Lost Horizon holes at Ironbridge Golf Club in Glenwood Springs, Colorado will test your skills

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. -- The Lost Horizon is a beautiful, rugged, trailblazer-like stretch of four golf holes starting the back nine of Ironbridge Golf Club.

It is for adventurous, ravine-crossing, proficient golfers and begins after a one-mile cart climb in elevation from the clubhouse high above the Roaring Fork Valley floor.

"I think the first golfers who played back in 2003 gave it a wow," Director of Golf Doug Rohrbaugh remembered. "But then they said it kicked their back side."

The softening of Ironbridge

So the new ownership hired PGA Tour star Tom Lehman, a Colorado lover, to "soften" the routing and make it more playable for mid-handicappers and novices.

"One of the first things Lehman pointed out was Augusta National has 44 bunkers, and Ironbridge had around 70," Rohrbaugh said.

So the bunker count went down to 40 and some bunkers that pinched in fairways were eliminated. If a bunker was deemed "enormous," it was whittled down and sometimes eliminated.

"We also created more options for golfers to run the ball on to greens," Rohrbaugh said.

On your first visit, you can't really imagine what is ahead on that cart ride to no. 10. "I think most people have no idea what they are about to see," Rohrbaugh said. "It begins four beautiful holes, and golfers love how quiet it is up there."

Ironbridge G.C. was born in 2003 as an Arthur Hills Master design, but there's history here. It was first the nine-hole Westbank Golf Course that included two-acre lots within view of the Roaring Fork.

Well, hard times followed with bankruptcy and a change of ownership.

Today members and the public can tee it up at Ironbridge. And the club even has an instant celebrity in Rohrbaugh, who qualified this summer for the Senior PGA Championship in French Lick, Ind., and also played in the U.S. Senior Open in Sacramento, Calif., in June. He's had 25 years as a teaching pro and worked as director of junior golf in Aspen.

Pay attention as you enter Ironbridge Golf Club's Lost Horizon

The 10th hole is the most intimidating visual, an uphill drive over a ravine. To be successful you must aim toward the right side of the fairway because everything slopes to another ravine running left of the fairway. Then the green is elevated and contoured sloping toward the fairway.

The next three Lost Horizon holes are pure fun beginning with a par 3 of 161 yards -- a handsome scene, with ravine left, and a rock wall holding the comma-shaped green in place. There are lots of ways to get in trouble.

From a lofty tee box, no. 12 sweeps downhill and turns dramatically right. Don't be surprised if a bear darts across the fairway. A perfect, long fade on this 435-yard par 4 sets you up for an approach over a deep gully to an elevated green that is wide and shallow.

Ironbridge's 13th hole will test your mental prowess. This 621-yard par 5 requires a deep tee shot and then a decision. Do you lay up or go for a green over a huge ravine with the fairway on the other side heading right with a fade toward the putting surface.

"When you emerge from The Lost Horizon to holes 14-18, you get another look with few trees, strategy and views of Mt. Sopris," Rohrbaugh said. "Actually, it is almost like there are three sections to the course with the front nine in a meadow with holes in sight of the Roaring Fork. There are no gimmes."

The front nine's pasture setting has water in play and plenty of ways to get in trouble. Every par 3 is a solid hole and has water in play, a ravine or a flag that can be tucked and almost hidden.

Management is billing Ironbridge as an "Arthur Hills course refined by Tom Lehman." But while the locals refer to it as "the best kept secret in the Roaring Fork Valley," members and management are stressing that time at Ironbridge is a lifestyle.

Is Ironbridge one of Colorado golf's best kept secrets? You bet.

Where to stay, what to do

Book a suite at the Residence Inn Glenwood Springs (Marriott) and enjoy full kitchen, living room, work area, free Wi-Fi and the Mix on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings including complimentary food and beer or wine. A full, hot breakfast is also included in the price.

Check out the Recreation Area with a family pool, hot tub, kids' water park, kids' climbing wall, basketball, tennis, playground area and clubhouse. Take a hike on the four miles of paths, suitable for biking, too. Then throw your fly into the Roaring Fork or the catch-and-release trophy fishing ponds.

The Ironbridge Grill, serves lunch and dinner and is open to the public. An expansive practice area has become a gathering place.

Best of all, just stand on the beautifully manicured and conditioned fairways and do a pirouette. The views of the red-hued mountains, the river and Mt. Sopris will make you think of a John Denver song.

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.

Related Links

Sitting at 5,500 feet in elevation, Lakota Canyon Ranch Golf Club is a wild ride of elevation changes, downhill tee shots and fun for the golfer's senses. Jim Engh courses are pure fun, but with the panoramas, the downhill tee shots and the green complexes that form bowls, you will have to think.
3 Min Read
When the Vail Mountain ski slopes opened in 1962, the next question was: "What are we going to do in the summer?" It didn't take long to come up with the idea of Vail Golf Club. It's hard to beat a round of golf in the summer at these cooler temperatures. Vail has always done things first class, and that describes the experience here, David R. Holland writes.
4 Min Read
Breckenridge Golf Club, the world's only 27-hole municipal layout designed by Jack Nicklaus, has a stunning backdrop of Colorado's 10-Mile Range, the Gore Range and Williams Fork, plus at a soaring 9,324 feet in the clear mountain air, you can expect many 65-degree days on long summer days.
3 Min Read
More from the author
2 Min Read
December 16, 2016
SunRidge Canyon Golf Club in Fountain Hills has all you search for in a scenic Arizona setting: rugged canyons, and views of Four Peaks and Mazatzal Mountains.
3 Min Read
November 21, 2016
Rees Jones' new Danzante Bay Golf Club in Mexico just celebrated the grand opening of 11 ocean-facing holes that feature a stunning par 3 that's every bit as good as no. 7 at Pebble.
3 Min Read
October 27, 2016
Ballyneal in Holyoke, Colorado is in the process of adding an outstanding, walking-only short course. The 12-hole Mulligan is slated to open next summer.
4 Min Read
July 20, 2016
The scene is 2017 U.S. Open host Erin Hills. Fescue is waving on a wild prairie framed by rolls and dips. Fairways are fast and firm. If you want to play the course this year, do it before Oct. 3.
4 Min Read
June 20, 2016
Sure it was beer that made Milwaukee famous, but it has golf history, and its future seems unlimited. Milwaukee-area golf is a winner. Here's a look at the options.
3 Min Read
April 28, 2016
Vaaler Creek Golf Club in Blanco is an outstanding getaway from San Antonio and Austin and definitely should be on your must-play list in the Texas Hill Country, David R. Holland writes.
2 Min Read
September 6, 2023
Golf course logos come in a huge variety of styles, making hats, shirts and other accessories from pro shops very collectible. What are your favorite logos?
21 Images
August 28, 2023
Summer golf's finale heads overseas to discover some cool courses most Americans probably don't know much about.
10 Images
September 10, 2023
The Robert Trent Jones Jr. design overlooks Bodega Bay, the site of Alfred Hitchcock's horror movie classic, 'The Birds'.
15 Images
September 18, 2023
We previewed the inventive 19-holer, which has begun taking tee times for Dec. 1, 2023 and beyond
Now Reading
Lost Horizon holes at Ironbridge Golf Club in Glenwood Springs, Colorado will test your skills