Golf Vacations - - Front Page - By David R. Hol­land

KEY­STONE, CO -- Long be­fore the ski runs were carved and the golf holes placed into the en­vi­ron­ment, Key­stone, at an el­e­va­tion of 9,300 feet, was an 1880s stage­coach sta­tion on the way to Den­ver, head­ing over tow­er­ing Love­land Pass.

A lit­tle rus­tic inn served as the stop for trav­el­ers and it’s still here. They call it the Ski Tip Lodge and if you could look back in time, there was a day when you might have said “howdy” to Henry Fonda, sit­ting in a rock­ing chair in back, over­look­ing the Snake River, re­lax­ing af­ter a day of hik­ing in the cool Colorado sum­mer.

To­day, the Ski Tip Lodge is a Key­stone land­mark. It’s a bed and break­fast and home to a gourmet res­tau­rant that is a must for any va­ca­tioner.

But mod­ern-day Key­stone is much, much more. It’s a world class ski re­sort, care­fully de­signed to make ev­ery sin­gle mem­ber of the fam­ily happy. The kids won’t have a chance to get bored. Even golf has a spe­cial pro­gram for the young­sters.

It’s also home to two cham­pi­onship golf cour­ses, the new­est one opened in June 2000, named The River Course at Key­stone, and The Ranch Course, which opened in 1980.

“It is hard to get bored look­ing at the sweep­ing vis­tas from Mount Baldy to the south to Red Moun­tain, Swan Moun­tain, the West Gore Range, Buf­falo Moun­tain and Uneva Peak,” said Jim Banks, head pro of the Ranch Course. Add Soda Creek cross­ing the prop­erty and the scenery is as good as the golf.

Steve Corneil­lier, Key­stone’s Gen­eral Man­ager of Golf & Recre­ation, looks at the River Course like a proud papa. A vet­eran em­ployee for three decades, he nur­tured the dream-to-re­al­ity pro­ject with a vi­sion of en­vi­ron­men­tal stew­ard­ship to a playable and en­joy­able golf course that might not be matched by any other moun­tain golf course -- any­where.

“Our goal was to make this golf course ap­pear as if it was air-lifted in,” said Corneil­lier. “We didn’t want the golfer to see any dis­tur­bance to the land­scape. There’s a breath­tak­ing view from ev­ery hole.”

This vi­sion was the rea­son he se­lected golf course ar­chi­tects Dana Fry and Dr. Michael Hur­dzan. The duo are known world­wide for their en­vi­ron­men­tally-sen­si­tive ap­proach to de­sign and Hur­dzan was re­warded as Golf World mag­a­zine’s 1997 Golf Ar­chi­tect of the Year.

“Our two cour­ses are like brother and sis­ter,” Corneil­lier said. “You can see how they are re­lated, but they are also two dif­fer­ent con­trast­ing styles.”

The River Course

The River Course mea­sures 6,886 yards from the black tees for par 71. It cost al­most $12 mil­lion and fea­tures five to six sets of tees al­low­ing play for any level of golfer. It in­cludes 74 bunkers and five wa­ter haz­ards.

Fry and Hur­dzan pro­vided gen­er­ous land­ing ar­eas, but mound­ing keeps fair­ways from look­ing as wide as they are. Af­ter a spec­tac­u­lar el­e­vated tee shot on the first hole, it takes you only two holes to cross the scenic Snake River, where a par-3, 222-yard test awaits.

Then your jour­ney pro­vides some scary tar­get golf com­bined with moun­tain scenes that will cause you to shoot as much with your cam­era as with a wedge.

The back nine is more el­e­vated and in­cludes in­cred­i­ble moun­tain vis­tas and a glimpse of Lake Dil­lon. Lodge­pole pines frame the fair­ways and wild­flow­ers -- pop­pies, daisies, lupine and flax -- are pop­ping up ev­ery­where for an added dash of color.

You could ski down the par-4, 509-yard, 16th hole. It fea­tures a 194foot ver­ti­cal drop from the tee to green with lev­eled-off col­lec­tion ar­eas for the tee shot. The 18th is another el­e­va­tion drop par-5 with 12 bunkers to nav­i­gate on a trip of 520 yards.

