The Golf Club at Redlands Mesa occupies a stunning Grand Valley location, where architect Jim Engh laid out the course around an attractive housing development in 2001. The property extends to over 500 acres, with more than one third of that area devoted to the 18-hole layout.
The verdant hues of the fairways contrast sharply against a “moonscape” of desert scrub and rocky outcrops that frame each and every hole and spectacular elevated tee positions offer golfers unparalleled vistas of the Grand Mesa and Colorado National Monument.
The 373-yard 4th (“The Cliff Hole”) is a dazzling par four that falls away severely on the right side of the hole. Slice the ball off the fairway here and forget about ever seeing it again.
The 164-yard par three 8th is another remarkable hole on the front nine, played from a rocky crag over a sizeable lake to a shallow green that’s bounded by huge boulders to the rear.On the inward half, the short par four 14th is another memorable hole, its fairway narrowing towards a green than dips sharply down to the right, behind a large rock formation.
Redlands Mesa is a fun Jim Engh design. It is located in Grand Junction while all roads do not lead there, if you can get there it will be worth the trip. Not only a fun course but the setting with the Colorado National Monument as a backdrop is titillating.
The first hole is welcoming, straight away and slightly uphill, what you see is what you get. The 2nd is a slight dogleg left downhill. A high draw is preferable to set up an attack iron. There is a small water hazard left and two pot bunkers left. The first par 3 is mid-length and rather forgettable, unless you end up in one of the five pot bunkers. The 4th is a classic risk/reward short par 4. Known as “The Cliff” most of the hole is perched on a ledge. The fairway narrows the closer you get to the green and a fairway bunker comes into play about 80 yards all running down the left side for about half the green. Anything right is gonzo. Watch the double cross, sometimes ignorance is bliss. The first par 5 is also a fun hole. A sweeping dogleg right, downhill off the tee with an uphill approach. There is a bunker on outside elbow and a couple on the inside that are not viewable from the tee. In hindsight, I played this hole foolishly and did not pay the price. You can cut some of the corner, but you will need to hit it 250+. After getting to my tee shot, I looked back and recognized how lucky I was, one to hit it well and too end up in the middle of the fairway. The next shot was 230 uphill and over a ravine. I figured I got away with a bad decision once and knowing that God looks after fools and drunks, (sometimes I qualify as both) I said what the heck. Surprisingly, I hit my next shot well also and was just able to slip onto the green. The fun was just starting. This is one of the more demanding greens. I did rise to the occasion by not leaving the eagle putt short, but most folks are not happy with 3 putt pars. The 6th is a dogleg right with a bunker on the inside elbow. You want to go right over this bunker. I ended up a wee bit too far left and thus brought the water hazard on the other side of the fairway into play. I was very surprised when the cart’s GPS system warned me about the possibility of alligators in the hazard! The 7th is just a long uphill par 4 where you need to hit two solid shots to have a chance at par. The 8th is short downhill par 4 over water with a front center pot bunker. This green tilts hard left so plan on being at least 5 yards right of the flag. The 9th lists right with two fairway bunkers squeezing the fairway. However, right is death as the fairway falls off into a chasm.
The back starts with a downhill reachable par 5. There is BA fairway bunker left and another in front of the green. The 11th is a mid-length par 4. Left is NG, know your yardage off the tee, best line of flight is at the fairway bunker with a high draw. The 12th should be a gimme par 3. Not so much if you skull your wedge over…..The 13th is another reachable par five, but you are really going to have to earn it. The 2nd shot must carry a water hazard that is 75% surrounded by a wrap around bunker. The 14th is a go for it par 4 sharp dogleg right. Blind tee shot, please make sure the group ahead of you clears. I was found wanting, unless you hit it 280 a more traditional approach will probably lead to better scores. This green is also nefarious. I am sure people have driven the green but caught the downslope on the green and lost their ball. Whatever you decide to do, commit and go. The 15th is possible to get home in two, but… A dogleg right, there are 3 fairway bunkers thru the fairway. You can cut the corner a wee bit, but you don’t want to go crazy, I think the best line is the middle bunker. Think hard about the second shot a s a creek runs across the fairway about 30 yards in front of the green. The 16th is a dogleg left from elevated tees. The fairway does run out into a dry creek bed 80 yards in front of the green. Also, don’t disregard the 7 pot bunkers front left. The 17th is an awesome par 3. Not good for pace of play, but a super hole. The tee shot is elevated to an elevated green. One cool feature is there is an extra, back.back tee or in this case back up tee. There is a warning sign saying the path and stairs are precarious, so it is not for the faint of heart or those with vertigo. When I did finally climb to my destination I was euphoric with what laid before me. I know it cannot compare to the golf hole in Africa where they bring you up by helicopter, but perhaps as close as I will ever come. The tee box seemed ridiculously small, but, it was probably 6 feet by 6 feet. Everything was fantastic until I hit a decent 3 wood that cut a bit, landed above the bunker, teased me and then rolled in. After 17, 18 was a letdown. If I remember correctly, an uphill par four that tilts left.
This is a fun course. However, I suspect most golf purists would feel that it is tricked up. I am glad I played it. I would only play it again if I was in the area with some buddies as I know they would have a great time there.
Architect Jim Engh is a most resourceful designer and equally fine player too. He spent his early development years in Europe and then when coming back to the States took on some of the most demanding of sites to create golf courses. Redlands Mesa is very attractive layout -- the rolling land the course occupies provides for a wide range of situations. But there are times when Engh overplays his desire to shape the flow and tenor of the course. Sometimes, a less is more approach can yield even more striking outcomes. Among my favorites are the mid-length par-4's at the 11th and 16th holes respectively. My issue with Redlands Mesa is that the totality of the layout is just not there -- and the course benefits immensely from its setting near to the Colorado National Monument.
One of the more noted dimensions at Redlands Mesa is the deep and jagged edge bunkers which Engh specializes in creating. They are to be treated with respect because there's a far greater likelihood that anything but a flat stance and simple lie will happen.
Redlands Mesa reaped a good deal of awareness for Engh but the sum of his philosophy would come just a short time later with his more comprehensive efforts at two other public courses in the Centennial State -- Four Mile Ranch in Canon City and Lakota Canyon in New Castle and his fine effort with the private club Pradera.
by M. James Ward