Steamboat building reputation as golfing destination

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Steamboat's reputation as a world-class ski resort has drawn skiers to Northwest Colorado for decades.

But golf courses like the ones at the Catamount Ranch and Club, Sheraton Steamboat Golf Club, Haymaker, Steamboat Golf Club and Yampa Valley Golf Club continue to bolster Northwest Colorado's reputation as a golfer's paradise as well.

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A golfer watches his drive at Haymaker Golf Course in Steamboat Springs.

The choices range from the 9-hole layout of the Steamboat Golf Club west of town to the wide-open Scottish-style links of the 18-hole Haymaker golf course in Steamboat Springs.

The exclusive fairways and greens of the Catamount Ranch and Club have whetted golfers' appetites for the game and the welcoming layouts of the Yampa Valley Golf Club keeps locals and visitors coming back year after year.

Traditional mountain courses can be found at the resort based Sheraton Steamboat and for those who don't mind a short drive, there is the Rifle Creek golf course and a another 9-hole course in Rangely.

Four of the area's best courses, however, can be found just minutes from downtown Steamboat Springs.

For years, the nine-hole Steamboat Golf Club and the Sheraton's 18-hole Robert Trent Jones Jr. course were the only choices for resident golfers and visitors to Steamboat Springs.

But in the past decade, Steamboat has added the city-owned Haymaker Golf Course, and the private course at the Catamount Ranch & Club. Catamount is open to members or members' guests, but Haymaker head professional Hank Franks said the private course pulls golfers to the area who tend to play all of the courses while visiting.

"Catamount has been a great partner," Franks said. "Catamount has such a great reputation in the private golfing world that it draws a lot of players who are looking for a golfing experience. Many of those players come to play Catamount, but also end up playing Haymaker and other area courses."

Haymaker is a public course designed to bring a little bit of Scotland to the Yampa Valley. It's business plan helps keep play affordable for locals, but also provides a great amenity for the lodging community as well. The addition of a new multi-million dollar clubhouse should make the course even more appealing to visitors.

"Our new clubhouse creates a golf experience," Franks said. "We've always had a great golf course, and now we have a clubhouse that complements that."

The 18-hole, links-style course can play up to 7,300 yards from the back tees and 5,000 yards from the forward tees.

Golfers can enjoy breathtaking views of the Flat Tops, Mount Werner and Sleeping Giant while playing. But Franks said this course has a lot more going for it than the views. Golfers will find challenges on the par-5 No. 6 hole on the front nine, and the par-4 No. 10 on the flip side.

"No. 6 may be the most challenging hole on the front side," hanks said. " The fairway is accessible from the tee, but things get a lot tighter after that."

Franks said golfers need to be accurate to find success on this hole. It will take a well-played shot to avoid the native grasses that line the fairways and to avoid the grass, and sand bunkers that protect the green.

Golfers will need to avoid the lake that runs down the right side of No. 10 if they want to have a successful round at Haymaker. But golfers who adjust too far left will find just as many difficulties in the tall grasses that are a trademark of this course.

'This course has a lot of features that will challenge golfers," Franks said. "It looks like you can play it pretty straight up, but that doesn't mean it's an easy course."

Haymaker opened ten years ago and was ranked No. 16 in the state by Golf Digest in 2003. It was fourth among public courses.

"It's amazing that in a town of 10,000 people we have two (Catamount was ranked No. 10 in 2003) of the top golf courses in the state," Franks said.

Not to be outdone, the 6,900-yard, 18-hole Sheraton golf course is considered by many to be one of Jones' best efforts and has been drawing visitors to our valley for years.

The course is owned by the Sheraton and managed by Troon Golf and offers play to resort guests, members and the public. Everyone has a chance to play one of Colorado's most scenic courses throughout the summer.

Built on the flanks of Mount Werner in 1974, the Sheraton is built around the rambling waters of Fish Creek.

Over the years, the course has won awards from the Denver Post, Colorado Golfer, Colorado's Best and Golf Digest.

"It's a beautiful mountain golf course," head professional Todd Van Meer said. "It offers great vistas, wildlife and a terrific golfing experience."

That experience can vary depending on the time of the year.

In the spring, golfers can enjoy the roaring waters of Fish Creek as the snow melts.

The back nine was designed to utilize the creek and offers many scenic and challenging holes.

In the late summer the creek slows its pace a bit, forming a relaxing backdrop that is sure to please avid golf enthusiasts.

The Sheraton's groomed greens and fairways are also the home for some of Steamboat's biggest charity golf events. The resort also hosts many corporate golfing tournaments during the season.

Franks said the combination of Haymaker, the Sheraton and Catamount has made Steamboat a top golfing destination that is getting recognized around the state.

But not all of the courses in Northwest Colorado were built just to attract tourists. Courses like the Steamboat Golf Club, the Yampa Valley Regional Golf Course, Rifle Creek, and Rangely were built to serve the community, but have also become solid golf destinations.

The semi-private Steamboat Golf Club, west of Steamboat along U.S. 40, was the first golf course built in Steamboat.

"It's a challenging 9-hole layout," said course manager, Wayne Garrison. "Just because it's only nine holes doesn't mean it can't be a challenge."

The course was founded in 1964 by a group of private investors who wanted to bring the game of golf to the area. The course is owned by its members but allows public play throughout the summer.

The course's tight fairways and tricky green placements can make it a challenging course where accuracy and ball placement can make the difference.

Garrison said the layout of the No. 5 hole should challenge most golfers. Golfers will need to be accurate from start to finish if they want to score well on this hole's narrow fairways and well-placed green.

Two years ago the course added a new clubhouse complete with a pro shop and restaurant.

Just 45 minutes down the road in Craig the Yampa Valley Regional Golf Course offers another golfing venue.

"This is the best golfing value in Northwest Colorado," head professional Chuck Cobb said. "We offer an affordable golfing experience that is geared toward the family."

The challenging 6,548-yard layout earned regional and statewide recognitions over the years. Cobb said the addition of courses in Steamboat, and the number of Triple Crown visitors has helped boost the course's tourist traffic in recent years.

"Triple Crown has been huge for us," Cobb said. "We get a lot of baseball players who come out here and play a round, or hit balls on our practice range between games. The courses in Steamboat have also been terrific about sending business our way when the courses up there are full. I think Northwest Colorado is one of the best golfing destinations anywhere."

The front nine was built in 1967 and the second nine was added in 1986. The public golf course was built along the banks of the Yampa and is home to an abundance of wildlife.

Other courses in this corner of the state include the executive layout of Cedar Ridges Golf Course in Rangely, the nine-hole course in Meeker and another breathtaking mountain course in Rifle.

Rifle Pro Tad Holloway said the Rifle Creek course draws players from the I-70 corridor, as well as other mountain communities in Northwest Colorado. The course's scenic location and

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