Green Valley Ranch GC, Denver. Perry Dye, 2001.
I worked at this course the summer it opened and played it nearly every day. It’s a stern test from the back tees but shorter tees eliminate most of the forced carries and the course is wide enough to accommodate most golfers.
The course gets your attention early. It’s a 230 yard carry over wetlands from the back tee to the fairway on the first. That will help discourage those who have little business playing from the tips.
The second is a long par 5 that features multiple trees in the fairway, a feature used more here than at maybe any other single course I’ve played. The first tree is 350 yards from the tee but can block your second shot if you stray too far to the right in an effort to avoid the bunker that guards the left side. A hundred yards further along there’s a bunker in the center of the fairway and 75 yards beyond that (just 50 yards or so short of the green) is another tree. Ultimately, the play is to keep left of the trees if you can get your second shot past the second tree—you’ll also be rewarded with a better angle from this left side of the fairway. But if you can’t get that far in two blows then you’re better off shading to the right side—you’ll have to play your third over bunkers, but better that than be stymied by a tree.
Trees again feature in play at the seventh, though they aren’t in the fairway. This is a short par 4, just 338 from the back tees and ever so slightly downhill. The fairway is wide but the green is offset slightly and hidden from the tee behind a stand of trees 60 yards short of the green.
And of course trees also feature prominently in the design of the 16th hole—one of the more controversial holes I’ve ever seen, and as it has developed over the years maybe one of the worst.
If that’s not enough, there’s plenty of water and wetlands to challenge you. The 10th is bordered by wetlands on both sides, but the fairway is generous. The green however is narrow and keeps getting skinnier the further back you go—it takes a brave shot to go after any back hole location on that green.
In all, there are only five holes where you can’t find some sort of water hazard, which isn’t what you’d expect from a course out by the Denver airport, even if it is what you might expect from a course with the Dye family name on it. But the trouble is rarely on both sides, the fairways are plenty wide to accommodate the windy days, and the course is not overly long. I loved going around it every day and have enjoyed going back, even with all the homes that have been put in over the years.
My favorite stretch of the course was always the last few holes of the front nine—the seventh, followed by a medium-length par 3 at the eighth that plays back over a creek to a green set back in the trees, and then the ninth, a potentially reachable par 5 with its fairway divided by a creek.
When I worked there (this was still before the Pro-V1, barely), the only guy we ever heard of who carried the creek on the ninth with his drive did so by bouncing it off the walking bridge. Now players can make the carry routinely. GVR often hosts the Colorado Open and I wonder if Perry Dye could have known that and known how far players would hit the ball in just a few years of this course opening, if he would have made it a lot longer. Even at altitude, the tips are just shy of 7,100 yards. I’m glad he didn’t know.
Colorado 2nd Decile