4125 S. University Boulevard,
Cherry Hills Village,
Colorado (CO) 80113,
- +1 303 761 9900
2 miles S of Downtown Denver
Members and their guests only
Cherry Hills is located close to the “Mile High” city of Denver and Cherry Hills Village is one of the most sought after locations in Colorado. So it’s fitting that Cherry Hills Country Club is one of the best courses in the Colorado State.
A few of the older generation of readers may remember Arnold Palmer driving the 355-yard par four 1st on his way to victory in the 1960 US Open here at Cherry Hills. This was to be Palmer’s only US Open title. The club has hosted the US Open on three occasions, most recently in 1978. Wisconsin-born Andy North won the 1978 US Open title at Cherry Hills and subsequently went on to win his second US Open in 1985 at Oakland Hills.
William Flynn designed Cherry Hills in 1922 and if you do get the chance to play this famous course your driving distances will flatter to deceive. Denver is not called the Mile High city for nothing and Cherry Hills is certainly golf with altitude.
There are too many fine holes at Cherry Hills to mention them all, but we will touch on the par five 18th, which is named after President Eisenhower, a long standing Cherry Hills member. A lake on the left focuses the mind on this tempting closing hole and it’s certainly one of the finest finishing holes in golf.
Tom Doak’s Renaissance Golf Design Inc. undertook an eight-month, $7.6 million renovation programme at Cherry Hills and the course reopened in May 2009 with new tee boxes, bunkers and irrigation system. With some rebuilt greens and trees that were removed and physically relocated.
The upgraded 7,442-yard Cherry Hills is now ready for the 21st century and the course certainly provided a fitting test for the world’s best amateurs when the club hosted the 2012 US Amateur Championship, which American Steven Fox won. In 2014, Cherry Hills hosted the BMW Championship (formerly known as the Western Open), which Billy Horschel won by two shots from Bubba Watson.
Cherry Hills is one of William Flynn’s most notable designs, for me ranking third best of the courses he designed behind Shinnecock Hills and Kittansett. This excludes courses where he did significant work such as Merion East and The Country Club. Note: I have not played The Country Club in Ohio, but I do rank Cherry Hills above Lancaster, Lehigh and Omni Homestead Cascades. I played Cherry Hills almost a year ago on May 16, 2019.
The yardage exceeds 7500 yards from championship tees for significant events. The scorecard has the championship tees at 7316 which is split to 3397 and 3919 for the two nine’s. Given the course sits at an elevation nearly a mile above sea level and receiving a 10% benefit to distance, the yardage is very short for today’s best players. It is a pity the course might be deemed too short because Cherry Hills has hosted significant professional majors, amateur, and professional regular tour events, yet might be unlikely to host another major. The illustrious history includes hosting three U.S. Opens, two PGA’s, one Women’s U.S. Open, two U.S. amateurs, one U.S. Senior Open, one U.S. mid-amateur, and one BMW. It is a course that anyone can win on, from the best players in the world to someone unexpected (Birdie Kim). I am doubtful that the U.S. Open will return here, as it seems now more suitable for a PGA, (although unlikely with the tournament moving to late May) because the PGA does not mind scores of -20 for the winner. Due to the “short” length, for a U.S. Open, the USGA would have to have the rough likely thick and 6” high while narrowing the fairways considerably in an attempt to protect par. This set-up likely means the USGA would screw up the course once again. In either event, I would like to see another major held here as I think the course is worthy, the club is fantastic, the facilities are excellent, and the Colorado golf fan base would be enthusiastic and terrific. Certinaly with the wealth, large corporations and explosion of population in Denver it would seem to be a natural. It is a course that can hold a lot of spectators although building spectator luxury boxes along the hills of nine and eighteen will always be a challenge.
While I would have preferred to have played the 7016 tees, after having played five rounds previously at Ballyneal in three days (excluding two rounds on the Mulligan course), and having played Castle Pines the day before, we played the tees of 6694 yards, so effectively 6100 yards. On most holes the shorter tees are less than 15 yards from the next set with the bigger differences on the back nine.
The views are amazing of the Rocky Mountains off in the distance and snow-capped likely until late-June. The best view is from the tenth tee. It is breathtaking and is almost strong enough to pull one of the course to go for a hike. You see very large homes as well along holes #10-12 although not as impressive the homes one will find at Silverleaf Club.
