Situated just outside Cañon City, in the high desert of southern Colorado, the course at Four Mile Ranch Golf Club is a challenging yet fun Jim Engh layout that’s said by a number of seasoned observers to feature the most unique set of greens in the whole of the Centennial State.
The architect is renowned for pushing the design boundaries and he’s done so here on several holes, cleverly “hiding” the green locations behind mounding on the par five 2nd, the par four 10th and the par five 15th.
The toughest hole on the card, the 563-yard 6th, also involves a fair amount of deception around the putting surface as the green sits below a sandy waste area that cuts across the fairway, forcing a semi-blind approach to the flag.
Its dfficult to follow the esteemed M James Ward and his 5 ball rating and not feel that you have clearly missed something, but despite a very enjoyable round of golf there were too many aspects of this 'fun' course that didn't sit right with me and i could not rate higher than 3 1/2.
The course is located just outside Canon City and having been on the Royal Gorge Railroad in the morning, followed by the ZipLine over the gorge itself, playing Four Mile Ranch was the perfect end to what had been a wonderful day up here in the Rockies.
The course was built around 12 years ago ( according to the starter) and is located within/alongside a new housing development, which is still in process of being built. Infact, if you look on the flyover video, housing can hardly been seen but now flanks a few holes, namely the 1st, 2nd and 4th.
I wondered whether the course had been in better condition when M James Ward visited it, as it felt like it had perhaps had better days despite its relatively junior age. The clubhouse which was going to be built never has been, the tee boxes are marked my painted stones, the greens were woolly and very slow, the tee boxes uneven and spongy to stand on, the fairways long with no run - it just felt a tad neglected or under invested.
Thats not to say it isnt a fun course - it is. Jim Engh seems to have built a reputation as a course designer in Colorado and whilst the vastly underluating greens and blind shots, whether from the tee or approach shots, are fun, to me there were to many making some aspects of the course like a crazy golf design.
Lets start with the greens. There wasn't a flat green amongst the 18 - not a bad thing necessarily - but alot of them were bowl shaped meaning that whilst they may look tricky the ball actually naturally fed into the centre where the flags were situated. Too many similar greens in my opinion. The 12th hole green was had a 'valley' through the middle of it. Tricky, but again pin placement within the valley meant the green ultimately wasnt that tricky. The hardest part of the greens were how slow they were - 7 or 8 on the stimp if you were lucky.
In addition, so.many of the green complexes were hidden, usually at sharp right angles to the fairway. One or two fine, but holes 2, 10 and 15 were all designed the same way, plus holes 6 and 14 required blind approached, in 14 case, a 165 blind tee shot. Again landing in a bowl which you cannot see, and which ultimately made the hole easier than it would 1st appear. I managed a birdie, having left my tee shot a couple of feet away, but with no visual of the green, it felt more lucky than rewarded for what was a good tee shot.
14 aside, the par 3s are all good, in particular the 3rd, a tee shot over water and through a narrow opening to a receptive and large green; the 7th which plays all carry over a ravine to a multi levelled green, the 12th. Played downhill and over a ravine to a very large green, spoiled by the valley design and finally the 17th, an uphill played into a fierce wind which took a couple.more.clubs as a result.
The par 5s were also good, even 15 with the hidden green - at least it presented options. Longer hitters could go over the blind approach corner; shorter hitters play towards the bend and chip.on. The par 5 6th is also good despite the blind approach shot but for me the best par 5 was the 11th, an uphill, dogleg left, played to a raised green, visually goodnon the eye and challenging off the back tees.
All in all the 5 par 5s and 5 par 3s stopd up well. Mix in some good par 4s, alot played from high tees (1st, 5, 8, 9 (also blind tee shot) 13, 15 and 16) and you have a visually attractive golf course.
The shabbiness of the tee boxes, the long fairway grass meaning no run, the very slow and very soft greens and fringes (over watered? over shadowed some of the other very good aspects of the course and whilst earth mounds in the fairways, no bunkers at all, and hidden greens may be quirky and fun, for me at time the course was too mickey mouse and crazy golf greens and I felt the designer had missed an opportunity to really take this course to a higher level - but if fun and quirky is what you are after then look no further. A friendly welcome will be followed by a great time out on the course. And at modest green fees, less than 1 hour from colorado springs and mixed in with a trip on the Royal Gorge Railroad this is worthy of making a day out in Canon City
Architect Jim Engh is wont to add plenty of man-made features to his designs. Sometimes the heavy hand can take away from the primary objective in providing for holes that do not need the overloaded approach. Here at Four Mile Ranch -- Engh got the details right. The land is very good in spots and even in the flat areas -- for the first three holes and the 18th -- there's enough well done intricacies added.
Four Mile Ranch accentuate "fun golf" -- there are numerous shots and holes you relish playing and wish to do so again and again. Any course that can raise your blood pressure and your internal desire to "do it again" says plenty on the positive side. Engh has crafted a layout that seduces the golfer in attempting bold risky play. It's hard not to go with your instincts but players who look deeper into the challenges can unearth different ways to maximize your scoring opportunities and lessening ill-conceived plays.
One of the real strengths with Engh is the top tier par-5 holes he creates. They are clearly entertaining and ripe with various choices for the golfer to consider. Engh makes you believe that birdies are within easy grasp only to yank them away with the slightest miscalculation.
Highlighting the strength of the course is the devilish greens. They are vexing -- various shapes and movements -- are a constant thread. Precision approaches are de rigueur. In addition, Engh has added "bottleneck" fairways that force the longer hitter to think very carefully before firing away. The routing is also a plus -- moving one way on one hole -- then changing with the next.
How Four Mile Ranch escapes attention astounds me. The course is just south of Colorado Springs and is easily accessible. Costs to play are also very reasonable. Engh received much attention for his work at Sanctuary and at Redlands Mesa -- both in The Centennial State. If one wants to see the evolution of his work in much grander terms - a round at Four Mile Ranch is a must see. Fun golf is often the clarion call by many for the 21st century. Four Mile Ranch clearly succeeds in doing so.
by M. James Ward