The course at Broadmoor Country Club is an early 1920s design from Donald Ross which staged the first six editions of the Comfort Classic (then known as the GTE North Classic) on the Champions Tour, starting in 1988 when Gary Player won the inaugural tournament.
“Long underrated on the national level,” is how Daniel Wexler describes the course in The American Private Golf Club Guide. He also says that the layout “benefits from two of Donald Ross’s standard strengths (a widely acclaimed routing and intricate green complexes) as well as two relative Ross rarities: profuse bunkering and a very low degree of alteration.”
The author continues: “though laid out on flat terrain, Broadmoor is seldom uninteresting… the main thing preventing Broadmoor from playing precisely as Ross intended is a degree of tree growth so invasive that lines of play are occasionally blocked, even from the edges of fairways – a problem currently being addressed by a long range removal plan.”
If one is driving along Interstate 70, they will have a number of opportunities to play a Broadmoor by Donald Ross; I, an Ohio native, opted to stay closer to home and try the Indianapolis variant, rather than travel all the way to Denver for the resort of the same name. Although I have heard that Forse/Nagle are carrying out fine work at the latter, I know that Bruce Hepner has recently carried out a master plan he crafted while at Renaissance Golf for the former (the trees mentioned in the bio above significantly diminished, from what I can tell).
A quip that I frequently use at Ross courses — and I honestly forget whether I came up with this or not — was that “nobody breaks Ross’s rules more than Ross.” The bunkering at Broadmoor lives up to this mantra on several levels, and I’ll admit that I’m not sure whether the Scot or his American renovators bear responsibility.
One one hand is the sheer number; Ross was hardly Sheep Ranch-straightedge in terms of his bunker avoidance, however he rarely pushed the boundaries with regards to the number of traps at his layouts. Broadmoor features many more than the typical...I believe in the 130 range, about 40 more than Inverness, one of Ross’s most championship-calibrated courses. This is not necessarily a complaint; after all, few complain about Aronimink’s barrage.
Here is the complaint, however: Many of these traps are all but invisible from the tees, due in part to the property being as flat as John Wayne’s roles. Although clusters of mounds can be read as bunker housing, Ross often avoided relative blindness by “scooping” bunkers toward the tee, so players could see the back face of the hazard. From a strictly aesthetic perspective, I can’t help but imagine how appealing No. 13 — a Cape-style tee shot with two pickets of bunkers along the inside of the dogleg — might be should those bunkers become visible from the tee. It may be well beyond the club’s budget, but one can dream.
No. 13 is a solid pivot point to discuss the course’s strongest asset; perhaps recognizing that he had little to work with in terms of topography, Ross instilled Broadmoor with some of the more bold putting surfaces that I’ve played within his bibliography. This hole features a Biarritz-style green, with two higher platforms separated by a significant dip...all in all, much improved upon the template. Challenging the aforementioned bunkers merits a better angle into the tricky green.
If forced to choose a series of greens to highlight, it is interestingly the par fives that merit most attention; for their relative lack of distance, they all demand quality second shots for those seeking eagle. No. 9 features a Raynorian “thumbprint” effect at its front, adding character to a green that banks steeply upward from front to back. No. 12 somewhat resembles my cat’s head, where balls landing in one “ear” cannot possibly reach the other in one putt, as a sizable bulge rises from the feline forehead (I should really have my cat looked at), putting a premium on placement. No. 17 features relatively little movement, but includes a bold horn that I can only compare to the tongues from a few greens at MacKenzie’s original Augusta layout. The difference here is that the point pokes from the back of the green; perhaps where No. 12 is a cat, 17 is a unicorn. Finally, No. 18 ends with the ever-celebrated “turtle-back.”
Playing on a weekday afternoon, my host and I indulged in attempting absurdist putts...if I were a member, I would drive my son out in the evening regularly for such activity.
Ah, I’d forgotten the final “Un-Ross” element of the bunkering, and it’s one I’ve been told is from the hand of Hepner: An interesting number of greens here feature bunkers at the back. It’s rarely a problem; for example, the bunker at the back-left of No. 17 (the unicorn) is fair punishment for those who get overeager on a short long. On the other hand, the bunker between the cat’s ears at No. 12 creates an intense shot, which would have been issue enough from a simple second cut.
It’s interesting that, after spending the bulk of this review discussing the bunkering, my feeling at the end of the day comes back to Ross’s 18 greens and not his ( / Hepner’s) 130 bunkers. Truly, they’re the face of the golf course (a Macdonald quote, not Ross) and in Broadmoor’s case, I greatly appreciated the face more than the body.
It’s a face I won’t forget, worth the price of admission.
(My wife has just read these last few sentences over my shoulder and stormed out...I need to run and convince her I’m just writing about golf again.)
For what it's worth, I had the opportunity to chat with Bruce Hepner about his work here...he states that indeed all of the back-of-green bunkers are Ross originals. More importantly, he emphasized that my desperate need to see the whites of the bunker from the tee box is not a "must" of Ross's personal philosophy, but rather that this claim is the creation of modern waves of GCA enthusiasts putting words in Ross's mouth (he generously did not call me a whiny golfing millennial for myself subscribing to this belief).
Always important to understand the architect's mindset and, more importantly, understand that your well-versed "understanding" of the architect's mindset is not always accurate.