Montrose Courses Surrounded by Natural Wonders

By: Steve Habel

Despite plenty of towering mountains and deep canyons, temperate weather where golf can be played 10 out of 12 months, and a laidback but hip vibe, the towns on Colorado's Western Slope don't often get the accolades that other areas of the Centennial State seem to claim as a birthright. That goes for its golf courses as well.

No. 13 at The Bridges Golf & Country Club

Such is the case with the bustling burg of Montrose, set on a plain surrounded by natural wonders and almost equidistant from Grand Junction to the north and the famous ski town of Telluride to the south. East of Montrose is the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, while up north is the Grand Mesa - the world's largest flattop mountain.

Views of the San Juan and Cimarron peaks define the horizons and, at an elevation of about 5,800 feet, the area gets more than 300 days of sunshine a year.

For golf courses to compete for attention, they need some flair. The area's two newest venues - The Bridges Golf & Country Club and The Links at Cobble Creek - fit that bill and stand out without sticking out, a central theme on the Uncompahgre Plateau.

The Bridges (originally the Bridges at Black Canyon) was fashioned by Jack Nicklaus, with the plan for the layout to serve as the centerpiece of a lavish private community. That was back in 2005 and, after several incarnations and ownership changes (not to mention a worldwide economic crisis), the course is still one of the best on the Western Slope.

The Links at Cobble Creek, opened in 1999, is located a few miles southwest of downtown Montrose on the road to the mountains. The course rests in another residential community and was designed by novice Craig Cherry, who got the job because his father-in-law was the property developer. This is the first and only golf course Cherry has designed to date.

How's that for differing course-design pedigrees?

The 2nd Green at The Bridges GC
is Accessed via Covered Bridge

The Bridges Showcases Nicklaus Design Philosophies

While the course at The Bridges Golf & Country Club gets its name from the many distinctive cart and walking bridges used to navigate the track, the real highlight here is the way the Nicklaus sculpted the land (which was originally flattish) into a rolling, lake-filled test.

More than 850,000 cubic yards of earth were moved to shape the gently rolling course, and 85 bunkers are scattered about. Water enters play on 16 of the 18 holes. Some fairways wind around rugged natural arroyos; the Bridges' tees, fairways and greens are all bentgrass, a rarity in Colorado.

The Bridges incorporates native plantings, rock features and waterfalls. Playing at 7,207 yards from its back set of four tees - where it can be a real bear, the par-71 course carries a rating of 73.9 and Slope of 140 from the tips.

The Approach to the
18th Green at The Bridges G&CC

Since most of the fairways are generous, the Bridges gets its bite from large greens with multiple levels, making accuracy on approaches a must. Unique features include a shared tee on Nos. 2 and 11, and the 15th is a par-5 with two separate greens - one at 572 yards and the other at 600 yards and on the far side of a canal.

The front nine is highlighted by a four-hole stretch that includes the course's three longest par-4s and its shortest par-3. On the 448-yard fifth, tee shots must avoid bunkers to the left of the prime landing area and a pond and creek right of the green. No. 6 (at 468 yards and into the prevailing wind) takes two mighty whacks to reach the putting surface, which is fronted by a bunker.

A water carry and avoidance of the left side is needed on the 178-yard par-3 seventh, and all your skills must be assembled on the massive (473-yard) and top-rated eighth, which doglegs rightward around a huge set of bunkers and over a large lake on the approach.

No. 12, a 245-yard par-3, is played over a vast waste bunker and two sand traps in front of the green. Players can reclaim a stroke on the 349-yard par-4 13th which, though moving right to left toward the course's largest lake, can be attacked.

After the brutish 255-yard par-3 14th, length is again a factor on No. 15, a 606-yard par-5. Whichever green is in play, the hole is a real test as the second shot must carry a stream and avoid a lake left of the lay-up area.

