Set at an altitude of over 8,700 feet, the spectacular Raven Golf Club at Three Peaks is an old 18-hole mountain layout that was reworked by Tom Lehman in collaboration with the design duo of Michael Hurdzan and Dana Fry.
Owned and operated by Escalante Golf, the course features some extreme elevation changes across a property situated close to the little known Gore Mountain Range, with the three peaks of Buffalo Mountain, Red Peak and Mount Silvermore the landmarks from which the club gets its name from.
Notable holes include the par four 9th, playing downhill to a roller coaster fairway and the uphill 367-yard 10th which starts off the back nine. The par three holes are all strong, with the 4th featuring a water-protected green and the 8th, 12th and 14th all plunging downhill from elevated tee positions to their respective target greens.
It amazes me how this wonderful layout escapes serious attention beyond the immediate Colorado area. Michael Hurdzan and Dana Fry created a number of interesting and fun courses during their active partnership and Raven GC at Three Peaks clearly belongs among their finest joint efforts.
The natural beauty of the Colorado landscape is clearly intoxicating, but the golf encountered is much more than just window dressing. There's plenty of movement with the overall routing and the range of holes is a quality mixture.
Yes, the added elevation will mean a spike in distances achieved but Hurdzan / Fry have seen fit to provide an array of meaningful challenges. The key is for players to select the proper tee boxes and you can be sure the examination will be fair and, most of all, fun.
The outward side is not as bucolic as the inward half. There's a bit of squeezing in a few holes with housing on one side of the fairways and Blue River Parkway forms a boundary with holes #2 and #3.
Fortunately, that situation is not a constant item and one does return to a series of holes that elevates the clear outdoors connection. The short par-4 5th is a fine test -- tempting players to go for the green when prudent sensibility is the better option for most players.
The back nine is especially fun to play - lots of terrain changes - some water to avoid and a constant insertion of memorable holes. The two par-5s, at the 11th and 16th, are both well done and the manner by which the two par3s are routed allowed for an interesting juxtaposition of holes. The penultimate hole at the 17th is one of the best long par-4s one will play in the State.
Raven is not in either Vail or Aspen and far too much attention is often paid to those two locales. Just realize this -- this Raven is one bird that knows how to soar high in the clouds.
M. James Ward