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Where to swing this spring

Donna Daniels

While high-end golf courses are proliferating in the valley, there are plenty of places where the average Joe Duffer can swing a wood without breaking the bank.

Golf course construction has come on fast and furious since the mid-1990s with Aspen Glen and River Valley Ranch in Carbondale and the Roaring Fork Club in Basalt.

Now under construction are Rose Ranch, near Westbank, and Bair Chase, better known as Sanders Ranch, both between Glenwood Springs and Carbondale.

Of the five courses, only River Valley Ranch and Rose Ranch are open to the public.

Whether public or private, golf courses between Glenwood Springs and Aspen, with one notable exception, will set a golfer back at least $75 a round.

But in Glenwood Springs, and to the west, golf becomes a lot more affordable.

Between Aspen and Battlement Mesa, 11 golf courses are now open. Of those, eight are public and three are private.

“Public golf costs a lot of money these days,” said Joe Buchanan, director of sales and marketing at Bair Chase. “It’s very rare to be able to get on a golf course for less than $80.

“There are courses available for less, but it’s a mowed field. You get what you pay for.”

Well designed courses are expensive to maintain, he added.

The most affordable golf course in the Roaring Fork Valley is the Ranch at Roaring Fork, about halfway between Carbondale and El Jebel. A round of golf on the nine-hole, par-three course is $15 during the peak season.

At the high end of the range are the private clubs, such as the Maroon Creek Club in Aspen and Aspen Glen in Carbondale. Both are for members only, although guests can play at the invitation of a member. Guests at both clubs will pay anywhere between $120 and $245 to play a round of golf on the 18-hole courses.

Members don’t pay for each round of golf, but fork over hefty initiation fees to join the club.

At the Maroon Creek Club, membership fees run about $225,000, Buchanan said. Members also pay monthly dues of around $1,000.

Initiation fees at Bair Chase are now $105,000, Buchanan said. As a marketing strategy to attract members before the course is built, Bair Chase is offering to repay half the fee to the first 100 members as the membership grows. For example, when the membership gets to 175, one-eighth of the initial membership fee is returned. It’s further reduced another eighth when the membership reaches 225, 275 and 325 until it’s cut in half, Buchanan said. The membership will be capped at 325.

“We want to have fewer members (than other private clubs). There will be no tee times,” he said.

Among the downvalley public courses that can legitimately be called affordable is Glenwood Springs Golf Club, affectionately known as “the Hill.” A round of golf on the nine-hole course costs $19.

The Glenwood Springs course pulls a lot of golfers from Aspen, Vail and locally who are looking for affordable golf, said head pro Greg Gortsema.

“In the 13 years I’ve been here, we get more and more players every year,” he said. “All the courses going in now are definitely your higher end because of the cost of dirt around here. You’ve got to charge the high rates because it’s so expensive to build.”

Two popular affordable courses to the west of Glenwood Springs are Rifle Creek and Battlement Mesa.

Golfers pay $34 a round at the 18-hole Rifle Creek golf course and $38 for a round at the 18-hole Battlement Mesa.

Both courses attract golfers from around the area as well as the Front Range.

“We get a lot of out-of-towners,” said Rifle Creek general manager Pat Hayes.

In fact, Rifle Creek targets Front Range golfers with a special stay and play package deal. Golfers can stay at the Rusty Cannon Motel in Rifle for $62 per person for one night, which includes a round of golf and a cart, Hayes said.

For those willing to travel to Grand Junction, prices are still more reasonable, ranging from $10 to $18 a round on the public courses.

Between Glenwood Springs and Aspen, the golf gets more expensive. The two public courses, River Valley Ranch in Carbondale and Aspen Golf Club in Aspen are comparable at $75 and $80 for a round, respectively, on the 18-hole courses.

“River Valley Ranch is a very good golf course and a very fair price for those who can’t afford the private option,” Buchanan said.

Those prices compare favorably with public courses in the Vail area and on the Front Range, where prices for public 18-hole golf courses range from about $80 to $100 a round.

While there may come a time when the pricey courses are in the majority in the valley, there is still good, affordable golf to be found close to home.


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