The 18-hole golf course at CommonGround once belonged to the Mira Vista Golf Club, opening for play in 1972. The state golfing authorities, the Colorado Golf Association and the Colorado Women's Golf Association, acquired the property and developed it as a pay and play golf complex in 2009.
Located a mere eight miles to the east of downtown Denver, the course is another minimalist offering from Tom Doak, who totally redesigned the site by removing intrusive trees, restoring native grasses, adding strategic bunkers and constructing massive, undulating greens.
Just as important as the 18-hole course, Doak also installed a driving range, putting green and short game area, along with a 9-hole par three layout, called the Kid’s Course, because it’s mainly designed to allow children to learn the game of golf.
Now CommonGround operates an affordable public facility that is purpose built to support the mission statement of both Associations: "to represent, promote, and serve the best interests of golf in the state of Colorado."
Renaissance Golf Design provided the following comments:
“We were looking for a project that would allow us to give something back to the community and that was accessible to the average golfer. Our motivations were very similar to those of the Colorado Golf Association and the Colorado Women's Golf Association – to create a course that is accessible and fun for all ranges of abilities... from beginners to competitors in the state championships. We designed it to be easily walkable, to promote health and exercise, and to be affordable to all, like the great courses of Scotland and Ireland which are the foundation of the game and the inspiration for everything we do.”
CommonGround was created for the "common" man and woman golfer. It's the home course for the Colorado Golf Association and is total redesign of the former Lowry Air Force Base course.
The finished product rests on playability and in clearly providing different avenues for golfers to take on any of the holes. There's no real "sink-or-swim" shots but clearly preferred places to be to maximize one's opportunity to score. In sum -- the course seeks to provide architecture that is clear, straightforward and without contrivance or artifice.
The bunker placements are done well -- making sure that those seeking to gain a clear advantage have the shotmaking acumen in doing so. Several fairways have tapering bottlenecks so those attempting to get as far off the tee as possible had better bring some needed accuracy too.
The outward nine is good but only a few holes are especially noteworthy -- the uphill par-4 9th among them. The inward half has the better diversity of holes and with three long par-3s in the mixture at the 12th, 14th and 17th -- one has to be especially mindful about securing the correct clubs when executing approaches. The 17th is especially demanding and can often play into the prevailing southwest wind and is reminiscent in what one would see on the eastern end of Long Island.
Tom Doak had a few of his key principles at Renaissance Design at the time get involved with the effort and the net result is a quality layout that accomplished what it sought to do. But, it's important to point out the genesis of CommonGround was not to create some sort of public Colorado version of Bethpage Black or Cog Hill #3.
Given the myriad of courses I've played in Colorado I'd certainly see a position in the top 25 as doable but clearly not in the top 15. That's not a knock on CommonGround as much as an elevation of golf architecture that's clearly blossomed -- both the private and public side of the aisle.
M. James Ward