Located a few miles south of Parker and fashioned as the centrepiece for an upmarket new community, the 7,200-yard golf course at The Club at Pradera is a Jim Engh design from 2004. It plays very long from the back markers but, with seven tee positions on every hole, the course is eminently playable for golfers of all abilities.
Engh described the layout as having “two different looks… a blend of Irish and Modern. About a third of the holes out there I would consider bordering on true Irish. Other holes are more Modern and quasi-linksy” where “we worked hard to blend what nature gave us”.
Notable holes include strategic par fives at the 7th and 18th (each of which feature a split fairway); the long and difficult par four 7th (played uphill to a raised green); and water-protected par threes at the 8th and 15th.
The greater Denver area has a number of top quality golf options but one clearly is often undervalued and overlooked -- Pradera.
Architect Jim Engh successfully incorporated a mixture of faux Irish links and an intersection with the inclusion of a more modern tough featuring the designer's penchant for shaping holes for specific shot value calculations.
The real fascinating aspect with Pradera is that there is a solid mixture of holes and the routing keeps moving in different directions. The site is also blessed with enough pitch and roll but not so excessive as to be the main storyline.
Engh has again seen fit to include five par-5 holes and an equal number of par-3's. That can be quite hard to pull off simply because getting a quality mixture of such holes is no easy feat -- it also can mean a diminutive role for the par-4's. Given the high elevation and the wherewithal for golf balls to travel much more in the air -- long par-4's can be overmatched so focusing on the par-3 and par-5 side makes for a much more entertaining round of golf with constant options presented for players to decipher.
Pradera is well-protected by devilish squiggly bunkers that resemble long narrow coffins. Getting into one of them is quite easy -- removing one's ball is quite another. Engh also makes it a point at Pradera not to place bunkers to the outsides of a hole's boundary but in the line of play. This forces players to have total shot control and not just whack the ball from the tee with total impunity. The stellar par-5 16th is a great example of this and shows what adroit thinking with execution can mean for the player. Be sure to look to the south when playing the 16th because on a clear day you'll see Pike's Peak.
Given the housing that's near to the course -- Engh smartly weaved the holes so that the routing is constantly changing directions and hole types. You don't have any major real lulls at Pradera.
The concluding hole is a rollicking adventure -- a par-5 of 550+ yards. Once again Engh tantalizes with options. There is a long serpentine bunkers that runs parallel to the line of play and separate the left and right portion of the fairway. Those who find the bunker will pay a steep price. Those able to place a daring tee shot between the bunker and a water hazard that hangs close to the left side will have a much simpler second shot and can likely reach the green in two shots with a possible eagle beckoning. Those taking the safer route will likely have to lay-up but Engh gives little reprieve because of a greenside bunker that hugs the green like a kindergarten child on their first day going to school.
The outward nine is just a bit behind the overall qualities of the inward half. However, there are some equally strong holes worthy of special attention. The long par-4 4th is well done -- requiring a connection between needed length and mandated accuracy. The split fairway par-5 7th is utterly delicious. Here Engh provides a right fairway option tempts players to bite off more than they can deliver. The fairway on that side is narrow but it does provide an opportunity to reach the green in two blows. The concluding par-4 9th ends the side well with two bunkers protecting the wider left side of the fairway and water down the right side.
Pradera is a quality member's course. It will not be able to host the world's top professionals and its reputation need not have that kind of association for the layout to receive its rightful attention. Those coming to Parker and presuming the nearby Colorado Golf Club is the only game in town had best check out Pradera and see firsthand what Engh has so successfully created.
by M. James Ward