Riverdale features two 18-hole golf courses on the northeast side of Denver, but the lion’s share of the acclaim goes to the Dunes course, which was designed by Pete Dye with his son Perry.
You’re far too far from Ballyneal to get any true “dunes” effect, but the well-travelled Dye went into his bag to recreate some linksland elements, such as numerous pot bunkers and even a few blinded shots, such as what will happen if you want the best angle into the short par five at No. 9.
Being a mid-’80s Dye design, there is much more water than one would expect at a links establishment. Although the property sits very near the Platte River, all the wet hazards at Riverdale come from a range of fill ponds sprinkled across the property. Nos. 8 and 15 will feature water all along their left sides.
Riverdale Golf Course also offers more than a fun route for those truly passionate for their home state’s history in the sport. The clubhouse houses the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame, where one can peruse the state’s accomplished golf figures, including three-time U.S. Open-winner Hale Irwin.
Riverdale Dunes is located about 30 minutes from Denver International Airport, a good ways off from downtown Denver. Spread out across the native grasses of the area, the Dunes course has a fun links feel with some palpable variety. It turns out this was one of the first courses that Tom Doalk worked on under Pete Dye.
A really fun course and one of the best deals in the area that I've found. The course has probably two or three reachable par 4's, but not without their risks. The options for getting up and down are not unfair, but there are clearly places to miss and areas to avoid. Thankfully, I was mostly on the green in regulation when I played so I didn't have to deal with the fun contours and bunker placements. Conditions were excellent when I played in the summer of '21 - maybe the best tee boxes I've yet played on.
Pretty good for a public track. Could be in better shape, but not bad considering the amount of play it receives.
This is a typical Pete Dye course. Requires precision off the tee and into the greens. It doesn't really tax you much on distance, but it does make you think a little bit. Worth playing if in the area.
When Riverdale Dunes opened the array of other quality public course options were just beginning to escalate not only in metro Denver but throughout much of Colorado.
The main strength of the layout is how Pete and Perry Dye did not go overboard in bombarding the site with overkill additions. The holes are routed well and the mixture of shotmaking challenges still resonates.
The key you face throughout much of the round is being ever vigilant off the tee. There are a number of areas where native grasses can quickly gobble up one's golf ball. The layout is not especially narrow but careless play can be quickly penalized.
The course has always tried to play up its "Scottish links style" and while there are clear hints of such a "look" the course itself need not have gone through such marketing / public relations brouhaha.
Interestingly, the par-3 9th tries to provide a comparable connection to the Dell green hole from Lahinch.
One of the central requirements when playing the Dunes Course is being ever mindful when playing approach shots to the varied greens. The Dyes have masterfully provided a wide variety with different shapes and sizes and coupled them with engaging internal riddles for golfers to solve.
Of the two nines -- the inward half is the more consistently challenging and provides for the better mixture of holes. The par-4 15th is reminiscent of the closing hole at TPC / Sawgrass.
Overall, the Dunes Course still hold up quite well -- even with the added competition that arrived after the layout opened in 1985.
M. James Ward