Running the Roaring Fork |

Running the Roaring Fork

Staff Report

While high end golf courses are proliferating in the Roaring Fork Valley, there are plenty of places where the average Joe Duffer can swing a wood without breaking the bank.

Golf course construction has come on fast and furious since the mid-1990s with Aspen Glen and River Valley Ranch in Carbondale and the Roaring Fork Club in Basalt.

The latest additions are Rose Ranch, near Westbank, and Bair Chase, better known as Sanders Ranch, both between Glenwood Springs and Carbondale.

Of the five courses, only River Valley Ranch and Rose Ranch are open to the public.

Whether public or private, golf courses between Glenwood Springs and Aspen, with one notable exception, will set a golfer back at least $75 a round.

But in Glenwood Springs, and to the west, golf becomes much more affordable.

Between Aspen and Battlement Mesa, 11 golf courses are now open. Of those, eight are public and three are private.

“Public golf costs a lot of money these days,” says Joe Buchanan, director of sales and marketing at Bair Chase. “It’s very rare to be able to get on a golf course for less than $80. There are courses available for less, but it’s a mowed field. You get what you pay for.”

Well designed courses are expensive to maintain, he added.

The most affordable golf course in the Roaring Fork Valley is the Ranch at Roaring Fork, about halfway between Carbondale and El Jebel. A round of golf on the nine-hole, par-three course is around $15 during the peak season.

At the high end of the range are the private clubs, such as the Maroon Creek Club in Aspen and Aspen Glen in Carbondale. Both are for members only, although guests can play at the invitation of a member. Guests at both clubs will pay up to $250 to play a round of golf on the 18-hole courses. Members don’t pay for each round of golf. They pay up front with hefty initiation fees to join the club.

At the Maroon Creek Club, membership fees run about $225,000, Buchanan said. Members also pay monthly dues of around $1,000. Initiation fees at Bair Chase are more than $100,000, Buchanan said. The membership will be capped at 325. “We want to have fewer members (than other private clubs). There will be no tee times,” he says.

Among the downvalley public courses that can legitimately be called affordable is Glenwood Springs Golf Club, affectionately known as “the Hill.” A round of golf on the nine-hole course costs around $20.

The Glenwood Springs course attract golfers from Aspen and Vail who are looking for affordable golf, said Glenwood’s Greg Gortsema.

“In the 13 years I’ve been here, we get more and more players every year,” he says. “All the courses going in now are definitely your higher end because of the cost of dirt around here. You’ve got to charge the high rates because it’s so expensive to build.”

Two popular affordable courses to the west of Glenwood Springs are Rifle Creek and Battlement Mesa. Golfers pay around $40 a round at both 18-hole courses.

Both courses attract golfers from around the area as well as the Front Range.

“We get a lot of out-of-towners,” says Rifle Creek’s Pat Hayes. In fact, Rifle Creek targets out-of-town golfers with a special stay and play package deal. Golfers can stay at the Rusty Cannon Motel in Rifle for around $65 per person for one night, which includes a round of golf and a cart, Hayes said.

For those willing to travel to Grand Junction, prices are still more reasonable, with prices falling as low as $10 to $20 a round on some public courses.