Colorado hosts a better cherry crop than many realize; although many are familiar with Cherry Hills, the existence of Cherry Creek Country Club adds another sweet taste of golf to the Denver suburbs.
Jack Nicklaus designed this course with the intention of creating a more natural layout within a residential setting. One of the keys to this concept is the existence of numerous sandy waste areas running between the holes, the most sizable of which sits at the southeast corner of the property. It begins by providing the longest forced carry of the day off of the tee at No. 4, and then creates a tight approach when coming back the other way for the following hole.
The route returns to the corner at No. 14, where the hazard flows like a creek stemming from the greater sand lake. The hole stretches an absurd 685 yards from its back tees; even with the light air of Denver, this may play as a realistic par six for the average player.
Still, Nicklaus takes steps to help members through local knowledge. There are a number of speed slots designed to boost the tee shots of those who can hit to correct location.
Jack Nicklaus was asked to come in and create a new course where a previous course existed. On an essentially flat piece of land he routed and designed the type of course one would expect for a private course. There are no truly memorable holes, but there are no bad holes either. Mr. Nicklaus provides a different look to many of the holes which creates more interest in the holes.
The par 3’s are good and vary in both length and the green complex. Each of them look and play very differently with a waste area on the first, a pond on the second, a long shot to an upraised green on the third, and the fourth playing over a ravine with banks at the rear.
The par 5’s also have variety with the first playing alongside a pond then over a pond, the second playing essentially straight, the third playing very long with a near 500 yard waste bunker that cuts across the fairway, with the final par 5 playing to a tighter driving area and a smaller green.
There is a nice variety in the par 4’s as well with a couple of shorter par 4’s to entice the longer hitters to go for the greens as well as some longer holes.
The green surfaces are not overly undulated, but use slopes. There are holes with swales in front or off the sides. The greens played slowly on the day we played.
The bunkering is decent, although I saw a few areas that did not seem to make much sense, both where a bunker should be or should not be. For longer and better players, many of the bunkers were not a consideration.
The green surrounds are somewhat manicured and lack differentiation and character, but one would expect this at a private club in the USA.
The course plays to 7450 yards from the Black tees, par 72 rated 74.8/141. From the Gold tees the yardage is 6868 yards rated 72.2/138. I felt the ratings to be slightly high. Two players, one a plus 1 and the other a 1 played the Black tees while I and another played the Gold tees. There are three sets of lesser tees all the way down to 4981 yards. Note that the course sits a mile high and one should expect 8-10% less distance than the yardage.
1. Par 4 – 434/398. An early pond off to the left presents a nice visual but is not in play. Flanking bunkers placed on higher ground about 240 yards off the tee are in play and pinch the fairway to half the size. Longer hitters will easily carry both bunkers from the Black tees and can get a favorable bounce, leaving less than a wedge. The green is placed after a long, lower swale and has a front central bunker also placed on a mound which effectively divides the green into a higher right half and a lower left half. There is short grass behind the left side of the green which is angled to the left. It is about what one would expect for a starting hole. I liked how the fairway went up and down with good character.
2. Par 5 – 566/508. An early pond again is easily carried but there is danger down the left as the pond extends in the form or a long, narrow finger about 315 yards from the Black tee and 260 from the Gold tee. There is ample room to miss to the right although three bunkers come into play placed on slightly higher ground. If one is not going for this green in two, the correct play is to take less club off the tee since the second shot is likely a lay-up. That long finger off the tee has a small stream of perhaps 30 yards before coming back again as a narrow finger all the way down the left side then cutting diagonally left to right in front of a narrow green. There is short grass to the left front of the green after the stream but then a bunker is placed right behind it to the left of the green. The green is angled left to right consistent with the way the stream cuts across the front. There is a smaller bunker at the rear of the green which I felt was overly punitive for the hole given one has to cross water to a narrow green. The stream also wraps around the rear of the green for those going 10 yards too long. Overall I liked the shape of the hole and the use of water but the green complex is too tricked up.