One of the reasons for me to go back is to play the excellent short course which I did not have the time to do. It is located to the left of the driving range.
There are five holes to highlight including #7, #10, #13, #14, and #16 of which I am evenly split between #13 and #14 as the best. Others note the par 5 fifth hole particularly for its steeply sloped back to front elevated green but since I nearly holed out my third shot perhaps I unfairly judge it a little lower than I should. The famous seventeenth hole is the par 5 where Ben Hogan began to throw away his chances in the 1960 U.S. Open that Arnold Palmer won. I thought #17 to be an interesting hole in that it is hard to identify the water that fronts the large island green. I can easily see how even the most highly accomplished player could get the distance wrong which is what happened to Mr. Hogan when his approach shot landed slightly short with too much spin and then backed up into the water. For my part, I did not have the nerve to take on the third shot to the green on as I had 190 yards to carry the water after hitting my second shot into a bunker with a lie that made it impossibl to advance the ball. I did like the island green for the seventeenth hole but felt it the green should be raised another foot. However, for members who know the course I am certain the green is fine.
Much of the course is flat, with some rises and falls. There are a few hills to navigate. The routing is much like a bow-tie with the thinner part of the course in the middle and the front and back nine using both sides of the bow. The course has a stream running through it but often the stream is not in play as much as it could be. The lake and pond are more in play.
The famous first hole is a short downhill par 4 of 343 yards from an elevated tee. A small stream crosses the fairway but is not in play as it should easily be carried. The stream continues up the right side. A large bunker begins approximately 75 yards short of the green on the left with two fronting bunkers on the left front. There is good mounding around the green. The hole actually is not that challenging but the undulating green is nice.
The second hole goes back the other way but is flat as a par 4 of 414 /399 yards. The key is to avoid the three bunkers and trees on the left and the cluster of trees on the right. The trees on the left sit on a small ridge. I liked the green which is elevated and has bunkers to either side with the left side of the green running to the edge of Cherry Hills Lake. The green is blessed with some nice shape and undulations to it.
The third is a dogleg left and short at 325/315 with a bunker on either side of the fairway and a bunker on either side of the green. This is very much a driveable par 4 for longer hitters, who perhaps might only need a 5 metal/3 hybrid these days.
Four is a hole that I like as a par 4 of 430/418. It doglegs to the left with trees on the left convincing one to go off to the right side where more trees and two fairway bunkers await. Two bunkers are on the left side of which one is the entire left side of the green. There is a slight false front to the green which has sections to it. One simply must make the corner of the dogleg on the left side to have a reasonable approach shot.
From the slightly elevated tee you play down the par 5 fifth at 553/526. Two bunkers are on the left side of the fairway and in play for the average to above-average length hitter. A stream cuts across the fairway but again is not really in play. The green is elevated and has a wide bunker across its entire front. Landing in the bunker will likely result in only being able to see the top of the flag. It is a well-conceived hole.
Six is a lovely par 3 of 165/156 backdropped by a few trees. The green is surrounded by bunkers and has a tier running through near the middle. It is a lovely golf hole. The green is tricky. I three putted from 16 feet completely misreading the break.
Seven is a par 4 of 418/399 and a sharp dogleg left with large bunkers pinching into half of the fairway from the left. A pot bunker is 50 yards short of the green in the middle of the fairway with another large bunker to the left of the green. The hole is really pretty from the tee all the way to the green which again is slightly raised with some speedy parts and breaks on the green.
Eight is a longer par 3 of 222/188 to another raised green. The stream comes in from the right but not all the way to the green. For me it simply felt like a long par 3.
Nine is perhaps the most challenging hole on the golf course as a long par 4 of 480/429. It plays much longer due to the steepness of the rise from the tee shot to the green. This slight dogleg right has a green that is carved into the side of the hill creating a beautiful setting for a green that runs quickly back to front with sections running left or right. I liked the hole.
Ten has the amazing view of the Rockies from the tee as one plays downhill with the fairway sloped right to left. The bunker on the right side and the trees on the left are very much in play. The green has a small false front and a fall-off to the bunker on the left which likely catches more balls than the one on the right. My host, who hits it far, hooked his ball to the left side of the trees and parking area for the maintenance shed. Despite a completely blind shot and having to carry trees, it hit his second shot on the green to save par. It serves as a reminder to never give up on a hole.
