With soaring mountain peaks, rolling hills of forest, colorful swaths of desert and golden plains set beneath a blue-marble sky, Colorado’s terrain is the perfect canvas for the world’s elite golf-course architects. What this means for golfers of all abilities is one unforgettable round of 18 holes after another.
We asked Adam Finch, PGA first assistant golf pro at one of the state’s premier courses, Golden’s Fossil Trace Golf Club, what advice he had for first-time Colorado golfers and if it’s really true that golf balls fly farther at our lofty altitude.
What do you think makes golfing in Colorado so special?
Golf in Colorado is special because of the variety of golf courses that are offered. We have courses that remind me of the Midwest parkland-style course with tree-lined fairways and undulating greens. We have courses that play desert-style, with mounds, native areas and firm playing conditions. We also have the beauty of mountain golf that attracts players from all over the U.S. The variety doesn’t get much better than that.
How did your golf career lead you to Colorado and Fossil Trace?
My golf career began in Minnesota at both resort and private facilities. Due to the harsh Minnesota winters, my golf pro friends and I would load up our cars and head to Florida every winter to work at various clubs there. After three years of that routine, I grew tired of loading up the car each year and began exploring options for better climates. By sheer luck, or perhaps divine intervention, the position I had been looking for opened at Fossil Trace Golf Club, and I’ve been here since 2006.
What sorts of tips do you give to experienced golfers playing in Colorado for the first time?
What I share with experienced golfers is to hit your scoring clubs (7 iron to wedge) a little lower than you normally would. This will help with that unfamiliarity of how far the club travels. I find that mid-irons to wedges with good players travel much farther than they expect when they first arrive for a round in Colorado.
Since the weather can change on a dime around here, do you recommend any special gear for players to stash in their golf bag?
Rain pants are an absolute must, as well as a short-sleeve rain shirt or insulated sweater. Rain pants can add warmth and repel water.
What courses do you think have the best only-in-Colorado views?
Hole #16 at The Club at Pradera. A good friend of mine visiting from the Midwest says it’s the coolest tee-shot he’s ever hit. I would have to agree with him, with views of three mountain peaks, including Pikes Peak. Vail Golf Club also offers some great backdrops, especially in September when the leaves are changing.
Do you ever have wildlife sightings on the links?
More often than you would think. Fossil Trace is a popular elk spot as well as for coyote and fox. Luckily, I have not seen a snake at Fossil Trace, but I know they’re here. Yuck.
You’re probably used to the effects of high altitude on your golf ball, but do you notice that your ball doesn’t travel as far in other states?
I have lived and worked in Florida and the ball doesn’t seem to go anywhere down there. Sea level with lots of humidity does not equal long tee shots.
Colorado’s been without a Men’s PGA tournament since 2006, when The International ended its run at Castle Pines. It was recently announced that the tour would return to Colorado with the 2014 BMW Championship at Cherry Hills Country Club. What do you think that means for golf in Colorado?
Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. When any professional tour is in town, the level of interest in golf really spikes. The players are so great, and it’s wonderful to have access to them up close and personal, especially for a great event like the BMW.
How do you like to spend your free time in Colorado?
My free time is spent in the mountains, snowboarding in the winter or beating the Denver heat in the summer. My wife and I also like to try new restaurants around the Denver area.
When you have guests visit from out of town, where do you take them to show off the state?
Photo: Courtesy of Robert Castellino/Fossil Trace Golf Club.