Owned by the Steamboat Springs Municipality, the Haymaker Golf Course occupies 233 acres on the south side of the city. Laid out in open countryside, there's no intrusive residential elements obscuring the wide Yampa Valley vistas from any of its generous fairways.
Laid out as two distinct 9-hole circuits, both of which arrive back at the clubhouse via a demanding par five, Haymaker is a highly entertaining Keith Foster layout, proving the renowned restoration expert is just as adept at designing courses from scratch as he is carefully polishing older ones.
Highlight holes include the 457-yard 4th (“Flat Tops”), rated stroke index 1 on the card, short par fours at the 8th (“Ring the Bell”) and 11th (“Watering Hole”), and the 248-yard 17th (“Ten Gallon”), where the shallow putting surface is protected by two small bunkers to the front left of the green.
When top tier public facilities are mentioned in The Centennial State it boggles my mind when I don't see Haymaker listed near the very top. The Keith Foster design is smartly crafted because being able to create such a gifted design when a facility is owned by a municipality is no small challenge.
There is no internal clutter at Haymaker. The course sits within an open meadow and the holes are a first rate mixture of different types. Foster wisely provided options for different levels of players but be forewarned -- even with the elevation aiding one's overall distance achieved -- it's best to stay at a tee box one can handle.
One of the real assets of Haymaker is the fairway cuts. You don't get the boring straight razor look. Foster has eschewed such yawning characteristics and you have to decide which side of the fairway provides the best angle into the green.
The outward half is quite good but it's the inward side that really ups the mark. The 10th is very good with water on the right side and a green that hangs near enough to it for those who fail to pay proper respect. The 11th adds a tempting short par-4 in the mix and the par-3 12th has a green just over the edge of a waiting pond for those who fail to hit sufficient club.
The challenge with any municipal design is to how to satisfy the broader array of players and to create challenges that don't crank up the overall playing time into some sort of six-hour slog death march.
Foster has done a high quality effort in providing different green shapes and angles so that only the best of shots can reap the highest reward. Design is about capturing the details and Foster has clearly provided for that throughout the layout.
Steamboat Springs has a well-deserved reputation for quality skiing but now the golf side is clearly in the mixture.
M. James Ward