The calendar says it’s already been spring for weeks.
But for golf fans and players, especially those who live in cooler climes like ours in northern Colorado, spring really begins with The Masters.
The tournament marks the unofficial start of the golf season for many across North America, with the impossibly green fairways and lush azaleas of Augusta National Golf Club a sign of what awaits golfers as spring blossoms into summer.
To mark the occasion, the Colorado Sports Team has compiled our “NoCo 18”, a collection of our favorite holes (by number) in the Fort Collins area.
It was a fun exercise, but the basic criteria was a combination of:
- Fun to play
- interesting design
- how hard it is
- our own subjective “je ne sais quoi”
We also only include publicly available non-par 3 courses within 20 miles of Fort Collins, and at least one hole from each of the eight qualifying courses is represented.
(Note: all yardages are from the rear triple trees)
No. 1: Collindale (Par 5, 539 yards)
A quick note: Collindale recently changed their nines, but we still use the traditional layout as that is how most people know the course.
That being said, this par 5 along Horsetooth Road is a fascinating opener. A grove of trees on the right and a net along the road make for a tight tee shot. While a good drive can set up a birdie (or better), a wanderer will put your nine on the wrong foot.
Also considered: Highland Meadows No. 1, City Park No. 1
No. 2: Southridge (Par 4, 339 yards)
This slight left dogleg is protected by tall trees that force a moonball driver over them or a shorter club that must be pressed between the bunkers (or else to the right of them) off the tee. Even with shorter irons on the approach, a rolling green makes almost any pin placement difficult.
Also considered: Pelican Lakes #2, Mariana Butte #2
No. 3: City Park 9 (Par 4: 281 yards)
Consider this an over-the-top version of No. 2 at Southridge.
A thick stand of trees to the left of the fairway and out of bounds to the right means that even your irons off the tee need to be placed in a narrow window. A massive tree short and to the right of the green complicates the approach, and a heavily stepped green will direct your ball straight to or completely away from many hole locations.
Also considered: Mariana Butte #3, Collindale #3
No. 4: Highland Meadows (Par 3, 143 yards)
The short par 3 requires a nervous tee shot, with water completely flanking the short green and to the right. Any remaining bailouts are risky due to a wide downhill bunker. And even if you hit the green, it’s three levels and steeply sloping. Good luck if you’re on the wrong one.
Also considered: City Park #4, Pelican Lakes #4
No. 5: The Olde Course @ Loveland (Par 5, 522 yards)
This par 5 is wide open from the tee, as you climb a small hill to a fairway that slopes right to left. If you reach the ridge or beyond, you can either try to reach the green with a big draw over a water hazard or leave the approach short or in a huge landing zone on the right. Although the slope of the green is not overwhelming, its massive size makes up for it.
Also considered: Highland Meadows #5, Southridge #5, Pelican Lakes #5
No. 6: Highland Meadows (Par 4, 456 yards)
It is one of the most spectacular local holes.
The tee shot is risk-reward, as shots further to the right are safe but leave 200 yards or more uphill, while aggressive shots to the left risk reaching the natural zone hazard or finding a bunker. The green itself is guarded by a short deep sand trap to the right and has a major slope from back right to front left.
Also considered: Collindale No. 6, City Park No. 6, Olde Course No. 6
No. 7: Mariana Butte (Par 4, 390 yards)
A half-S shaped stream frames this fairway mostly on the right, and the left has a steep hill that can return errant tee shots into play – if you’re lucky. The approach is hit up a deceptively high hill that veers sharply away from the elevated green on all sides. And the green is no pushover either, with a ridge to the front and right that affects nearly every putt.
Also considered: Southridge No. 7, Highland Meadows No. 7, City Park No. 7
No. 8: City Park (Par 4, 399 yards)
#8s are an enigma in the area, as most of them are single par 3s, so we went with this penultimate City Park challenge.
The tee shot is dead if you hit it left, as the trees will block any reasonable approach even if you don’t hit the driving range net. A towering tree on the left near the creek requires an approach from the right, but a relatively small green is difficult to navigate even though affected by regulations.
Also considered: Southridge No. 8, Highland Meadows No. 8
No. 9: Pelican Lakes (Par 3, 200 yards)
This par 3 winds up towards the Pelican Lakes clubhouse, a view framed by poplar trees that also limit your tee shot window to the green. Short bunkers to the right and back left protect a tricky green which widens past a narrow front landing area.
