The 653-yard, par-5 opening hole at Colorado Golf Club affords great views of the Front Range and a good chance for birdie. (Photo: The PGA of America)
Colorado Golf Club: Turning a vision into reality
Refusing to settle for anything less than the best, the founders of Colorado Golf Club have realized their grand expectations. This week the world will see the fruits of their labors.
By Anthony Cotton, Special to PGA.com
For 10 years, Mike McGetrick traveled the globe, collecting and hoarding nuggets like an itinerant squirrel.
While the primary focus of the trips was his instructional work with a clientele that included major champions like Beth Daniel, Meg Mallon and Juli Inkster, along with a number of PGA Tour professionals, at the same time there always was something more going on in the back of his mind.
"I had worked at Cherry Hills Country Club for three years and I told myself afterward that someday I wanted to have an elite club similar to that," McGetrick said. "My goal was to develop something where someone would say, ‘How can I not join his club? It has everything I'm looking for.'"
Seven times during his decade on the road, McGetrick said he had opportunities to fall in with one group or another, but for whatever reason, the fit did not seem right. And so he kept on gathering and asking questions: What was the golf experience like at this place? What were the amenities like at that one? Why, despite all appearances, did things fall short at that place?
Finally, just when his file cabinet full of thoughts and notes seemed ready to burst, one of his students mentioned a piece of property located in Parker, about 15 miles southeast of downtown Denver. Eventually, McGetrick went on a site visit and within moments, those 10 years of wishing and hoping began to take shape.
"I toured for two hours and I knew right then it was the place to start Colorado Golf Club," he said.
Now, the world of golf is about to share in McGetrick's good fortune.
Although it just opened three years ago, with work still being done on the clubhouse and some custom home sites, the rolling Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw-designed course, created from some 1,400 acres of wild, untouched terrain, has already become a major player in the sport.
Besides this year's Senior PGA Championship, CGC also has been tabbed to be the host club for the 2013 Solheim Cup, which would likely wed McGetrick's course with an expected captaincy of either Inkster or Mallon for the United States team.
Should things go well, that Ryder Cup-style event on the LPGA Tour ... well, maybe that's getting a little too far ahead of ourselves. Or is it? Said Joe Steranka, chief executive officer of the PGA of America, "We think Colorado Golf Club is that special."
It certainly doesn't hurt that the property has more than enough room to hold any major championship event the club desires, with plenty of space for the ubiquitous hospitality suites, television compound, media center — and still comfortably move upward of 40,000 spectators around the grounds.
"Basically, you're building a city for 25,000 to 50,000 people, depending on which event you have," Steranka said. "You need an urban transportation system, a restaurant service, security, and spectator services. And you have to build that on a temporary basis for one week."
Of course, having all the space in the world means little if the golf course event doesn't meet expectations — which isn't the case at Colorado Golf Club. Besides the spectacular views that will be afforded from having the Rocky Mountains as a backdrop, competitors will find an 18-hole setup that may look inviting but is just as likely to be severely penal to the player who puts his shots in the wrong location. All those wide open spaces gave Coore and Crenshaw an unlimited opportunity; they could have routed the holes in any number of ways that would have resulted in a spectacular and memorable golf experience.
While major championships are often characterized by incredibly thick rough that's to be avoided at all costs, the 71st Senior PGA Championship could be noteworthy for the fact that even without lush patches of tall grass, trouble may still be lurking around — or just off — any given fairway.
"The difference here is that it will be penal even if they don't put rough in, because the ball has a chance to bounce and run and take the slopes and run into the pine needles and pine trees," said Mark Wiebe, a Denver resident who has played in the last two Senior PGA Championships since turning 50 in the fall of 2007.
In his first, in 2008 at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, N.Y., Wiebe remembered, "There, the ball was caught and wouldn't go too far from the fairways, but you were only chipping out. Here, the ball isn't going to get caught, but it's going to keep trundling wherever it's going. You may be closer to the green, but you'll have a much more difficult shot."
In his dreams of founding a golf nirvana, McGetrick says his main focus was creating a memorable experience for members. But along with that, he adds, there always was the thought the course would be good enough to some day be in the mix when it came to testing the best players in the world.
"We told the membership from the beginning we'd never have a tournament year in and year out, but we did say we wanted to host major championships," he said.
Very early on, the club was the site of some local qualifiers for the U.S. Open, and indeed, word of the course's charm had begun to spread.
"We've stayed close to Ben Crenshaw since he was a Ryder Cup captain (in 1999); I remember playing Bandon Trails and talking to him about that course," Steranka said. "I asked him what else he was working on, and he said, ‘Well actually, there's this project in Colorado that's really special ... '
"And he was right. You talk about the walk-in-the-park value; Colorado Golf Club is as good as there is anywhere in the country."
That's one reason why, despite its youth, Colorado Golf Club has made such strides, Steranka says. Another factor is the opportunity to grab a foothold on the courses and locations that could, in time, become the standard bearers in the sport.
"The Colorado Golf Club is a beautiful natural site for golf," said Crenshaw. "The excellent topography lent itself to a diversity of holes, providing a challenge to all golfers. It's a well-rounded test that certainly will showcase the individual player's skills in the Senior PGA Championship."
Early indications are that Colorado Golf Club has the potential to develop into a course capable of creating its own enduring memories. And after more than a decade of dreams, McGetrick realizes that the time is now.
"I thought it would take a little more time for a championship to come to Colorado Golf Club and I wish the club were a little more established in terms of all the amenities being completed, but we have a great course, one that all the tours would enjoy competing on," he said. "Colorado Golf Club has everything a championship course needs to be great.
"It's going to be a great test for us to see how this is going to unfold; it's going to be a great test for the golf course and where we go in the future."
Anthony Cotton is a sportswriter for The Denver Post. This story appears courtesy of the 71st Senior PGA Championship Official Program.