Keystone Golf

Golf at 9,300 Feet; The River Course at Keystone
by  John Schneider

While taking a family vacation in the Colorado Rocky Mountains, I had the wonderful opportunity to tee it up at The River Course at Keystone.  Being from the flat Midwest, golfing in the mountains was a new experience and one that I highly recommend for any casual or avid golfer.  Both the golf and the course were immaculate; the views were out of this world.  Standing on any number of tee boxes you can see 25+ miles past any of the greens.  Snow-capped mountains, the Snake River, Lake Dillon, and alpine forests paint an awe inspiring backdrop to each hole that is in front of you.  There is a good chance you will use your camera more than your putter – I know I did!

The River Course at Keystone (970-496-1520970-496-1520; is a full length golf course that will test your skills, but treat you like you are at the country club back home.  The black tees run 6,886 yards with a rating of 71.3 and slope of 137.  Given the vacation life status I played the 6,507 yards from the blue tees (69.8/130).  White and Gold tees are set up to ensure everyone has the right game to play.

This was the first time playing golf in the mountains for both myself and my buddy George.  On the range I quickly found out that it is true that you hit the ball farther in thin air.  It seemed that for the most part I needed to take one less club, maybe two if downhill, for any iron shot.  The driver, well that just bombed away.  An average hit with the driver gave me 300 yards and I measured well over 350 yards downhill.

The front nine, par 35, winds gracefully along the rocky borders of the Snake River on four of the holes and has three par 3 holes to provide an opportunity for glory.  The first par 3 (hole 3) plays over 200 yards and brings to the edge of the river.  Not often do you see a par 3 as the number 1 handicap hole, but, as I learned, it truly tests your skills.


While the front nine does have many elevation changes, the back nine, par 36, brings that to a completely different level.  Many of the holes, with the elevation drops and thin mountain air, provide you the opportunity to bomb the ball farther than you ever thought you could.  On the 16th hole you tee it up to a 194 foot elevation drop with a generously down-sloped fairway.  In Wisconsin this is a black diamond ski run, not a golf hole.  This 500 yard par 4 actually offers the opportunity to drive the green with the right stroke and a lucky bounce.  After another hole you take your golf cart right back up to start again (I seriously thought my cart was going to die given the uphill switchbacks I was forcing it to take).  The final hole is one of the most beautiful 18th holes I have every seen.  Playing 520 yards from elevated tees you are offered a final unlimited view of the mountains and Lake Dillon.  Standing on the tee box facing a wide open fairway and large green in the distance, this hole’s 12 bunkers help to keep it fair.  The River course’s number 18 provides you the opportunity to add one more great story to bring back home.

In addition to The River Course, Keystone resort offers Keystone Ranch golf course.  This par 72 Robert Trent Jones, Jr. designed course features less elevation changes, but continues the fabulous views and golf conditions.  Next time I am in the area I just might have to play 36 so both courses can be enjoyed.  Both are open around the end of May through September.  The River Course was named by Golf Digest in the top 10 golf courses in Colorado and included in the must play 50 by Links Magazine.  Additionally Golf Digest named the Keystone Resort courses in the top 75 golf resorts list.

An 18 hole round of golf at The River Course can run as high as $150 during the peak season and peak times, however if you are able to play in spring or during the afternoon you can play for as little as $55.  If you are price conscious and flexible on your timing you can play this very high caliber resort style course for under $100; truly a great value.  Green fees include access to the practice facility, practice balls, and golf cart.  Top of the line clubs are also available for rent if you are not bringing your sticks with you.  Before or after your round The Grill in the clubhouse offers breakfast, lunch, snacks, and cocktails in a setting that will make you feel happy and welcome.

After spending an afternoon of my Colorado mountain vacation playing the course and visiting with the staff, the team at First Light Sports strongly recommends that you make an effort to visit The River Course at Keystone.

Published August 2014

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