The Ridge at Castle Pines North, Castle Rock. Tom Weiskopf, 1997.
This course is very much a tale of two nines. The front plays through hilly grassland (and, now, housing) and is generally longer and more open, rewarding the long ball. The back nine heads into the forest and plays shorter, demanding more accuracy.
The second is one of the better front nine holes—a potentially reachable par 5 with a bunker and pond down the right side. The green is a kidney shape set perpendicular to the hole, mostly hidden behind a deep bunker in the front left, with a deep swale running through the middle, like a Biarritz turned 90 degrees.
The other par 5 on the side is the fifth, which is the shortest par 5 on the scorecard, but plays much longer back uphill with the green beyond a depression and hidden behind a deep bunker. Then comes the sixth, the closest thing to a reachable par 4 the The Ridge offers. Weiskopf is known for wanting to have at least one drivable par 4 on each course he designs, but this hole doesn’t really fit the bill. Again, it may look the part on the scorecard at just 307 yards, but the hole plays 90 feet straight uphill, the last 70 yards of which are particularly steep and marked by a series of bunkers and rock outcroppings. Really, the only play here is a 200 yard shot off the tee and a wedge to a blind green. It’s an odd hole.
The back nine feels more like what you expect from a course with the Castle Pines name. The drive at the tenth is from a virtual chute of pine trees, the par 3 12th drops 40 feet from tee to green, and the par 3 14th outdoes that by dropping 70 feet.
But while those par 3s offer some eye candy there are also some really excellent holes on the back side. The 11th is a long par 5 with a bunker in the fairway right where you’d like to land your second shot. The 13th looks like a long hole at 582 yards but drops 100 feet through the pines, so it doesn’t play its full length. The trick is keeping the ball in the fairway on a hole that drops so significantly.
Finally, the 15th plays downhill again, with a drive that needs to skirt past a tree in the landing area to open up a clean look at the green, which sits just beyond a small creek.
Unfortunately, after that exciting run of holes, the only way to get back to the clubhouse is to head up and all three of the finishing holes have severely uphill approaches, which makes for a tough finish. The 16th is a bit of a mundane par 4 along a road, but the 17th is a spectacular par 3 playing to a green benched into a hill dotted with trees and limestone formations beyond.
The 18th tee sits perilously out on one of those rock formations, requiring a drive that looks a bit more dramatic than it really is, to a fairway that bends left up the hill again before a steeply uphill approach to the green. You have to hope your cart has plenty of charge left for the finish here.
This course always gets high marks as one of only a few Troon-operated courses in Colorado. It’s also the only public offering in a quartet of four highly regarded courses in the Castle Pines area. I suppose it’s not fair to expect the public course, no matter how high end, to live up to neighbors like these, but as much as I like the back nine here, the experience overall has always been a bit of a disappointment. There are great views and a few good holes on the front, and to some extent it’s no one’s fault that the property wasn’t entirely covered with trees, but ultimately the site was still good. I think I just expected more from Weiskopf as a designer and I wonder if this course’s inability to measure up is just one more way his career comes up short of Nicklaus.
Colorado 2nd Decile