Also considered: Southridge No. 9, Olde Course No. 9
No. 10: Mariana Butte (Par 4, 381 yards)
Offering one of the best golf views in the area from elevated tees, this hole allows golfers to hit over 50 feet to a sloping fairway that slopes right to left. Big hitters almost aim for the driving range to the right, but a birdie is a tough proposition even with a corner approach due to the giant surface of the green.
Also considered: Pelican Lakes #10, Mountain Vista “#10”
No. 11: Southridge (Par 4, 435 yards)
Good luck on that tee shot.
The driving range and surrounding nets largely block tee shots to the left, while the water is ready to gobble up forehands that cross the fairway. Safer tee shots leave a long approach to a sloping green surrounded by hills.
Also considered: Collindale #11, Pelican Lakes #11, Mariana Butte #11
No. 12: Highland Meadows (Par 5, 635 yards)
This gigantic downhill par 5 can be as brutal as it is breathtaking.
Flanked on the right by a huge natural ravine and featuring a wide but sloping fairway, it’s a 3 shot hole for almost anyone – and that’s if the wind isn’t blowing straight at you. Bunkers running nearly the entire length of the hole hug the wide fairways, and the green can be almost comically frustrating.
Also considered: Southridge No. 12, Mountain Vista “No. 12”
No. 13: Collindale (Par 5, 608 yards)
It is one of two par 5s in Collindale with similar layouts that mirror each other and share water hazards. But the shaft that guards this par 5 is about 100 yards short, and this hole has the more difficult green of the two. Any putt or chip outside the left front area will have to navigate extreme undulations.
Also considered: Highland Meadows #13, Mariana Butte #13
No. 14: Olde Course (Par 4, 417 yards)
You probably know this one as “the hole with the island green”, and we’ll get to that. But the tee shot is also a deceptive challenge, with a steep left-to-right downslope that makes hitting the fairway a daunting task. And even if you do, your approach must be precise, as water surrounds this circular green.
Also considered: Collindale No. 14, Mariana Butte No. 14, Southridge No. 14
No. 15: Mountain Vista (Par 5, 579 yards)
OK, so we’re going heavy on the par 5s. That’s more fun, right? And we count that as #15 even though Mountain Vista is also a 9 hole course.
The hole is simple at first sight. However, a narrow fairway and trees lining the boundary to the right means your tee shot can’t afford to miss it. Thick rough (at least in late spring and summer) lines the entire hole, and a well-placed bunker near a fairly small green compresses your margin of error.
Also considered: Highland Meadows No. 15, City Park “No. 15”
No. 16: Southridge (Par 5, 562 yards)
This is probably the most iconic hole on a Fort Collins course.
A net runs along the entire left side of the fairway and (theoretically) protects drivers on Lemay Avenue. The fairway slopes entirely from left to right and a deep ravine on the right has swallowed up countless golf balls. It’s a nervous approach to this danger, whether it’s your second or, say, your fifth shot. In addition, the green is huge and everything slopes from right to left towards the creek court.
Also considered: Olde Course No. 16, Mariana Butte No. 16
No. 17: Highland Meadows (Par 4, 441 yards)
This could legitimately be the toughest local hole.
A deep gully hazard short and to the left requires a carry on an ideal line, and any bailout to the right leaves more than 200 yards into the green or puts bunkers in play. Even the best shots still require perfectly placed irons in a green very elevated that looks like a turtle shell with everything going away from a small central platform.
Also considered: Olde Course No. 17, Collindale No. 17
No. 18: Mariana Butte (Par 4, 364 yards)
This hole is all about the approach shot.
While the tee bunkers are in play, any second shot must be hit to a green which is way up a steep hill. The putting surface is so high that it usually requires a special higher pin so golfers can see it from the fairway. And given that it is on a hill, the green has an amphitheater area behind it and a few sharp breaks to contend with.
All in all a spectacular way to end any ride, especially if you look back and take in the views of the Rocky Mountains.
Also considered: Highland Meadows No. 18, Collindale No. 18
You tell us in the comments! Which local course has your favorite bar, restaurant or patio to hang out after a long ride?
Chris Abshire is the Coloradoan’s Sports and Stats Content Coach. Contact him at [email protected] Support his work and that of other Colorado journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.