Host to the US Amateur (in 1959 and 1964) and the US Women’s Open (in 1995 and 2011), the East course is one of three 18-hole tracks attached to The Broadmoor, one of America’s most famous resorts.
Golf was first played here in 1918 when Donald Ross crafted an 18-hole layout. This course was then split in two when Robert Trent Jones Snr added two 9-hole circuits, forming the East course in 1952 and the West in 1964.
The Mountain course appeared in 1976 and this Arnold Palmer and Ed Seay layout was redesigned by Jack Nicklaus II in 2006 – quite fitting that the Golden Bear’s son should carry out the work at the venue where his father won his first national title at the aforementioned US Amateur in 1959.Holes 7 to 15 are the newer holes on an East course that’s renowned for its broad, tree-lined fairways and large greens. Stand out holes include the expanded 601-yard 3rd and the similarly elongated 611-yard 17th.
When I go to play at Ballyneal in Colorado I try to add courses in the area although there are no decent courses in a circle of nearly three hours. I have stayed at the Broadmoor a couple of times, the first time playing the East and the Mountain. After finishing on the East course in 2011 we saw Annika Sorenstam give an interview behind the eighteenth green about a month before the Women’s U.S. Open. The Mountain course closed due to earth slides in 2016. The second time was in June, 2018 when I played the East and tried to play the West which was cancelled due to a nasty thunderstorm. I felt like I saw the East course nears its peak both times as a few weeks later in 2018 the Broadmoor hosted the U.S. Senior Open won by David Toms.
Broadmoor East was once on Top 100 list in the USA of all courses. Over the past thirty years it has tumbled out of the top 100 but still remains in the top 100 public and top 100 resort courses in the USA. This is not due to the golf course eroding in quality. The reasons are twofold. First, as it sits just over a mile high in altitude, there is a 10% reduction in the yardage. Combined with improvements in technology both in the ball and the clubs, the course has been made even shorter for players of all indexes. It is only the greens that have really withstood the benefit of technology. Secondly, numerous outstanding new public resorts have been built – five courses at Bandon Dunes, three courses at Streamsong, two courses at Sand Valley, and a scattering of resort courses such as at Barton Creek and several in Bend, Oregon. The owners of the hotel could react by trying to “improve” the course for the modern game but I am glad they have resisted the urge because the East course is a lot of fun because it is very playable.
The character of the course is very much influenced by the amount of trees, the amazing views, and the fall of the terrain. After all, this is a course built on the side of a mountain, even if it is not as hilly as the West course. Given the terrain and the many doglegs, one’s tee shot is nearly always determined by the fall of the land. If the land is falling off to the right, aim the shot to the left. If the land is falling off to the left, aim the tee shot to the right.
There are nine holes here from Donald Ross who built the original 18 hole course. These are holes 1-6 and 16-18. Holes 7-15 come holes designed by Robert Trent Jones, Senior. I have not played the Ross holes from the West course that once were a part of the East routing to say whether it would be a superior course to the current East routing. I only know that the West course is considered to be hillier. I also do not know when the routing was changed after the Robert Trent Jones holes were built in 1964.
The East course is a very fine resort/public golf course. At Streamsong, Bandon Dunes, Koehler/Whistling Straits, the quality of the golf courses is so high that they exceed the very good accommodations. At the Broadmoor the hotel and its grounds are better than the golf. That isn’t a criticism of the golf but rather a compliment to the outstanding hotel. The Broadmoor might be the finest resort west of the Mississippi River to stay and play (Sea Island being perhaps number one east of the Mississippi).
While I would like to have a go from the 7355 tees, the other players on both trips preferred the 6651 tees. The front nine plays much easier than the back nine despite the back nine being slightly flatter. The front nine has three par 5’s, two of which are short and a short par 4. From the 6651 tees, assuming one has a decent day with the putter, an index player of 7 should nearly always break 80 even if it is the first or second visit.
I looked back at an email I sent a friend after the first time playing the course. It said: “A perfect course for combo tees would combine blue and white to make 7000 yards (net 6300 yards). The course is wide open off the tees and the par 5's are the weaker holes. There are a lot of trees. There are many enjoyable holes although the beauty of the setting of the Cheyenne Mountains and the hotel distracts from identifying if there are any truly outstanding holes. Little seems to be left from Donald Ross on the Ross holes despite the restoration attempts but perhaps the land is so different to other Donald Ross courses that he designed differently here. The greens on the Ross holes are smoother than I expected and the bunkering is not very penal. The course has larger greens than I expected. It is not as hilly as I thought it would be other than the holes nearer the hotel. The RTJ, Sr. holes have several greens that are unnecessarily overly crowned and wide. It is a very beautiful walk between the many tree-lined fairways and the finish with the pond that requires longer hitters to lay up is really stunning both at the tee and against the backdrop of the hotel behind the green.”
