Ninety minutes west of Denver in a sleepy, sunny corner of Summit County, designers Michael Hurdzan and Dana Fry joined with PGA Tour star Tom Lehman to produce a wild bronco of a golf course, but one with classic breeding. The semi-private layout, opened last September, is an entirely new design superimposed on the former Eagles Nest Golf Club.
(It's one of five Raven golf courses run by Intrawest Corp., arguably North America's premier ski resort operator. A second Raven course is reviewed below; the other locations are Phoenix, Tucson and Sandestin, Fla.)
On a site with dramatic elevation changes at an altitude of up to 9,100 feet, the design team built a big-time course with four sets of tees stretching from 5,158 to 7,413 yards and a par of 72. Lehman, who loves to hit his driver, insisted on wide corridors for the fairways. The Raven is a great place to tee it high and let it fly-but not before taking dead aim.
The most distinctive course feature, besides the astounding views of snow-capped peaks in the Gore Range, are the bunkers. Dr. Alister Mackenzie, the brilliant Scottish physician responsible for Cypress Point and Augusta National, also sailed to Australia and left his mark in Melbourne's Sand Belt. It is the bunkering at Mackenzie's great Down Under courses-Royal Melbourne, Kingston Heath, etc.-that Hurdzan-Fry sought to emulate at the Raven. The layout's massive, flashed-face bunkers, their fingers and fringes festooned with thick native vegetation, are unlike those found on any other mountain course. Seemingly gouged from the landscape by a steam shovel run amok, these bunkers were in fact artfully crafted to "look" rough and were strategically placed to direct the line of play. The design team refers to its hurly-burly sand pits as "lighthouse bunkers," and they do indeed serve as beacons intended to guide players around the rough-and-tumble links. Just be sure to stay out of them.
All but one of the holes on the Raven is named for a Summit County mine (the third is named for the club's resident eagles), and none are duds. The ninth, a par-four stretching to 514 yards, drops 200 feet from tee to fairway, with the approach shot played to a deep green guarded to the right by a pond. At this rarefied altitude, the hang-time for a drive at the ninth can be counted in minutes, not seconds. But the game here is won with short strokes, not prodigious distance: The layout's slick bentgrass greens are mostly open in front, inviting bump-and-run shots, but a few have false fronts (another Mackenzie flourish) that reject less-than-noble efforts.
The back nine, less crowded with houses, is the stronger and more scenic half of the course. The par-five 11th, a double-dogleg carved from aspens and evergreens, is a classic risk/reward hole that tempts long-hitters to carry a lake to reach the green in two. Only Tom Lehman and a handful of others can ever hope to reach the grand downhill 16th in two: It's a 601-yard par five that serves up gorgeous views of the Blue River.
Anchored by a rustic mountain-lodge clubhouse, the well-groomed club employs an attentive, service-oriented staff. A country-club-for-the-day experience in the Colorado Rockies? The Raven aims to please.
Call 970-262-3636. Weekday golf packages, including accommodations and greens fees, are available at nearby Copper Mountain starting at $129 per person, per night, double occupancy. The weekend rate is $149. Call 800-435-8386.
Brian McCallen is a senior editor at GOLF Magazine, SKI's sister publication, and author of "Top 100 Courses You Can Play"( Abrams).