The 444-yard closer heads toward the clubhouse on the horizon and features a lake along the left that encroaches on the drive and approach. Two gnarly bunkers guard the elevated putting surface, making the final full shot of the round quite difficult.

It's easy to see the design trends Nicklaus and his team have adopted over the past decade (wider driving corridors, more mounding and added severity to greens) in their work at The Bridges. The track is fun and demanding, yet is a must-play in the Montrose area.

The layout was named one of Golf Magazine's "Top 10 New Courses" in 2005, and the club was recognized by Links magazine as a "Premier Golf Property."

After the round, the cuisine and ambiance at Remington's - the club's casual fine-dining restaurant - puts a great capper on a day at the course. The restaurant earns consistent mention as the one of the best places to eat in the region.

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The San Juan Mountains are a
Constant Companion at The Links at
Cobble Creek

Cobble Creek Is No Pushover

Cherry's work at The Links at Cobble Creek is entertaining yet challenging. The par-72, 6,970-yard track weaves through an eponymous residential community, and is bordered and accented by a series of lakes and a creek that winds through the neighborhood's 530 acres.

Typical of a course with Cobble Creek's rating (71.8) and Slope (125), the landing areas are generous and the putting surfaces expansive, albeit undulating. Playing to the correct section of the green improves one's scoring chances, and five sets of tees (starting at 5,177 yards) allow golfers to pick his or her levels of difficulty.

Cobble Creek is relatively flat, unusual in its alpine setting. The routing offers an excellent variety of long holes and shorter but strategic par-4s. Only two of its two-shotters (the 495-yard 12th and 439-yard 14th) can be considered long, but each side has a par-5 that stretches more than 600 yards from the tips and a trio of par-3s in excess of 200 yards. The layout contains five par-3s and five par-5s, thanks to a 3-3-3 layout on the front nine.

The 523-yard par-5 second is a sweeping dogleg-right that moves tightly between bunkers on both sides and ends at a shallow green guarded front-left by a bunker. In the distance is Mt. Sneffels, one of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks.

The sixth is a straight-ahead three-shotter of 608 yards with a lake and creek that comes into play on the second shot and approach. Water also enters play on the outward half's third par-5, the ninth, which plays 556 yards; it veers left off the tee and then rightward to the green.

The 221-yard par-3 11th requires a carry over a lake and is impinged by out-of-bounds along the right side; here, there's no room for error. The 12th is Cobble Creek's longest par-4 but it's also bunkerless and forgiving, allowing for a run-up shot to its large green. No. 13, a 609-yard par-5, continues this stretch of attention-grabbers. It turns slightly left from tee to green and borders a creek.

The Links at Cobble Creek

After dealing with some length, Cobble Creek's 276-yard par-4 15th provides a bit of a respite. Although short, the hole can be daunting due to a large, gaping fairway bunker in mid-fairway about 170 yards out. A creek winds down the right side of the fairway and in front of the shallow but slightly elevated green. There's not much room left of the bunker, and anything right will end up in the drink.

The 504-yard par-5 16th provides another chance to regain a stroke despite water along the right and houses left. The finisher - a par-4 at 403 yards - rises gradually toward the clubhouse.

While you might not find The Links at Cobble Creek on any lists of Colorado's best courses, it was voted the best public venue in the Montrose area. It's a track that's a blast to play and worthy of respect.

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Steve Habel is one of Cybergolf's world correspondents, contributing news stories, features, equipment and book reviews and personality profiles from his base in Central Texas. He is also works as a contributing editor for Horns Illustrated magazine, a publication focusing on University of Texas sports, covers the Longhorns for CBS Sports, is regional editor for Texas Golfer magazine and files stories for Golf Oklahoma magazine, Texas Links magazines and Golfers Guide. Habel's main blog ( features news on golf and the Longhorns, and another ( his many travels, on which he has played more than 350 golf courses since 2009. Habel is a member of the Golf Writers Association of America and the Texas Golf Writers Association.