3. Par 3 – 187/176. This par 3 plays to a green that is raised towards the back. You play over a waste area to an odd shaped green with a beaker-shaped bunker off the left of the green and a bunker nearly under the trees on the back right of the green. The green has a couple of smaller plateaus in the back half whereas the front half has a steeper slide. It is a nice golf hole and is a very different look to the other par 3’s.
4. Par 4 – 464/425. There is a long waste area that goes down the left side ending about 230/190 yards off the tee. This is replaced by several scattered trees that come into play for the longer hitters. Opposite the trees is a bunker complex of four. The land rolls a bit. The green has a single front bunker of the left just short of the green. The green is angled left to right with the right half being higher. There is a bank behind the green but only a small area of short grass.
5. Par 4 – 432/412. This is a fun hole with scattered trees to either side of the fairway followed by a waste area on the left side beginning about 100 yards from the green. The green is placed off to the left behind the waste area. The green is angled to the left with two bunkers on the left, one on the right and two at the rear where there are a few trees as well. The green has a larger section bulging to the left on the back half. I liked the green complex although the green surface was not quite as compelling.
6. Par 4 – 426/398. This hole has three ponds with the first two on the left and then the third being the largest cutting diagonally right to left in front of the green. There is a waste area of tall grass at the end of the fairway that longer hitters can reach as the fairway turns to the left. The green looks thin from the fairway but is wider than it appears. Any shot hit short of the green will find a raised bank and go back into the pond. There is a pond right of the green. The “safe” play here is to play out to the left of the green or go over the green as there is ample room to provide a chance for recovery. I liked this hole as it offered options. The green is sloped towards the water but otherwise does not have a lot of movement.
7. Par 3 – 170/134. The large pond on the previous hole fronting the sixth green now is used to front the seventh green. Once again, any ball hit slightly short will find the water due to the fronting bank to the green. There is a small amount of short grass to the left of the green followed by a bunker. There is also a bunker behind the green. The green has a higher left half while the lower right half has more contour and break. Trees slightly overhang the right of the green which is a nice visual but one of them should be removed.
8. Par 5 – 583/557. This is a hole where longer hitters will try to reach in two given they can hit speed slots off the tee. There are two bunkers on the right side of the fairway but one can play away from them given the width of the fairway. The left side of the fairway has almost a ridge for the entirety of the hole. Near the green is a large bunker on the right about 50 yards short. The left side has two bunkers 40-30 yards short of the green. There is a deep and wide swale on the front right of this green which is the narrower portion as the right side has more width. There is also a bunker behind the green on the left. The ground is higher on the left side of the green so a pitch from there will have to navigate a speedier slope. The bunkering at the green made little sense to me. I do not know why the bunker is behind the narrower part of the green where there is a swale fronting it while the left side is left more defenseless despite being the bigger portion of the green.
9. Par 4 – 350/329. This is another driveable par 4 although a shot needs to be well executed. The fairway is somewhat narrow with a bunker coming in from the right about 220/200 yards off the tee. A large tree is placed on the left another 50 yards up. A pond goes down the entirety of the left side. There is a large bunker on the right about 25 yards short of the green designed to catch the longer hitters. The green is somewhat thin with a fronting bunker and a rear bunker. The green is sloped to the front. I liked the green complex on the hole and the options it presents to the better players.
10. Par 4 – 453/430. The back nine is as balanced as the front nine. The tee shot has two early bunkers coming into the fairway from the left which most hitters can clear even though they are on a slight rise. Two bunkers are also put on the left also built into a bit of a rise. The right side of the fairway is preferred due to two large trees placed inside the fairway on the left. Well short of the green on a manufactured rise is another large bunker on the right followed by a greenside bunker on the front right. The ground slopes away to the left of the green onto short grass. The rear of the green also has short grass which is necessary due to the back left of this green only being about a third the size of the front half. The green has a slope to the left rear with a sizeable falloff on the middle left. The only issue with the hole is that two sets of three sprinkler heads are set close together on the rise on the left side of the green and can influence shots given the fall-off behind it.