From the blue tee the par 72 East course is rated 74.0/135 from the Blue tees and 69.9/129 from the white tees.
The course has a gentle start with two gently uphill par 4’s of 442/381 and 347/334. The first is a pretty dogleg left to an elevated green sloped back to front. There is ample room on this fairway with a single bunker on the left to avoid. The green sends a message to you that this is the toughest part of the golf course. The second hole is the more beautiful hole due to eight bunkers from tee to green. I really like how the second green is angled to the left with two bunkers fronting this small green.
Holes three and four, a par 5 of 601/554 and par 3 of 170/145 both have a pond fronting the green separated by a tree. For the tree-lined third, you go back down the hill turning right towards the clubhouse to play the long third. I like the tree on the right side of three near the pond as it pulls one’s eyes to the left where there is a single bunker awaiting you left of the green. It is a narrow green for the length of the hole with a more pitched slope at the front. A wayward shot to the right could find the pond fronting the third. In addition to the slight false front before the green there is a small ridge line behind the green. After turning back uphill, the fourth has a rock wall at the front and a well-sloped back to front green with good undulations but I feel the green is too long for the length of the shot. There is a fall-off to the right of the green. They are good holes but it feels odd to play a Donald Ross course with water, even though my home course, Aronimink, has water on three holes.
Holes five and six complete the early Donald Ross holes. These are the best two consecutive holes on the course. The fifth is my favorite hole of the front nine, a par 4 gently uphill that plays to 433/405 and is rated the third hardest. There are eleven bunkers on the hole as you make your way towards the green with four bunkers roughly 50 yards from the front creating a cross bunker effect. The fifth green is surrounded by four bunkers with the front open. The green has a backdrop of trees. It is a lovely green site. Six is a par 4 of 402/366 bending to the left with three bunkers on the left corner and four fronting the green. The tee shot plays over two ponds. It feels strange to me to play a Donald Ross hole with so much sand fronting the green. On any other course this might be the prettiest hole given the ponds, the trees and the setting of the green among the trees.
Seven starts the RTJ, Sr. holes after crossing the road. It is a short par 5 of 482/462 dogleg left where the only notable feature is the overly large uphill crowned green seemingly to tilt away from the mountain and towards the mountain depending on where one is standing in the fairway. In actuality the green is relatively flat but one must clear the collection of bunkers on the right. This hole is played as a par 4 for significant tournaments.
Eight is a nice short par 3 of 178/145 where the green is elevated and there is a substantial valley to the front left where there is rougher grass. There is a series of wooden steps to help you if you go down there from where you will not see the flag if you find your ball.
Nine has perhaps the best RTJ, Sr. green on another par 5 of 535/476 playing slightly downhill. This sharp dogleg left has a very generous fairway on the right side. Big hitters can easily reach this green in two perhaps with as little as a 7 iron. Aim for the left side of the fairway due to the slope of the terrain. There is a triangular shaped pond fronting the crowned, wide green that should not be in play followed by three scattered bunkers across the front with a false front. The key defense of this hole is the distraction of the view behind the green as it is stunning of the Cheyenne Mountain range.
The back nine kicks off with a par 4 nearly as long as the preceding hole at 504/455. Unfortunately, it is also another sharp dogleg left of a near mirror image to nine although the fairway is not as wide and there are bunkers to either side. Aim once again for the right side of the fairway as the ball will go to the left due to a steeper right to left tilt of the fairway. There is a nice view of downtown Colorado Springs in the background. The green is very undulated and sloped.
Eleven offers another uphill crowned green on this par 4 of 424/377. This is the third dogleg to the left although not as pronounced as the previous two holes. It is fronted by three bunkers and even though the green is uphill, I feel as though I have played the hole already.
Twelve is a par 3 of 240/198 playing downhill that has a raised, wide green with fall-offs around the back side with the front of the green having four bunkers although a narrow opening is available. The green runs away from you. It is a very nice green complex. I like the hole but my partners think it is simply a longer par 3.
Thirteen is a par 4 of 493/466 and is rated the hardest on the back nine. It is a sharp dogleg to the right with bunkers on either side of the corner. The green is also very wide. For me it is the hardest hole on the golf course to get to the green.
Fourteen is a par 4 of 429/404 and another slight dogleg left. I felt overall this hole had the best bunkering of the RTJ, Sr. holes with three on the left and two on the right fairway while three front the green.
