course in the Lake Tahoe area, especially where the course concludes at the lake's edge. The awesome clubhouse is a must to see, eat at and shop in. Area accommodations are plentiful, especially at one of South Lake Tahoe's many casino hotels.
www.edgewood-tahoe.com _Ê Coyote Moon Golf Course Truckee, Calif.
Former PGA Tour player Brad Bell shaped this design through sharp, rocky outcroppings and 250 acres of secluded and wooded hills. The course has fast become a favorite among serious course aficionados. No accommodations are on site, but Truckee is just minutes away.
www.coyotemoongolf.com The Dragon at Gold Mountain Graeagle, Calif.
The Robin Nelson-designed Dragon is a definite challenge. Players are required to navigate along the edge of deep gorges overlooking the scenic Feather River with amazing views of nearby Gold Mountain. The Frank Lloyd Wright-designed clubhouse is a must-see and the stay-and-play villas are among the most luxurious in the world.
www.dragongolf.com The Coeur d'Alene Resort Coeur d'Alene, Idaho
The floating 14th green is world-famous. Hit your tee shot over water, ride a boat and enjoy the view of the surrounding mountain vistas, 100 miles from the Canadian border. The hotel and other 17 holes are spectacular in their own right.
www.cdaresort.com Coral Canyon St. George, Utah
This Keith Foster design plays through jagged 20-foot-high red-rock outcroppings and dusty washes. Far in the distance is Bryce Canyon National Park and the awesome Zion National Park. www.coralcanyongolf.com Entrada at Snow Canyon St. George, Utah
Black lava surrounds this stunning Johnny Miller/Fred Bliss layout. Red Mountain Spa is minutes away.
_ÊMountain West Must-Plays _Ê The Broadmoor Colorado Springs, Colo.
Every golfer must make a pilgrimage to one of the game's classic resorts and the Donald Ross and RTJ Sr. masterpiece courses.
www.broadmoor.com The GC at Redlands Mesa Grand Junction, Colo.
Golfweek ranks it No. 1 in Colorado. www.redlandsgolf.com Fossil Trace Golf Club Golden, Colo.
Twenty-foot-high pillars of sandstone and triceratops footprints make it a wonder. www.fossiltrace.com Lakota Canyon Ranch GC New Castle, Colo.
Bomb huge downhill drives or across ridges on this rocky thriller.
www.lakotacanyonranch.com The Ridge At Castle Pines North Castle Rock, Colo.
A Tom Weiskopf beauty (No. 66 on Top 100 You Can Play list).
www.theridgecpn.com Genoa Lakes Golf Club Genoa, Nev.
This strategic layout is dotted by lakes and the same white sand as Augusta National. Also, the newly acquired Johnny Miller stunner (formerly Sierra Nevada Golf Ranch) plays hard against the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada. Awesome.
www.genoalakes.com Whitehawk Ranch GC Clio, Calif.
A Dick Bailey design in the glorious Sierra Nevada area north of Lake Tahoe that reflects its setting.
www.golfwhitehawk.com Circling Raven Golf Club Worley, Id.
What award hasn't this Gene Bates design won yet? This beautiful course is an instant classic. www.circlingraven.com