“The 18th is my fa­vorite hole,” Corneil­lier said. “From the tee box you feel as if you can see all of Colorado in the stun­ning 360-de­gree panoramic view. It’s a 130-foot drop and the ex­hil­a­ra­tion you feel af­ter you tee off on the fi­nal hole makes you want to start the whole day over again. The River Course re­ally is Colorado at its best.”

The River Course de­sign also fea­tures bik­ing and hik­ing paths which cre­ates a multi-pur­pose recre­ational op­por­tu­nity. In win­ter, Key­stone’s Cross Coun­try Cen­ter will head­quar­ter out of the new River Course club­house and pro­vide cross-coun­try skiing and snowshoeing on the area’s path­ways.

The Ranch Course

The 7,012-yard, par-72 course was de­signed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr. and is lo­cated where Ute and Ara­paho In­di­ans once hunted buf­falo. The club­house is a for­mer ranch house, stand­ing for more than eight decades. Here the set­tlers were cat­tle ranch­ers and also farmed let­tuce.

Af­ter the first two holes are played in the trees, the Ranch Course

pops out into sage mead­ows with a Scot­tish “linksland” de­sign with 68 bunkers, a nineacre lake and a to­tal of six wa­ter haz­ards. The greens are a com­bi­na­tion bent and poa with blue­grass and rye in the fair­ways.

Old ranch build­ings pro­vide a back­drop on the par-3, 190-yard No. 5. No. 9 is a chal­lenge from the back, es­pe­cially if the wind is gust­ing. The hole is only 368 from the rear, but it’s a ma­jor carry over the lake when you are against the wind. If you clear the wa­ter you will be faced with a short iron for a pos­si­ble birdie.

Corneil­lier says No. 17 is Jones’ fa­vorite hole. From the back this par 4 is 422 yards with a forced carry over na­tive grass and wet­lands. It’s only one of the holes on the Ranch Course side that makes it a sterner test of golf over the new River Course.

“The Ranch Course is course is won­der­ful,” said Kyle Ue­ber­roth, a Key­stone va­ca­tioner. “I have played sev­eral cour­ses in Colorado in­clud­ing Cherry Hills. Key­stone is a far more chal­leng­ing course. It’s like Carnoustie in the moun­tains, but much bet­ter.”

Kids get a spot­lighted pro­gram at Key­stone

SNAG (Start­ing New At Golf) is all about hav­ing fun while learn­ing the ba­sics of golf. SNAG is a player friendly, de­vel­op­ment pro­gram de­signed for new learn­ers, both chil­dren and adults. The pro­gram makes it easy and fun to learn the fun­da­men­tals of putting chip­ping, pitch­ing and full swing by us­ing over-sized clubs (rollers and launch­ers) to hit ten­nis-like balls at sticky tar­gets (flag­stickys).

The pro­gram de­vel­ops play­ing abil­ity quickly and ef­fec­tively. SNAG equip­ment and train­ing tools are specif­i­cally de­signed to sim­plify the learn­ing process.

SNAG is avail­able at Key­stone Ranch most days dur­ing the golf sea­son -- Sun­day, Mon­day, Tues­day & Thurs­day from 4 – 7 p.m. and all day Wed­nes­days (ju­nior clinic par­tic­i­pants play for free.)

Cost: $5 per round $2 replay $15 per fam­ily up to 4 Snag­sters + $2 per ad­di­tional fam­ily mem­ber In­cludes equip­ment

Call for more in­for­ma­tion and to con­firm avail­abil­ity (970) 496-4250.

Where to Stay

Key­stone Lodge & Spa is an ex­cel­lent place to bunk down. Be sure and check the web site (www.key­stonere­ for spe­cials. River Run is a Euro­pean-styled vil­lage with shops and restau­rants on the first floors and con­dos on the up­per floors. It in­cludes un­der­ground park­ing, which is great for win­ter ski trips. Key­stone’s gon­dola ski lift is a short walk away. It doesn’t get any bet­ter than this.

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