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.
Raven Club at Three Peaks will certainly stimulate most of your senses. At 8k feet elevation, it is literally not for the weak at heart. The first hole is a welcoming par four that leans left. Favor the left side off the tee and you may be rewarded with you ball ending up at the bottom of the hill. Fairway bunkers, one left and right greenside as well as a water hazard left rear. The 2nd is a long par five, oh wait, we are at 8k feet! I still could not get even remotely close. Fairway bunkers left and right and an abrupt right sweep at 100 yards. It is the number 3 handicap hole, but in my opinion, it is a great birdie oppty. The 3rd is a long dogleg right with bunkers on the inside elbow and one on the outside. The green has bunkers left rear and rear right. The fourth is a Florida par three, water carry and bunkers left and right. The fifth is a birdie oppty, dogleg left and as the crow flies less than 300 yards. However, there is a 50 yard long irregular bunker that needs to be carried. Consider laying up to your favorite wedge yardage. Do not listen the siren song. The 6th is probably a birdie hole, but not the way I played it. It is the shortest par five and a dogleg left. It has a bunker on the inside elbow that is well over 100 yards long. I do not recommend hooking your drive into it. There are a couple of fairway bunker right, but he next one I was in was dead center about 90 yards out. My bunker act was far from complete as I ended up in the right greenside bunker. I must admit I was surprised that I did not airmail that shot into the left greenside bunker. The 7th is a dogleg right. I don’t recall much, other than I was euphoric that I did not end up in any bunkers. The 8th is a mid-length but downhill par three with bunkers front left and right. I do remember that I loved the 9th. Yup, you guessed it, birdie. The old saying, never judge a book by its cover, never judge a golf hole by the scorecard. How many people look forward to playing a 514 yard number one handicap par four? Things change if it is downhill.
Of course what goes down must go up and that is exactly what the 10th does. I really liked the par five 11th. Split fairway with a water hazard straight away and the split left. The green receives the ball better from the right but it is a 200+ yard shot. A good thinking persons hole. The 12th is the longest par three at 237 yards. Do not fret, it is downhill, and it is rated as the 6th toughest hole. I do not agree with that. The 13th has most of the trouble left. The 14th is the last par three. Long and downhill with a water hazard left. The 15th is rated as the easiest hole on the course. As I had a kick in birdie, I cannot disagree. The 16th is the longest par five and it gently sweeps right. Not a lot of trouble, play it as a three shotter. The 17th is a long straight away par four. To make par, you will need to hit two good shots. Tough hole. The 18th was a bit of a disappointment, but the back certainly more challenging and entertaining than the front.
I would pay to play it again, if we were first out. Pace of play was frustrating.
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