Arrowhead Golf Club in Littleton, CO
Tee Time: October 29, 2014, 8:15, 71 F, Windy (at least Category-1 hurricane-force gusts)
Designer: Robert Trent Jones, Jr. (1974)
Playing Partners: None
Tees: Black Bear, Par 70 (71.5 rating/138 slope/6,636 yards)
Course Handicap: 10 (7.8 index)
Stats: 88(39-49); 32 putts; 3/13 fairways; 6/18 greens; 8 penalty strokes
Two words that don’t exist in Arizona golf: Frost Delay. After three summers in the desert, it felt refreshing to be freezing cold again. Once the course opened at 8:15, it was still about 42 degrees with an icy wind blasting, chilling my Sonoran blood. As enjoyable as it was getting reacquainted with the feeling of shivering and clutching handwarmers like they are life-preservers, I putted out on number 1 and just about ducked into the bathroom across the cart path and hunkered down for winter. But, I fought on, like Ernest Shackelton would’ve. Mostly because I had an early-afternoon flight to catch. Once my face started to thaw out I began to appreciate how awesome Arrowhead Golf Club is. Nothing like it. All I really need to do is put up the pictures. That’s all you’re gonna notice, they’re that good. Even my little pocket Nikon captured how special this place south of Littleton is. I’ll waste no time getting to it. My fingers are still frozen. The fact I put up a front-side 39 is a miracle in these blustery Arctic conditions. The back-nine 49 is less of a surprise. Oops…
The opening hole wastes no time delivering the scenic views. From atop the 465-yard par 4 you can see back across the north over the entire valley. When the wind is whipping and your warm-up consisted solely of sipping hot chocolate, it’s a hell of a first drive. What I now know is that the 1st green is shared with the 17th. So in the right rough where I hit my approach from, I took aim at the left flag. I didn’t even see the other flag until I parked at the green, 60 feet to the right and marking the pin for hole 1. I knocked it to about 10 feet from what was the 17th pin with a nice shot only to realize I really left myself some ground to cover to the real pin. Be warned. Don’t fall for false flags. The 566-yard 2nd is a beast. The tee shot is to the lowest point on the hole and leaves a long way in, likely over 300 yards. The third shot is over a large trap to a shallow, elevated green. The 198-yard par-3 3rd is a classic mid-iron shot and one of many, many holes to just stop and take in the view while on the tee. The back left of the green is rimmed by rock and frames this fun par 3 for a perfect picture.
The downhill 4th, at 432 yards, is tricky and requires accuracy. Anything too long is in one of two water hazards while a sand trap surrounded by thick grass ruins any hope of hitting a GIR. Another pretty view of a green backed by an impressive rock formation. The fifth would be a fun hole to park a chair on and watch people tee off. A 352-yard dogleg-right par 4, a massive, 40-foot-high rock blocks the corner. It’s close enough to clear, but I have a bad habit of hitting giant rocks in fairways (ex. that huge rock on #3 at Troon Monument). My 3-wood rode the wind left-to-right and struck the sandstone about 1/3 the way up. Putting a ball off a 40-foot wall at Fenway Park would be a double. Here it just caroms into a prickly bush for a double bogey. Teeing off from underneath a large rock at the 447-yard 6th provides some nice acoustics off the driver head. No wonder that Red Rocks Amphitheater nearby is so popular. The hole is a monster, with the narrowest portion of the fairway in the landing area. An uphill approach is to a deep green so that helps. The 361-yard 7th is as easy as you want to make it. The water about 230 yards away makes it easier, forcing you to play a shorter club from the tee and maximizing fairway odds. A relatively tame, flat green awaits your short approach shot. The 8th is unique, mostly because you actually can’t see any of those pleasantly distracting rocks while playing it. Uphill, 409 yards and sporting a deep fairway bunker, it’s a tough climb for a par. Number 9 is special. Almost a mirror to the view from the tee shot on 1, you instead look south from the elevated tee to the green and beyond. It’s the best spot on the course to take in a wide vista of the stunning sandstone outcrops. The jagged red stones jut out from the earth in a straight line off into the horizon, looking like the spine of an ancient Stegosaurus trying to erupt out of the ground. The hole itself is pretty, too. If that Stegosaurus were to lower her plates and take a nap, it’d still be a gorgeous par 3 framed by a deep blue pond, prairie grass and some evergreens.