Fifteen is the last of the RTJ, Sr. holes and the one I favor the most as a par 4 of 451/397 with a challenging downhill tee shot dogleg left. Trees pinch in from the left side of the fairway. There is a lovely view from the tee. The three bunkers near the green are the best shaped of ones on the RTJ, Sr. holes.
You cross the road again to return to the final three holes from Donald Ross. Sixteen is a mid-length par 3 of 180/172 with a bunker across the entire front. The green tilts to the left. It is a benign hole.
Seventeen is a long par 5 of 611/525 which plays downhill slightly right where trees on either side are the primary defense to the hole. Near the green are three bunkers right and two left which narrow the fairway. A bunker fronts either side of the green. Other than the trees, the hole is fairly straightforward.
Eighteen is a dogleg right of 433/383 from an elevated tee with bunkers on the right and trees on the left. One should aim to the left half of the fairway. It has a very nicely contoured green with that wonderful setting beginning with the view of the Cheyenne Mountains and ending against the hotel. The green sits above you for the approach shot. It is a lovely finish.
The Broadmoor East course is a perfect combination of a fabulous hotel, a stunning setting, and a very walkable and playable golf course. The views are incredible and can be distracting from the golf. The greens are large and are the main defense of the golf course. For me, there are several very fine golf holes but no outstanding ones. It is a good place to host a senior professional event or women’s event due to the ability to grow the rough and speed up the greens. One should play the East course if in the area to play the other very good courses nearby or if one wants to stay at a wonderful hotel but it should be in combination.
Things started off a little bit dicey when my clubs weren’t at the starter for my 3:10 tee time even though I dropped them off with the valet at 2 o’clock and was assured they would be there by 2:30. While waiting for them I was chatting with the starter and she said to take a certain cart and I replied I was going to walk. She immediately jumped me ahead of two groups, asked one to wait for just a moment as my clubs finally showed up and I was on my way. Walking evidently gives you some street cred. This a mongrel design of two of golf’s most famous architects. The original course was designed by Donald Ross and opened in 1918. At the time it was the highest elevation golf course in the US, well over 6000 feet above sea level. In the early 1950s Robert Trent Jones designed another 18, six of his holes are on the East course and six of Ross’s are on the West.
The first hole is classic Ross, it invites you to play. My first indication that the greens were slick occurred when I thought I stuck my approach. As I was walking up to the green I noticed a ball about five yards short and wondered where it came from. Sadly, upon further scrutiny I recognized it as mine. I had gotten spit back and rejected. Fortunately, I did make the up and down. The second hole is a short par 4,stay away from the bunkers on the right. The third hole was 540 down hill downwind. I hit a great drive for me and was about 250 out. There is a water hazard in front of the green. I would normally lay up, but I noticed there was a false front of about 40-50 yards. I threw caution to the wind (literally and figuratively) hit a five would on the screws, got a great bounce and while I was on the dance floor I wasn’t near the band. Horrible first putt but was able to make the bird. Another great example of why par 5s should NOT be the number 1 handicap hole. Four is a short par 3 aim well right of the pin, everything rolls away from the mountains and towards the valley. On number 6 be careful there are three bunkers on the left-hand side, relatively short par 4, but they can sneak up on you. Number nine is a short par five 476 yards hard dogleg left. You need to cut the corner because the fairway rolls off right. Aim down the tree line, a decent drive should leave you around 200 yards in. This is a severely contoured green, if the pin is back, you really have to force yourself to get it back there, otherwise she will be rejected. Number 10 is a long par 4 downhill dogleg to the left. Aim at the bunker on the right side of the fairway and the ball should trundle on down to the left. The 12th is a 200 yard par 3. Not sure what to tell you here. I hit a good 5 iron that landed a quarter of the way onto the green and ended up being over. The 15th is a slight dogleg left, be right, or run the risk of being blocked out. The 16th is a par 3 with a hellacious contour left to right. The 17th is a relatively benign par 5, but watch out for the bunkers on the left side just inside 100 yards. The 18th is a wonderful hole. Purportedly, Nicklaus has called it his favorite finishing hole. Preferred ball flight is over the fairway bunker, leaving you an approach shot of less than 150 yards.
A fun track, slick greens and penurious rough. Expensive, I would recommend the twilight rate, where the rate drops by over half. It has hosted many major tournaments. Nicklaus won the US Amateur here in 1959 and Annika Sorenstam won the 1995 US Women’s Open.
Colin Braithwaite is the author of “A Good Walk Unspoiled”