Raccoon Creek

Raccoon Creek GC, Littleton. Dick Phelps, 1984.

This is an essentially flat course with a lot of water in play. That plus the Dick Phelps name doesn’t necessarily inspire confidence, but there are good holes here. There are some not so great ones as well, but to be totally fair not all of those are the fault of the original designer.

The hole that never made sense to me, which is a Phelps original, is the 12th. If Dick Phelps ever designed an alternate route hole that made sense I haven’t seen it. Here the fairway is split by a creek. There’s no carry required to the right fairway but it runs out after about 225 yards and from there your second shot is a forced carry entirely over a pond to the green. To reach the left fairway with your drive does require you to carry the creek, but stronger players can hit longer drives (the fairway narrows at 270 yards). A second shot over the pond is still necessary. For longer players, the benefit of playing to the left fairway is clear—you may have a shorter second shot—but minimal. You are still almost certainly not hitting driver off the tee, you’re not getting any preferred angle into the green, and to gain all that your’e being asked to carry a creek and play to an angled fairway. The reward doesn’t match the risk. For lesser players the hole makes even less sense. From the white tees, the carry to the left fairway over the creek is 145 yards—that is a significant carry for some players, to be sure, even off a tee. But any player who cannot make the carry off a tee is not going to be able to carry the pond from the right fairway. From the left side there is a way to play around the pond, if needed, but such players need to be able to reach that fairway.

#17 (Credit: Golf Advisor)

I always thought the way the creek was piped under the 10th fairway was odd—it was piped under the fairway, but only the fairway. Miss the fairway a yard left or right and you could easily find your ball in the creek, because it makes its way across the hole right at the turn of the dogleg. But a friend points out the course (I have no idea who did the work) has recently made an even stranger change. The creek now cuts directly across the fairway, 240 yards off the tee. It’s an awkward place to have the creek but more than that there was no artistry to how it was introducedit looks like they simply dug up the piped channel. What is otherwise a lovely natural creek on the property, complete with twists and turns and natural edges, is—as it cuts across the length of the 10th fairway—ruler straight and lined with rock. I think I could get behind a twisty bit of creek that you have to think about carrying or laying up short of, especially because a lay up still leave a relatively short shot to the green, but I’d like to see some aesthetic consideration.

It’s a shame because the creek is the best feature of the property and used to good effect elsewhere. At the third you play over it twice—the creek runs down the left side of the fairway, then you play over it with a second shot to a green that sits by a small pond. And the 11th is the best hole on the property by far, again, using the creek. It’s a 530 yard par 5 where you drive over the creek, which then runs down the right side of the fairway as the fairway doglegs to the right. The creek then crosses just in front of the green as well.

#11 (Credit: Golf Advisor)

I also enjoyed the seventh, a long par 4 with a very wide fairway. You can shorten the hole by playing down the right side close to the lake—this sets up a better angle into the green as well. And the 16th is another good par 4 with a wonderful center line bunker that is big enough that it actually forces a decision, because very few players can just blow it over the top. Going left shortens the holes, but it is narrower that way and a miss may be blocked out by trees. There’s more room to the right, but that makes a long par 4 even longer.

So, it’s a mixed bag here. The experience tends to be the same. Conditions can be great or not so great. The course is an easy walk, but all the water tends to make play slow.

Colorado 5th Decile [1994?]