Pine Creek

Pine Creek GC, Colorado Springs. Dick Phelps, 1988.

As difficult courses go—and make no mistake, the 145 slope is not a typo, you should expect to lose some golf balls here—this one is a pretty good time.

The clubhouse sits in the middle of the property—the front nine starts uphill away from the house then turns back downhill at the fifth. From there you play down the hill past the clubhouse all the way to the 13th green, at which point you turn back and play back uphill to the finish. The elevation gain is never severe, but it’s enough to keep you interested and to open up excellent views of Pikes Peak and the front range.

The challenge is apparent immediately. The first requires a lengthy carry over a ravine to a fairway guarded by trees and native area to the left. The second shot is uphill over a bulkheaded bunker to a green benched into a hill.

The bulkhead bunker on #1 (Credit: Colorado Golf Blog)

The next several holes are more typical residential golf, but at the seventh the course returns to the ravine with a downhill tee shot to a fairway that ends at the ravine. Tee shots need to stay left or they may be blocked out by trees in the ravine. The eighth is a par 3 playing over the same ravine to a bunkerless green with spectacular views beyond.

#8 (Credit: Golf Advisor)

Both the ninth and 10th are difficult, if not long, par 4s. The ninth turns left and the second shot plays between a chute of trees. The 10th cross two ravines, with the fairway turning to the right and the green protected by bunkers long and Pine Creek short and right.

The 14th is the first hole that turns and heads back up the hill. Here you drive back across Pine Creek to a dual lobed fairway. It’s an odd hole that seems to ask you to choose between playing safely to the right or risking a longer carry to the lobe of fairway to the left. But it is unclear what the real benefit of even a successful drive to left fairway would be (besides a shorter approach, of course)—there’s no obviously better angle and a mound blocks the view from this portion of the fairway as well. Some reward for a brave drive.

The 15th makes more sense. It reminds me a bit of the fifth at Kapalua, in the way the green wraps back around the hazard to the right, but the fairway here is much more narrow. At 570 yards, uphill, and narrow it isn’t going to be reached by many players, but a long drive that challenges the creek down the right side of the hole could set up the potential for a second shot over the creek. The more sensible play involves two shots down the left side of the creek, but even that requires solid execution and sets up a a third shot to a green defended by the creek and three bunkers.

#15 green looking back (Credit: Golf Advisor)

The last couple of holes again go away from the ravine and aren’t as inspiring, rather like Mariana Butte in the way the best of the course comes a few holes before the finish. But the final holes are still stout, playing uphill and between pinching bunkers.

This isn’t a course I’d visit expecting to shoot my personal best, but if you can enjoy a day without worrying too much about the score you’re piling up, this can be an enjoyable place to play a round.

Colorado 7th Decile [1996]