Pinery CC, Parker. 27 holes by David Bingham, 1975.

25 years ago the golf scene southweast of Denver was relatively meager but Pinery was certainly the best of it. In the years since there’s been an explosion of courses around here—everything from munis (Saddle Rock), to community courses (Heritage Eagle Bend), to private clubs of various stature (Black Bear, Blackstone, Pradera), and even by most accounts the best course in the state (Colorado GC). That some of these courses—their two closest neighbors in particular—are better than Pinery, is not necessarily their fault, but to some extent it does reflect that this course, while a solid place to play, isn’t getting the most out of a pretty good location for golf.

There are three nines here, which in theory can be played in any combination, but the Lake/Valley is the primary combo since the ninth of the Lake doesn’t return to the clubhouse and the first of the Valley starts by that green, so if you play any combination including the Mountain nine you have a long cart ride either to the the first tee or back after the 18th green.

The nines are marketed as having distinctive characteristics, but I never found that to be true. That’s just as well, in my book—I prefer a course with some continuity of style. Anyway, the idea that the Valley nine has any “Scottish links style,” as the club’s web site claims, is lunacy. It’s Colorado high prairie golf, just like you get with the Lake and the Mountain.

Lake #5 (Credit: Golf Advisor)

The Lake Nine feels misnamed—there’s no water on it and you can’t even really see the reservoir which gives it its name (you get closer on the Mountain nine)—but it still starts off as a bit of a slog. The first five holes are all uphill. Most are not especially long but several have bunkers fronting greens that are well above the player. It’s a tough start.

That changes at the sixth, when you turn and head back down the hill, beginning the best run of four consecutive holes at the club. The hole is a 514-yard par 5 that turns left with the fairway bending around twin pine trees.Big drives that skirt between those trees and a bunker on the right will have a chance to reach the green in two—you may need to split ponderosa pines that frame the fairway or carry the two that sit on a hillside in the left rough, depending on where you are in the fairway.

Mountain #5 (Golf Advisor)

The seventh again plays downhill. Again the fairway is mostly open but three trees—two right and one just in the left side of the fairway—make the drive. Split these in the right side of the fairway and you open up a clean second shot to the slightly elevated green.

The eighth is a par 3 along a small ravine to the right with a narrow section of green jutting out close to the hazard line. Finally the ninth features a drive along the same ravine before the second shot crosses over it.

But the Valley nine doesn’t quite sustain the same quality momentum. The drive on the second is downhill and over a tree in the fairway, but it’s ultimately an unsatisfying drive because a hazard pushes in from the left around 280 yards out narrowing the fairway to just 10 yards wide, so it’s a layup off the tee anyway.

The third makes up for it. This 460-yard par 4 plays downhill over a small creek and turns left. The second shot is back across the ravine, which has been converted into a deep bunker.

Valley #4 (Credit: Mark Lewicki / Pinery CC)

Though the entire course is hilly (it is Colorado, after all), the Mountain nine does tackle the most extreme elevation changes on the property. The best hole on this nine is the fourth, a downhill par 3 positioned between two dramatically uphill holes. The green is an exaggerated hourglass shape with bunkers left and a runoff area to the right. With a green 40 yards deep, whether the hole is in front or back can significantly change the way the hole plays here.

Mountain #4 (Credit: Golf Advisor)

Ultimately, this is an enjoyable club, with excellent views, but the golf is only solid. The best holes here, nevermind all the great holes at the new clubs within a couple of miles, prove it could be much more.

Colorado 4th Decile [1997]