The Rocky Mountains provide the dramatic backcloth for the club known simply as Sanctuary – the brainchild of RE/MAX Chairman and Co-Founder Dave Liniger. Award winning architect, Jim Engh, designed the course and it opened for play in 1996.
The Sanctuary golf course occupies a 220-acre plot, which is set amidst some 12,500 acres of stunning open landscape. Free from residential development, Sanctuary is just that, an oasis of calm amongst the towering pines at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. The topography is nothing short of dramatic and often you will feel you have the entire course to yourself as most holes play in splendid isolation, concealed from the next.
If you do get the opportunity to tee it up at Sanctuary keep your eyes peeled for the wildlife that include mountain lions, black bears and bobcats which freely roam the course.
Dave and Gail Liniger own the exclusive Sanctuary and they carefully preserve the finely balanced ecosystem by restricting the traffic to a mere 9,000 rounds per year. Uniquely, the majority of cash generated by play is donated to charities through fund-raising tournaments. It’s a delightful way of allowing limited access to the course while raising millions of dollars per annum for worthy causes. We sincerely applaud their spirit and generosity.
The history of how Sanctuary Golf Club came into existence has been mentioned a few times so I won't need to repeat what's already been stated. Having roughly 13,000 acres of land allows for a golf experience free of any intrusions. The interesting thing about the course is how several different architects actually passed on the project given the immense slope of the property.
Architect Jim Engh deserves credit in his attempt to provide a serious 18-hole layout on such difficult terrain but the issue that can't be overcome is the overall shot distortion that comes with land that is so abrupt -- both downhill and also uphill.
When you stand on the back tee of the par-5 1st hole you swallow especially hard. The hole plunges -- and I mean PLUNGES 185 feet -- downhill to a fairway that looks especially narrow from such a lofty height. The hang time on the drive can seem like an eternity and the slightest push or pull can mean a quick reload. Candidly, if one were attempting to craft a score one would simply hit an iron or hybrid off the tee to ensure one's ball finds the short grass.
The same situation repeats at the par-4 2nd. The 458-yard hole provides an enchanting vista of The Front Range but, like the 1st, the fairway becomes especially narrow the deeper the tee shot goes. This is another situation where the prudent play is to take less club off the tee and simply find the fairway on this downhill hole.
As with any course that features massive swings in elevation you will encounter holes that go uphill in a reverse manner. Being able to chart distances at Sanctuary can be a chore -- the existing elevation you automatically encounter when being in Colorado can mean several clubs less than at or near sea level. When you throw in the constant land movement -- both uphill and downhill -- it requires a constant shift in knowing not only how far one can hit a given shot but also picking up one's target lines in deciding how aggressive or cautious a line of attack you wish to pursue.
This is really front and center with the dog-leg right par-5 4th. The aggressive line of attack calls upon the player to hit a blind shot over challenging terrain and where failure will result in a quick reload. The safe play can be carried out for a rather conventional three-shot hole. The risk element is appealing to a degree but the key is having a total sense of confidence in one's execution to not only choose the appropriate line of attack but also calculate when a ball does land for any rollout.
Of the two sides the inward half is the better of the two. The par-3 10th is a quality hole -- on clear days you can see Pike's Peak in the distance. The green is also wrapped in a "C" shape in which the back right corner requires a deftly played shot to settle near the hole.
Given the nature of the land Engh had to be inventive and the back-to-back par-4's at the 12th and 13th show that quite well. Each is a dog-leg -- the former going left-to-right and uphill and the latter doing the exact reverse on both elements. The 13th is well done as players have to decide whether cutting off the corner is worth the risk -- the approach calls upon a quality play over a fronting water hazard.
The concluding holes are a quality mixture given the continuing pattern of up and down. The concluding par-4 hole at 458 yards is a beast -- going uphill -- as in UPHILL -- all the way from tee to green. Those getting on the putting green at the 18th will have much to cheer about since so many people will invariably not make the kind of club adjustments called upon.
There's little to questions at Sanctuary regarding turf preparation -- it's top tier for sure in that regard. And, if someone is playing Sanctuary in a golf outing of one type or the other, you'll certainly be treated in a top shelf manner with all the accompanying frills. Engh has done other fine designs but it was Sanctuary that really brought the spotlight upon him. But, as I stated at the outset, it's extremely hard to bring to the forefront a consistent design minus the extremes caused by the massive elevation movements you find when playing Sanctuary.
What Sanctuary shows is how man can adroitly overcome long odds in creating a golf canvass on severe terrain - but the core issue remains whether the final product actually works within the scope of architectural sanity. If one suspends a rigid sense of conformity when playing Sanctuary the likelihood in accepting what's there will not be an issue. For those who are purists -- be prepared to spend a good bit of time scratching one's head in both bewilderment and amazement.
by M. James Ward
Wow, these are some interesting greens. In the mountains, prevailing wisdom tells you that all putts break toward the valley but, in this case, it was hard to determine which valley. There were valleys everywhere…
From an aesthetic point of view, the Sanctuary may be the most beautiful I have been on to date. The highest point on the course is 6,590 feet; the lowest point in 350 feet lower. Fourteen of the 18 holes play downhill, and quite a bit downhill at that. From nearly every green you climb to the next tee. Thank God for golf carts. The club has had its golf carts modified for more power and added a more extensive charge for the batteries, because you are always riding up hill. Larry Berle.