Big plans: Glacier Club in Durango, Colorado has grander scale in mind for its 27 holes of golf

DURANGO, Colo. -- Glacier Club is surrounded by the towering Hermosa Cliffs, rising 3,000 feet in the blue southwestern Colorado sky, and bordered by 3 million acres of the San Juan National Forest.

Talk about an idyllic setting -- it is 18 miles, 1,300 feet and 10 degrees cooler uphill from historic Durango on Highway 550's San Juan Skyway Scenic Byway. Head further north and the road becomes the Million Dollar Highway, a 25-mile stretch between Silverton and Ouray among the San Juan Mountains.

It began as an Arthur Hills design called The Cliffs at Tamarron in 1975, a 6,885-yard par 72: a neck-straining beauty complete with a resort hotel.

No one envisioned that 40 years later it would be in the midst of taking a much grander stage that actually began in 2004 when the club opened its third nine, Glacier, to go with the renamed Cliffs and Hermosa nines.

A spectacular 20,000-square-foot clubhouse was also opened, sitting on a cliff 200 feet above the first fairway of the Glacier nine, designed by Todd Schoeder and Hale Irwin.

Glacier Club: Coming soon

So what's next? Another nine will be completed and rerouted with the existing Glacier nine to become a totally private Glacier Course, opening in spring 2017, as a Hale Irwin-Todd Schoeder Signature Design. The land -- occupying 228 acres at Glacier Club's north end -- was acquired as part of a land swap with the U.S. Forest Service in 2010.

Today Glacier Club is a private, 27-hole complex, but the plan is to have the Cliffs nine and Hermosa nine become a daily-fee Cliffs Course open to the public complete with its own clubhouse and resort amenities.

"The views are absolutely spectacular," Irwin said of the site for the new course at Glacier Club. "There's not one bad look anywhere. In the design process we wanted to make every hole a painting -- each uniquely different, and pleasing to the eye. At Glacier Club, we've had this great canvas on which to paint a beautiful golf course."

The Glacier Course will feature a new out-and-back routing that will play to par 72, between 5,000 and 7,100 yards.

"When the nines are combined, you will have some flatter shots on the new nine," Irwin said. "We have made some of the uphill and downhill shots more friendly. But for the most part, it's hilly. I think we've made something that is uniquely different. It's beautiful. Once we get it grassed, I think people are going to be awe-struck with what's out there."

Head Professional Josh Coccagna has witnessed the strengths of Schoeder and Irwin.

"Schoeder has shown the ability to make a strong routing using the hilly topography in a limited space," Coccagna said. "And I like the way Irwin sees the lines of play, making it playable for all skill levels. He makes it look different from the back tees to the forward tees while making it challenging for better players and fun for the novice."

Glacier Club: Golf in Durango

Glacier Club has created golf heaven without a pretentious attitude. Durango is a laid-back Western town known for being way ahead of its time.

In 1879, Durango was designed to be the most modern city in Colorado. Signs of progress began to appear everywhere in the late 1880s and early 1890s, including the four-story brick Strater Hotel, electric lights with a home-owned electric company, telephones, electric trolley and a three-story "sky scraper," the Newman Building, with an electric elevator.

So don't be surprised when you enter the amazing clubhouse, complete with antler chandeliers, for a concert by the Los Angeles Cello Quartet and see folks dressed to the nines or ranchers wearing their best new Wranglers and Lucchese cowboy boots.

Glacier Club is building some of the country's premier residential property. Homes range from 1,200 square feet to more than 6,500 square feet, on half-acre to 2.5-acre sites. The community offers abundant four-season amenities and activities -- many designed with families in mind.

I got to bunk down in a Hideout Cabin that had three bedrooms and three and a half baths. Western luxury at it best -- now this is an upscale version of camping in the mountains taken to an extreme, awesome level.

Dining in the clubhouse was superb from wines and hand-crafted beers to a bison burger to elk medallions and just about anything you can imagine.

There are countless programs to keep your kids busy, including junior tennis and golf along with Camp Glacier for Kids that provides age-appropriate programs where children can connect with others who have similar interests. All programs are conducted by professionals to ensure quality instruction and safety.

Glacier Club membership includes access to a network of premier golf clubs throughout the United States via ClubCorp. Learn more about this special golf community, memberships, amenities and lifestyle at (866) 521-8575 or

If you enjoy just being in a spectacular location such as the San Juan Mountains, and the chance to see a deer, elk or marmot on the fairways, Glacier Club is the place for you.

David R. Holland is an award-winning former sportswriter for The Dallas Morning News, football magazine publisher, and author of The Colorado Golf Bible. Before launching a career as a travel/golf writer, he achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force reserve, serving during the Vietnam and Desert Storm eras. Follow Dave on Twitter @David_R_Holland.

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Big plans: Glacier Club in Durango, Colorado has grander scale in mind for its 27 holes of golf