Mariana Butte

Mariana Butte GC, Loveland. Dick Phelps, 1992.

The front nine here is mostly flat with a few holes playing around a creek and some ponds. At the third, the fairway looks wide, but you do well to lay back and stay to the left side to set up a short approach over the creek and between two large cottonwoods. At the seventh you drive over the creek, which then runs along the fairway to the right and crosses back over again. If you drive it too far you can end up in the water, especially if your drive creeps too far to the right. The green is guarded by the creek to the left and a pond to the right.

But the real fun here is the back nine, which offers a lot more land movement, a dramatic duo of drop shot par 3s, and a couple of holes along the Big Thompson River.

#11 (Credit: City of Loveland)

The 10th is a simple downhill par 4, but the green set against the rocky hill behind gives a preview of what’s the come. You then climb that hill to find the tee boxes for the par 3 11th, playing to the northeast, as well as the 14th, playing to the northwest. Though both holes play dramatically downhill, the 11th is 172 yards to a green set back in the trees with the river just a few steps beyond it. The 14th is more of a true drop shot par 3, at just 125 yards.

#14 (Credit: City of Loveland)

I like the strong par 4 15th that follows. The river to the right draws your attention but you really want to challenge the fairway bunker on the left for the best angle into the green.

And for all the visual drama of the par 3s, I think the 16th is really the most memorable hole on the course. A 556 yard par 5 with the river to the right and a lake guarding the green this hole can be reachable with a big drive and a brave second shot. The drive is over a corner of the river as well as a small creek that then meanders up the left side of the hole before emptying into a pond. A fade off the tee would be preferred to avoid a particularly large tree that stands left of the fairway about 300 yards off the tee. If you’ve hit a good drive in the fairway, you can take your second shot directly at the green over the pond. In addition to the water two bunkers guard the green as well. When I played this course there was even another pond right of the green; current aerials suggest it has died up, though it’s still probably a place you don’t want to be, it may not be quite as visually intimidating. If you can’t reach the green you play the hole as a double dogleg, playing well out to the right along the pond, then back to the left with your approach.

#16 (Credit: City of Loveland)

After that drama, the 17th and 18th don’t offer a particularly stirring finish, though the 18th is no pushover playing dramatically uphill. But the first seven holes of the back nine are worth it.

Colorado 5th Decile [1995]