In 1905, eighteen years after its formation, Denver Country Club relocated from its original home at Overland Park to the current property it occupies alongside Cherry Creek, where Scottish professional James Foulis laid out a new course.
Down the years, a number of esteemed architects have made (or at least suggested) changes to the Foulis course and they include Donald Ross, William Flynn, A.W. Tillinghast, William Diddle and Ed Seay.
In 1985, Bill Coore was the latest man to be called by the club and his remit was to refurbish the bunkers in the style of Flynn and redesign two of the short holes. More recently, Gil Hanse carried out some further restoration work with the sand traps, completing this work in 2012.
Favourite holes on this tree-lined layout include the par fours at the 356-yard 6th and the 358-yard 16th although, truth be told, it’s a sad indictment to learn that there are only three of the old Foulis holes remaining on today’s layout.
Gil Hanse kindly provided us with the following comments:
"Denver CC has had a very long and distinguished list of golf course architects work on the golf course, with modifications that have ranged from expanding length to the re-routing of golf holes. Recent architectural changes had been under the direction of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, who had worked to improve some of the details of the golf course and to rebuild several greens that had been changed from the traditional character of the course.
Due to scheduling issues Coore and Crenshaw relinquished their consulting arrangement and fully supported the recent move to Gil Hanse as the consulting architect for the club. Upon the appointment of Hanse, the club undertook a complete renovation of the bunkering on the property in 2011. The new bunkering scheme was based on early plans completed by William Flynn in the 1920s and was intended to restore some of the character of his bunker style, as well as placing the bunkers in a position that challenged the length of the modern golfer. Bunkers were brought more out into the line of play, diagonals created and fairway bunkers became the primary driving hazard as opposed to trees on this lovely parkland golf course.
The club has also begun a program of selective tree removal to restore internal vistas to the property, and to also open up views of the downtown skyline and the Rocky Mountains."
The mile-high city is blessed with a great golfing canvas inside of the city limits. Denver Country Club’s original 9-hole course was located inside of a horse racetrack, beautifully reminiscent of the old links at Musselburgh of all places. The current location for the course has been in place since circa 1905 along the Cherry Creek River, but it has gone through at least 3 different routing iterations due to the evolution of the city of Denver, its roads and infrastructure.
Around the turn of the last century, there were many holes that played across the river, but this experienced changes over time as holes were lost and highways were built – contributions from Foulis, Ross, Flynn can still be found, in addition to modern alterations by Coore (who built the par 3s 7th and 12th) and the current consultant, Gil Hanse who is in charge of the current master plan.
In the coming season, the club plans to move 7 of their greens to play closer to the river that cuts through the property. It’s quite the investment and will no doubt be a positive chapter in the club’s history book. Gil has done wonderful work over the past 20+ years at Denver Country Club including extensive bunker renovations, moving cart paths and tee box development.
Golfing at altitude has its own challenges when you are used to sea-level golf, so the driver may not be needed as much as you’d expect. Gil has clearly paid closer attention to a previous master plan by William Flynn, as he reinstated a number of Flynn’s bunker patterns, most noticeably the bunker complex that climbs up to the par 4 4th hole, reminiscent of so many iconic Flynn courses in eastern Pennsylvania.
While the land is relatively flat across the property, there are high points on the 5th and 13th tee boxes around the perimeter that offer striking views across the property where you can see the influence of the meandering river on the routing.
The Denver Country Club is a magnificent experience with an intelligent golf course routing that offers players a variety of options to play 3, 6, 9 hole loops that bring you back the house depending on your preference. On the front side, the back to back 5th and 6th holes were my favourite, with the 5th being a downhill par 3 over a body of water with delightful bunkering, and the treacherous short par 4 6th that plays across the river to a diagonal fairway. Great risk-reward strategy that will no doubt get a list of accolades.
On the back nine, the par 3 12th hole plays slightly uphill across the river to a truly gorgeous setting on the side of a large hill framed with bunkers. I really did love the visual from this tee, just like the strength of the closing stretch as you navigate dog-legs and rolling topography.
I was certainly impressed by this engaging golf course and look forward to seeing the next iteration.