Shining Mountain GC, Woodland Park. John Harbottle III, 1995.
Harbottle isn’t well-known in the golf world, especially outside of Washington where he lived and did much of his work before he died suddenly in 2012. When he was young he worked with Pete Dye and was roommates with Tom Doak while doing so, but his name doesn’t get shared in that Dye disciple group the same way Doak, Hanse, and Coore’s do.
This was one of his earlier projects and while it surely doesn’t have the spectacle (or budget) of later work like Palouse Ridge, there’s definitely a sense of flair at work here. The front nine is, on the whole, the less interesting of the two halves of the course, but you still get features like the 15-yard wide green at the first, or the 546-yard second hole that hangs on the edge between a hillside and a creek, then make a hard right turn around the hill in the last 120 yards. Even the quirk of the par 34 front nine (three par 3, just one par 5) speaks to the fact that this was someone who wasn’t afraid of the usual formula.
The course sits in a valley with a wetland stream running through it. Though there are homes surrounding some of the course, they aren’t really in play and they’re all set well away from the holes, generally up on ridges away from play. Because the course sits almost entirely in the low valley land it’s not a difficult walk, though there are a few hikes between green and tees to accommodate the wetland.
The course isn’t long at all, less than 6,500 yards, especially given that Woodland Park is over 8,000 elevation, but the course is narrow and trouble lurks everywhere, whether in the form of the wetlands, or long native grass, or just missing the small greens that Harbottle built.
The back nine starts with a short par 4 with the green set beyond a mountain pond. The green is just 21 yards deep and no fun to miss—short is probably in the pond and long means you’re chipping back right toward it.
But ultimately it is the run to the finish that’s the most memorable here. The 15th is 585 yards with the wetland all the way along the left, but the fairway is never more than 25 yards wide (in some places it’s 15), tilts hard toward the hazard, and there’s a hillside covered with native grass immediately to the right. It is an incredibly intimidating hole if you have been fighting any kind of miss throughout the round.
After the 15th, you take a 220 yard trip on a wooden bridge over the wetland to the 16th tee where you play a narrow par 4 with the trouble now along the right. But it’s the 17th you’ll remember most of all, a postcard of a par 3, downhill with a pond on the left, and a fantastic view of the whole valley and Pike’s Peak in the distance.
Colorado 6th Decile