From my first conversation with Zack Anderson, the newly minted head professional at Castle Pines, he was all in. After Jeff Johnson from Flint Hills had arranged for me to play at Cherry Hills Country Club near Denver and Ballyneal in Holyoke, Colorado, I called Zack at Castle Pines and told him about my Quest. Upon hearing that I was already confirmed at Cherry Hills and Ballyneal, he was more that happy to host and play with me at Castle Pines. He also allowed me to bring two quests. I invited two former work colleagues to join me for my round, Gary who I’d also played with on the day before and Sherman. Sherman had to cancel after he got trapped in Houston following the landfall of Hurricane Harvey.
After finishing my morning round at Cherry Hills, I headed South to Castle Rock to meet Gary at Castle Pines. The round at Cherry Hills had more good shots than bad shots, but the bad shots had been costly. I was looking forward to having more good shots at Castle Pines.
Upon arrival at Castle Pines, I headed to the Pro Shop to meet Zack. Zack confirmed that he would play with Gary and me. He then showed me to the snack bar when I grabbed a hotdog before we headed out. Gary arrived while I was chumping down on the hot dog. We headed to the driving range to warm up. I was already warm following my morning round, but after the early morning drive from Beaver Creek and walking 18 holes at Cherry Hills, I could feel that my muscles were a little tight and fatigued.
Zack had arranged for Paddy to serve as our forecaddie. With a name like Paddy, you could probably guess where he was from. Yes, Paddy was a native Bostonian and still had the accent to prove it.
As we prepared to tee off on the first hole, I learned that Zack was a new father. He and his wife had welcomed their first child just 12 weeks earlier.
Before I get into the description of the round, I need to disclose that I misplaced the scorecard from my round at Castle Pines, so this will be a very abbreviated blog. My notes on the round are also not so good as I was tired and playing so poorly that I didn’t have the energy to write. I will recount my round as best I can I remember.
The tees at Castle Pines are numbered one through four. We chose to play the number 2 tees which played over 6800 yards.
The first hole as Castle Pines is simply breathtaking. Like the first tee box at Southern Hills, the first tee box at Castle Pines is elevated and looks down upon a tree lined fairway. Unlike Southern Hills, the view is not of downtown Tulsa, but of the mountains in the distance. From the perch of the first tee, the green looks like it’s right there in front of you rather than almost 600 yards away. You literally lose your sense of scale.
The first hole is a 600 yard par five. My sense of scale returned quickly as my round at Castle Pines picked up where I left off with my play on the 18th hole at Cherry Hills. I hit my drive to the right rough, 330 yards from the green. I was able to advance the ball 180 yards and back into the fairway from a poor lie.
I then hit my approach shot fat. My fourth shot flew the green. I pitched on and two putted for an opening hole double bogey.
The second hole was even worse, I made a triple bogey. This was after hitting my drive into the fairway. The fairway on the hole makes a dogleg right. There is high rough and a long bunker running along the left side. That long bunker crosses in front and the green and separates the green from the fairway. This was a hole with a lot of trouble and I managed to find all of it. Meanwhile Gary was playing like a pro. He was hitting the fairways and making good shots.
On the third hole, I managed to finally make a par. The hole plays like a two-year-old. It’s nothing but trouble and can’t seem to make up its mind. Let me try to describe it. The hole looks very wide open from the tee box, but there are dangers lurking. A dry creek cuts across the fairway at about 250 yards out. The creek then makes a 90 degree right turn and continues along the left side of the fairway until it approaches the green where it turns 90 degrees left and runs along left side of the green.
All of that can get into your head and wreak havoc on your swing. I hit my drive to the very dry creek I just described, leaving 185 yards to the green. My approach shot from the creek missed the green to the right. I chipped on and made a 40 foot putt for my par.
My good fortunate continued on the fourth hole. The fourth hole is a 175 yard par three. The tee shot from the number 2 tees requires a long carry over native grass, a creek and two green side bunkers. It also required a wing and a pray for me given the way I was playing.
Well I mustered up that wing and a pray along with a good golf swing. I landed the ball 15 feet past the flag on my tee shot. From the tee box I couldn’t really tell where the ball landed. I knew that I hit it solidly and that it was on a good line, but neither Paddy, Gary, Zack, nor I could tell where it landed. We weren’t even sure whether it carried all the trouble between us and the green. I was absolutely delighted when we approached the green and I saw that I got there on a wing and a pray.
My birdie putt was online but short. I tapped in for my second par.
