(Photo courtesy of Mike Bailey)
You may just feel like a rancher riding herd when you’re out and about at Grand Elk. When you combine breathtaking mountain backdrops, a fun, challenging layout, complete modern facilities, and a friendly, attentive staff, you can’t go too far wrong. That’s my quick assessment of the Grand Elk Golf Club.
Water is everywhere at Grand Elk. Shown above is the very reachable par-five 17th. (Photo by Robert S. Fagan)
Billed as “Colorado’s First Heathland-style golf course,” this confused me. I have since referred to a host of “heathland” golf definitions and find that description a bit of a stretch though the site was likely originally part of rolling grazing land and mostly low lying vegetation. Rather, you will encounter what I believe is more of a wetlands course in a meadow setting with no heather or trees, but rather reeds, small streams, and ponds. (True, some pictures suggest a heathland look.) In fact, two tee shot vistas are completely obscured by tall wetland vegetation blamed on restrictions by the Army Corp of Engineers. Indeed, water hazards are an ever-present lateral hazard at Grand Elk. On the holes without the wetlands, native grasses artfully frame the holes. That is not to detract from my opinion of the Course, but warn you that water and wetlands influence both the challenge and look.
Rugged wetlands and beautiful backdrops often featuring the Continental Divide as shown above on the par-three 8th are common themes at Grand Elk. (Photo by Robert S. Fagan)
Termed a “Craig Stadler Signature Course” opened in 2002, it was golf course architect Tripp Davis that helped him fashion a thoughtful design that will require a round or two to establish both your strategy and lines of play. Homes border the property, but are not intrusive.
I believe that the above picture depicts more of the “heathland look” that is promoted with the course. (Photo by Robert S. Fagan)
Play-wise, Grand Elk reminded me so much of the “cut-and-fill” mounded courses of the Southeast because of its abundant wetlands. That is it did until you would gaze beyond at the breath-taking panoramic mountain vistas beyond. Those include the Continental Divide and Rocky Mountain National Park that give it a more rugged feel. Vintage farm equipment are situated about to add to its “rural Western” motif.
Water is present on nearly every hole on the back side as illustrated by the strong par-three 16th. (Photo by Robert S. Fagan)
There are lots of manufactured moguls and dips, and those ever-present lateral hazards to add to the fun and strategy in this flat valley setting. In fact, in addition to the obscured wetland holes, the terrain manages several other blind or semi-blind tee shots. Grand Elk stretches out to a stout 7,144 yards on its par-72 frame, but can also be approached from as little as 5,067 yards. Regardless, you are best served leaving your driver in the bag on many holes, particularly on the inward nine if you hope to score well.
Whether for its daring tee shot or precise approach required, I found the 418-yard par-four 3rd to be one of the most interesting and demanding holes at Grand Elk. (Photo by Robert S. Fagan)
There are some 60 sand bunkers of various shapes and sizes, and the green complexes are large and very undulating, particularly on the par-fives so as to protect par. Swales and collection areas await offline approaches. The wind can also really be a factor on this unprotected, wide-open terrain.
Rustic old ranch and farm equipment add lots of charming character to the feel of Grand Elk as show near the first tee with the clubhouse, lodging, and homes in the background. (Photo by Robert S. Fagan)
The golf course is nicely maintained and the facility offers lockers, a full practice range and short game area, GPS on carts, a restaurant, and golf shop.
Grand Elk is a fun golf experience and plan to play at least two rounds there if you hope to score a good round!