Ask Grand Junction, Colorado, resident and golfer Bernie Buescher why he enjoys his hometown courses so much and he's not likely to be sparing with his praise. "They're among the most beautiful courses in the state," says Buescher. "Some nestle right up against the sandstone walls of the Colorado National Monument, and others edge into canyons." This Colorado Secretary of State grew up on Grand Junction's courses and plays here frequently.
With Grand Junction's mild weather and technicolor scenery — in the red sandstone mesalands along the Colorado River — it's not hard to make an argument that you'll find better golf here than, say, on the hot, jammed fairways of Phoenix. Throw in bargain greens fees and sparsely populated links, and you have to agree with Buescher that you've got the makings of an emerging golf mecca in Western Colorado. (On that note: if you're in town on the third weekend in August, join the crowds watching the Rocky Mountain Open, one of the most storied contests in the intermountain west, boasting a field of some 100 pros and 100 amateur golfers. The tourney starts play at Lincoln Park and moves to the Tiara Rado course.)
For your tee-time pleasure, we've highlighted five outstanding public courses. All are open nearly year round, closing only when snow stays on the ground (on average, most are closed about 30 days each year). All offer club rentals, and several have a driving range on site. Note that weekend rates apply Friday through Sunday (non-resident rates are listed).
Stats: 27 holes (Monument Course 3,397 yards, par 36; Mesa Course 3,783 yards, par 37; Desert Course 3,356, par 36).
Course Knowledge: Set on 420 acres, Adobe Creek skirts the ocher sandstone formations of the Colorado National Monument and wanders past the Colorado River. All three courses are links style, and each has its own personality. The newest -- the Desert course -- has tiered greens; the Monument course has the most water hazards; the Mesa course is notable for its large greens. You'll get a kick out of the elevated tees (they're all elevated).
Green Fees for 18 Holes: $39.50 weekdays, $44.50 weekends, cart included.
Tee Times: Book up to 4 days ahead (970-858-0521; www.adobecreekgolf.com).
Where: 876 18 1/2 Rd., Fruita.
Stats: 18 holes, 3,835 yards, par 59.
Course Knowledge: For golfers just coming up to Grand Junction's altitude, this is an ideal course to get started on -- it's fairly level, with wide open and forgiving fairways. There's not a single sand bunker on the course, but greens with contoured berms will help you hone your short game. The prettiest holes look northwest to the Book Cliffs and a broad view of the valley. Green Fees for 9 holes/18 holes: $12.50/$20.50 weekdays, $14.50/$24.50 weekends. Carts $14/$22.
Tee Times: Book up to 7 days ahead (970-245-7177; www.chipetagolf.com).
Where: 222 29 Rd., Grand Junction.
Mesa Stats: 18 holes, 7,007 yards, par 72.
Course Knowledge: Built in 2001, it's the valley's newest and, some say, most challenging course (in Golf Digest's 2007-2008 list of best public courses in America, Redlands was rated number 17). Carved out of the desert, its backdrop is the spectacular Colorado National Monument. You'll need to play target golf here, avoiding 45 sand bunkers. On holes 8 and 12, let your tee shot fly to cross the water. Number 17 is the signature hole, with a 150-foot drop from tee to green. At day's end (over cool ones at the Red Canyon Grill), you may still be talking about how to drop it on the green at 17.
Green Fees for 9 holes/18 holes: $51/$89. Carts $10/$16. Tee Times: Book up to 7 days ahead, (970- 263-9270) or www.redlandsmesa.com.
Where: 2325 W. Ridges Blvd., Grand Junction.
Stats: 9 holes, 3,311 yards, par 36.
Course Knowledge: The area's oldest course is great for beginning/intermediate golfers and for those just getting back into the game. Set right in the middle of Grand Junction, with pine- and cottonwood-lined fairways, Lincoln Park is flat and easily walked. And there's a lot of history here. The Rocky Mountain Open, one of the oldest golf tourneys west of the Mississippi, has been played here for some 68 years. Green Fees for 9 holes: $15 weekdays, $19 weekends. Carts $8 per rider.
Tee times: Book up to 7 days ahead (970-242-6394)
Where: 800 Mantlo Circle, Grand Junction
Stats: 18 holes, 6,235 yards, par 71.
Course Knowledge: Tucked against the 1,500-foot cliffs of the Colorado National Monument, the "red crown" is a jewel, both lovely and challenging (at the tenth hole, you tee off from a cliff edge). Many greens have a slope or mounding (tip: putts generally break toward the Colorado River). If you're off your game, enjoy the wildlife -- all three bluebird species nest here in boxes along the fairways. And, even if you don't golf, Sunday brunch at the course's Pinon Grill is worth a visit. Green Fees for 9 holes/18 holes: $15.75/$28.75 weekdays, $20.50/$33.75 weekends. Carts $8/$13 per person.
Tee times: Book up to 7 days ahead (970-254-3830)
Where: 2057 S. Broadway, Grand Junction. All prices are subject to change. Confirm with individual golf courses for the most up-to-date information.