The new course in New Castle
Aspen Times Staff WriterIt seems like just about every town around Aspen now has its own golf course.Joining the long list this spring is the budding metropolis of New Castle – that’s right, New Castle – which now boasts the Lakota Canyon Ranch Golf Club, an upscale public course just over a mile from Interstate 70.It’ll probably be a struggle at first for the course to be successful – it’s the newest offering for a market saturated with a dozen or so layouts. It’s also unclear who exactly the course is targeting; there are approximately 800 lots for houses on site, but who buys a second home or retires in New Castle (a lovely place, but a little provincial, no?).For at least the first year, expect empty fairways, quick rounds and a tee sheet that is wide open.This is just fine with me. The word is going to catch on eventually. Against all odds, New Castle is going to be the new hot destination for Aspen golfers. And until that time, I plan on enjoying one fun golf course without the wait or hassle.The course is designed by Jim Engh, the current Tiger Woods of architects, whose efforts win him constant praise, including Golf Digest’s Architect of the Year award for 2003. I imagine Engh as an undersized, geeky guy -a John Stockton type – who shows up at pickup basketball games and blows away the competition. His courses prize brains over brawn.Like most of his tracks, Lakota Canyon is not long (I hit a driver only on the par fives), but you have to place the ball carefully. Many of the greens are tiered, most are more receptive from a certain side of the fairway.The 18th hole, my favorite on the course, is a true three-shot hole, a rarity in the thin air of the Western Slope. It’s reachable in two shots, but the area surrounding the green is so penal there’s no point even looking that direction. The only option is to play over a ravine to a patch of fairway right of the green, then flip a wedge up near the hole. All three shots require carries over ravines. Don’t bet money on this hole unless confident.The only downside to the course – aside from the 6th green, whose Himalayan undulations make it unputtable – is that for those like me who think golf carts are an affront to the game, there’s no option to walk. The course has compensated by making your “onboard” experience as comfortable as possible. The cart has a computer system from which you can order food and drinks and receive GPS-guided distances to the hole, accurate to within a yard.Green fees are $55 before July 1 and $75 for the rest of the summer. Garfield County residents receive a $10 dollar discount on green fees. For more information, call 970-984-9700.
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Amid the pre-Thanksgiving gloom of grim pandemic news here in Aspen, across Colorado and the mountain west came a small but significant dose of hope in the unlikely form of an Aspen Music Festival and School announcement.