11. Par 4 – 455/426. This hole features a center fairway bunker with another bunker just to its right. There is a pond down the left side but it is not in play as it stops short of the central bunker. The bigger issue is the stream connecting this pond to a large pond off the left side of the green. The green is flanked on both sides by large bunkers which one cannot see if they have not driven far enough down the right side as the green sits on lower ground and the rise in the land will block one’s view. The green has a narrow neck at the front and a higher back left. A road that connects to housing on the course is far too close to the rear of the green.
12. Par 4 – 440/409. When I stepped on the tee I thought this to be a par 5 as the land falls slowly away to the green. Scattered trees go down either side of the fairway. There is a large bunker that can be reached on the right side by longer hitters so the left side of the fairway is preferred as this large bunker sits inside the fairway. The green is defended by a pot-like bunker on the right front and another on the left side. To the left of the pot-like bunker on the left is a long bunker that I thought to be unnecessary but my member host said a lot of players find it in order to avoid the one on the right. The green is one of the better ones on the course, angled to the right and long. It has a lot of internal movement along with a fall-off of the left side. I thought this to be the best hole on the course, although not the hardest.
13. Par 3 – 246/220. This long par 3 plays even harder as the green is placed on a rise of about eleven feet. A ball hit short will definitely not make the surface of the green. There is a small bunker placed short on the right side. The green is tilted back to front and overall to the left and is very large. There is a small depression in the middle. It is not a strong hole visually but it is a good hole.
14. Par 5 – 685/611. This hole seems to go forever but the two long hitters in our group did play the 685 tees and both had good looks at birdie, one of which made it. There are two early bunkers on the right. A waste are beings off the left from the tee and diagonally crosses the fairway about 25 yards after those two bunkers. This waste are continues the entire length of the hole. The waste are is placed about twelve feet below the fairway. Near the green are two bunkers, one front center and a larger one on the left. There are mounds placed on the left side of the green. Also near the greens are some scattered trees. I thought the green to be one of the better ones on the course.
15. Par 4 – 342/308. The second driveable par 4 on the course plays as a dogleg right for those not going for the green. Due to the dogleg, going straight at the green shortens the hole by 30+ yards. For those trying to drive the green, the right side is protected by a long and wide waste area. If the longer hitter hits a straight ball they will likely run into trees or the long bunker placed in front of the green. There is another bunker placed at the rear of the green. The green is long but thin, wedged between those two bunkers. It is a fun hole.
16. Par 5 – 574/547. The tee shot plays blind uphill through what appears to be a chute of trees. The trees are thick down the left side of the hole. There are two staggered bunkers off the tee but both are early and are meant to provide guide lines to the hole. The hole gently curves to the left where a fairway bunker is placed 100 yards from the green. Another central bunker is used about 50 yards from the green and is wide enough to catch a lot of balls. A final bunker is placed on the right side cutting into the green leaving a smaller front half. The green is simple on the left side but more complicated on the right side. I thought this to be the best par 5 on the course.
17. Par 3 – 210/175. The green is long and angled to the left with much of the tee shot played over a valley and mixed vegetation. There is a bunker placed well right at the beginning of the green and another on the left side. Behind the green is higher ground which one can use to bring their ball back onto the green which tilts to the front. I liked this as the best par 3 on the course.
18. Par 4 – 433/405. A long, wide waste bunker goes down the right side but angling away as the fairway widens. Flanking bunkers are in the fairway as the fairway goes to the right. Bigger hitters will fly the fairway bunker on the left. A large pond starts behind the bunker on the right and continues down the right side to the front of the green. The green is angled left to right and the pond mirrors that angle. There is a rear central bunker for those hitting an approach shot too hard in order to not find the pond. The green is sharply banked back to front. There is nothing unique to the hole but it does make for an exciting finish.
Cherry Creek is a straightforward golf course. The greens offer a fair amount of variety. There is also good variety across the pars. It does not present many memorable holes nor have a very high visual appeal, but it is an attractive course. It does provide a good mixture of fun with the short par 4’s. While it does not reach the heights of some of the better known clubs in the area, if one gets an invitation to play here they should definitely say yes.