The firth hole is 395 yard par four with a wide-open fairway that I failed to take advantage of. This is another hole that is a little hard to describe. At slightly over 100 yards from the green, the fairway becomes a two-tier fairway. The left side of the fairway is elevated, and the right side remains down low. If I’d hit a normal drive, none of that would probably have mattered.
I topped my drive and was happy that it made it to the fairway. But at 265 yards out I needed to decide on whether to lay up to the lower fairway or to the upper fairway. The upper fairway was level with the green but would require a longer shot. A lay up to the lower fairway could get me closer to the hole, but would leave an uphill shot over a cluster of greenside bunkers to get to the elevated green. Now that I’ve built this up for you, I must admit that I don’t know which choice I made nor what I shot on the hole. I don’t have my scorecard and I didn’t record it in my notes. I’m going to assume I hit a lay up to the lower fairway and made a double bogey on the hole.
The sixth hole is a 380 yard par four. The number 2 tee box is set way right of the fairway and aims you directly at a massive bunker on the right side of a fairway that snakes its way to the green. I popped my drive up and it landed just short of the massive bunker. I managed to hit a great second shot that landed just off the front left side of the green. I chipped on and two putted for a bogey.
The seventh hole is the second of the two par threes on the front nine and the shorter of the two. The hole plays just 145 yards but is all carry to the green. The green is protected by bunkers on all sides, including a bunker that cuts into the right side of the green. I hit my tee shot long and over the back of the green. I wanted nothing to do with those bunkers on the front of the green. I chipped on and two putted for a bogey.
I don’t recall much at all about how I played the eight and ninth holes. I have nothing in my notes on either. The eight hole is a short par five with a very narrow fairway. It has a slight dogleg to the right. I think I hit my drive to the trees on the right and rather than being thankful that I found my ball and pitching it out sideways, I tried to hit a miracle shot and ended up farther into the trees. I then hit my third shot backwards leaving over 250 yards to the green. I think I reached the green in two from there and two putted for a double bogey.
The ninth hole is the first hole with water. It’s a very long par four with a 200 yard carry to reach the fairway. There is water along the right side of the fairway and bunkers along the left side. I likely made another double bogey on the hole.
The 10th hole is a very long par four at 460 yards from the number two tees. The hole plays downhill like many of the other holes on the course. The perched tee boxes provide a clear view of Castle Rock (not the city, the actual rock) in the distance just to the left of the green and over the trees that frame the hole. I finally hit a great drive. My ball carried 260 yards to the left side of the fairway, leaving 200 yards to the green. My approach shot landed short of the green, I pitched on and two putted for a bogey.
The 11th hole is a beautiful par three with the green nestled in trees. The green is protected by water on the front and a large bunker along the right side. My tee shot missed right and landed in the greenside bunker. I hit onto the green from the bunker and two putted for a bogey.
The twelfth hole is in a world of its own. It’s another beautiful hole. It is a par four that plays 380 yards. It has a very wide fairway and a beautification scene on the left side of the green that shouldn’t come into play. The green is protected by a bunker on the left. There is a water fall to the left of the bunker and a garden of multi-colored flowers to the left of the bunker. It is very tastefully done. I’ve seen courses where these types of settings look cheesy. That is not the case here, it looks natural and beautiful; unlike my score which was natural but not beautiful. I made a bogey.
As we approached the 13th hole the weather started to turn a little. The sky turned to a light gray and my game turned to sunshine. Suddenly, I rediscovered my swing. The 13th hole has a fairway that is generous in the landing area, but narrows the closer it gets to the green. I hit a drive to the fairway and an approach shot that landed on the green. I then two putted for a par.
My fortunes improved even more on the 550 yard par five 14th hole. Another drive to the fairway, a lay up short of the creek that crosses the fairway at about 125 yards from the green and a tight approach shot. I then made the putt for birdie. At this point the clouds had darkened and rain was beginning to fall.
We played the short par four fifteenth hole which I made par on and then called it a day as the horn sounded for lightening in the area. We probably could have waited it out, but I was very tired after a day that included an early morning, a two-and-a-half-hour drive and 33 holes of golf. I didn’t mind not finishing the round. I was exhausted. Neither Gary nor Zack protested either. The only unfortunate thing was that I was finally swinging the golf club. I’d gone par – birdie – par on the last three holes. Oh well, such is life on the golf course.
I’d like to thank Zack for hosting Gary and me on this very beautiful course. The front nine is very scenic, but the back nine take the beauty to a whole new level with the water and the flowers. Hopefully I will have the opportunity in the future to return to Castle Pines and play a full round.