Eleven is a long par 5 running parallel to the par 5 fifth hole but now on the property edge looking at the mansions to one’s right. This hole is 592/531 and plays up and down with a small tilt to the left. A fairway bunker on the left is easily reachable but not difficult to advance one’s ball. The green is relatively small for the length of the hole.
Twelve is a par 3 of 201/172 playing level over a small pond fronting the green. The green has a spine in the middle and is sloped back to front. There is a bunker on the right for those playing away from the green. I liked the hole.
Thirteen is mid-length par 4 of 428/381 that plays straight with a large fairway bunker on the right. A stream crosses just in front of the raised green which I thought to be the best green on the golf course due to its contours.
Fourteen is a long par 4 of 525/448 playing as a dogleg left but the green is more like a fishhook. The land slopes towards the trees and ultimately the stream if you go down the left side. The green sits below you and has two fronting bunkers and the stream continuing behind the green on the left. It is a somewhat small green for the length of the hole but very well shaped. I very much regret missing my 3 feet putt for par. This hole could go on any parkland course in the world and fit right in and perhaps be one of the best on that course.
Fifteen is the last par 3 at 242/188 yards playing fairly level to another slightly raised green surrounded by bunkers. It is a nice hole with a good visual look to it.
Sixteen is the final par 4 at 465/402 playing level with a stream cutting across the fairway and a double dogleg where the tee shot should favor the right side hitting into a green positioned to the left with a bunker to either side. The stream has continued behind the hole from the left side but should not be in play. This is a very fine golf hole.
Seventeen is a par 5 of 544/511 where the bigger hitters have to consider the cross bunkers. This is followed by several bunkers on the right and left including one in the middle that captured my second shot. This hole is so flat including the island green that it is hard to discern its depth. One must trust the yardage and execute.
With Cherry Hills Lake hard to the left, the final hole is a par 5 of 484/473 where the slope of the land goes steeply to the lake. One must find the right side of the fairway on the gently rising uphill tee shot as a ball hit to the center of the fairway might make it to the water. The approach shot then has to take on the steeper part of the hill with a third shot to the green having to consider the very steepest part. The green has a fronting bunker on either side and much like the ninth hole, the green is cut into the land. Going long over this green likely results in a bogey due to the speed of the green. After a perfect tee shot and second, with a gap wedge in my hand I missed slightly long but to the right and was fortunate to get up and down from the side to save par. It is a nice finish to the round.
If in the Denver area, this is a course one should try to play. What I liked the most about the course, similar to other courses I have played designed by William Flynn, is that it will not “beat you up.” Unless you find the water, on most holes the highest score should be a bogey. There are birdie opportunities. It is very playable. Other than the walk up eighteen, it is a relaxing and enjoyable walk. There is a nice mixture of doglegs and variation in the lengths of holes no matter the par. There are some very challenging holes such as nine but there are easier holes such as three. The greens are not overly done yet are sufficiently shaped to provide thought to determine the proper line and speed. Will it get another major golf tournament? I hope so.
The golf course starts on flat ground and the first four holes are relatively straight forward. The elevation on the course begins at the fifth hole and basically gets progressively hillier as you play on.
The par five fifth hole plays as the #1 stroke index hole at Cherry Hills. The green is elevated, hard to hold and fronted by a swale. The 518-yard hole has interesting terrain and the fairway slopes right to left and the hole dog-legs to the right at the end.
The course really begins to pick up steam on the ninth hole. The 434-yard par four ninth hole plays up a big hill back toward the clubhouse. From the landing area of your drive to the green, the hole slopes severely from left to right, following the natural contours of the land beautifully. The difficult green is perched on a slope on this dog-leg right hole.
The 428-yard par four 10th hole is a mirror image of the ninth except it runs away from the clubhouse and slopes from right to left. They are an excellent pair of holes that use the hilly terrain very well.
The par four sixteenth is a good risk-reward hole as well and typifies the back nine, which is much stronger than the front nine. The hole is 402 yards and is a slight dogleg right. Your approach shot plays over the burn/stream to a green set at an angle to the fairway.
John Sabino is the author of How to Play the World’s Most Exclusive Golf Clubs