The 10th starts the trek down into those spinal plates. The five-hole stretch of 10 through 15 into the heart of these sandstone slabs is unlike anything I’ve seen in golf, be it in person, on TV or even a fantasy course in the Tiger Woods video games. The 420-yard 10th bottoms out in front of a circular fairway bunker that approaches a slightly elevated green. The 11th is a short par 3 that feels much longer because the flag, only 156 yards away, looks the size of a toothpick in front of the towering rock behind it. Just look at the picture and get a sense of the scale of how large these rocks are. I should really just let everyone look at the pictures and stop writing now. Arrowhead speaks for itself. But then I wouldn’t remember my thoughts of this place in 50 years, so I’ll keep writing. You can move on to the pictures, I won’t mind. The big, left-bending par-4 12th is tricky. The tee shot curves around the backside of the rocks along a narrow fairway to a tricky green 419 yards away.
The signature 14th, a 365-yard par 4, is the hole Arrowhead Golf Club bases its brochures on. From the Black Bear tees, it’s fun. You get to tee off through a narrow opening between two giant slabs, launching your ball like a rocket tracking the fairway. The pond along the right side is safely avoidable due to the shorter yardage of the hole. From behind the green you get a nice view looking back at the ridge of rocks that stretch off into the horizon. The 15th is a mirror image of the 12th. A dogleg-right around the last hole with sandstone in play, it’s a nice transition out of Fantasy Alley and back into reality. The longest par 5, the 585-yard 16th is a blind tee shot over the hill and a gradual downslope to the green a long way away. If you’ve got the length, it shouldn’t be too tall a task. The 17th, that par 3 that shares a big peanut green with the first hole, is 202-yard but today played so downwind that an 8-iron went too deep. That or the golf gods were asking that I hole out in the #1 cup to atone for my error of playing wrong pin earlier in the morning. Unfortunately, the closing 18th is also probably the least inspiring hole on the course. A 502-yard par 5 with water visible, the tee shot is blind to a rock in the middle of the fairway (which of course I hit.) Maybe I was just feeling less enthusiastic because I knew my round was now over.
So I was lucky enough to get to spend a couple late-October days in Denver this year. A friend I had lunch with mentioned she loves how pretty Colorado is. I knew that, there’s a lot of scenery to enjoy here in The Centennial State. Arrowhead Golf Course is another affirmation to that. Add another check to the list of why I will move here sooner rather than later. I could be a 30-minute drive from this place instead of a 2-hour flight? Sold. The views are what you’ll remember most. But even if none of those existed, this would be a great golf course. The layout is memorable because it varies so much. A big elevation drop here. A reachable par 5. A dogleg-right, blind shots, wind, subtle greens. It is easily my new favorite course. That’s saying something now since I’m at about 50 courses in 21 states. But I have yet to see anywhere like Arrowhead. It’s got such a captivating landscape that it would be fun to just hike the grounds and take in the atmosphere. It’s got such a well-designed course that it would be just as fun to focus solely on your golf. Luckily, you can do both. Maybe I’ll be back in time for the start of next season. If you don’t believe me, just check out the slideshow of the 18 holes at the end of this. Not a bad spot on the whole track.
#13, Par 3, 173 yards, 9-handicap, My Score: 4
Layout: A; like I said, a flawless layout. This place would be under a dome and it would still be fun.
Amenities: B; GPS carts, nice restaurant, pro shop and a nice range.
Staff: A; it was nice that chatted with me for the half hour I had to kill while the frost delay warmed off. I remember my Round Hill days working mornings with temps in the 30’s I didn’t feel like being friendly. I don’t know how they did it.
Difficulty: A-; if it’s not the elevation change, it’ll be some of the narrow holes, longer holes, tough-to-hit greens and on days like today, a whole lot of wind
Scenery: A+; Arrowhead gets the rare AP 5.0 credit for this one. Not a spot on the course that isn’t photo-in-a-gallery worthy.
Value: A; $60 through a special Golfnow rate. Usually in the $100’s, but still, you get a lot of course for the money compared to many places
Overall GPA: 4.00 (A+); an A+ you ask? Well see why below…