A mile high is a great place to be when you're a golfer: fewer bugs, the air is crisp and your drives fly longer. In Denver, there is a wealth of publicly accessible golf courses to play throughout the metro area. The city is an all-seasons, outdoor-lover's playground and golf is one of the best ways to enjoy the outdoors.
When you think about the general oversupply that the U.S. golf market has experienced in the 21st century, Denver has been a relatively robust golf market. Tee times are tough to come by at popular courses in the summertime despite the fact there are 70-plus area courses to choose from. The best public Denver golf courses, despite the fact there are very few true golf resorts here, charge green fees in the $125-175 range.
The Denver area has a reputable municipal/non-profit golf scene thanks to not only the City of Denver facilities but the Colorado Golf Association and neighboring municipalities. Later this year, City Park Golf Course will reopen following a multi-year renovation. One of the more unique perks about public golf here is that caddies can be booked at a handful of the public courses thanks to subsidized programs (all you pay is the tip) - you don't have to go to a private club or resort course for the service.
From a golf course architecture perspective, many headliners have area public designs you can play, including Donald Ross, Pete Dye, Tom Weiskopf, Tom Doak, Robert Trent Jones Sr./Jr. and Jim Engh.
So where are the best Denver courses to play on your Colorado golf vacation? Debating the best golf courses in Denver can be tricky because locals and tourists are bound to have different expectations. For a local, mountain scenery might not be as important as a strong layout at a good value near their home. But golfers visiting Colorado can tolerate green fees priced higher if the scenery and shot values are superb.
So with that in mind, I'm approaching this list from the perspective of a traveler more so than a local. I haven't personally played every golf course in the market but have sought out expert knowledge and our Golf Advisor community to fill the gaps.
Want insight from locals? Check out these Local Golf Advisors in Colorado:
Top 10 public and semi-private Denver golf courses
Arrowhead Golf Club
There isn't a more uniquely scenic mountain course than Arrowhead and the fact it's so close to a major metro area in Littleton is a gift to golf travelers. It was designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr. and Jr. in the early 1970s and it's much shorter and tactical at just 6,700 yards (par 70) than its many modern mountain golf neighbors. Big-swingers may crave more length and prefer TPC Colorado instead. But at Arrowhead, the first impression when you walk out of the clubhouse and see the slanted, red peaks behind the 10th hole is surreal. These formations large and small are present both as a backdrop and literally right next to greens, tees and fairways from the 1st to 18th holes. The routing is delightful, with elevated tee shots kicking off both nines, an epic par-5 16th hole that reveals long views once you crest the fairway, and highlighted by a fine collection of five par 3s. Arrowhead is an immensely popular course for tourists and casual golfers which can lead to some long rounds as the day wears on. Nevertheless, this is one of those places where spending a few minutes on a tee box gazing around in awe isn't the worst thing. Arrowhead's "walk in the park test" comes up aces, and yes, it's very walkable. Green fees: $150 | Read reviews of Arrowhead Golf ClubPhoto gallery: Spectacular Arrowhead Golf Club is a Denver-area jewelThe par-4 10th hole at Arrowhead Golf Club provides a spectacular view from the elevated tee. Brandon Tucker/Golf AdvisorThe first hole at Arrowhead Golf Club is a gentle downhill par 4 that plays to a double green shared by the 17th. Brandon Tucker/Golf AdvisorThe par-3 third hole at Arrowhead Golf Club features a green tucked beside rocks. Brandon Tucker/Golf AdvisorYou can see the Denver skyline from the third tee at Arrowhead Golf Club in Littleton, Colorado. Brandon Tucker/Golf AdvisorThe fourth hole at Arrowhead Golf Club features a small, well protected green. Brandon Tucker/Golf AdvisorThe fifth hole at Arrowhead Golf Club plays uphill and between giant sandstone formations. Brandon Tucker/Golf AdvisorThe par-4 eighth hole at Arrowhead Golf Club heads uphill to an elevated green. Brandon Tucker/Golf AdvisorThe ninth hole at Arrowhead Golf Club is a short par 3. Brandon Tucker/Golf AdvisorThe 12th hole is one of the tougher and longer par 4s at Arrowhead Golf Club in Littleton, Colorado. Brandon Tucker/Golf AdvisorThe magnificent 13th hole at Arrowhead Golf Club plays from an elevated tee between sandstone. Brandon Tucker/Golf AdvisorArrowhead Golf Club was designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr. Brandon Tucker/Golf AdvisorSandstone is prevalent on every hole at Arrowhead Golf Club in Littleton, Colorado. Brandon Tucker/Golf AdvisorThe third green at Arrowhead is a narrow, extremely deep green about sixty yards deep on a diagonal. Brandon Tucker/Golf Advisor
Denver public golf: Honorable mentions
Wellshire Golf Course: Denver's municipal system has eight facilities and the most well-known of the courses is Wellshire Golf Course, a rare Donald Ross design in the west and a former Denver Open Invitational host, won by Ben Hogan in 1948. Golf groups staying in the city should carve out some time to walk this classic in between the many modern mountain layouts. Green fees: $49-64
Red Hawk Ridge: Another Engh design, this Littleton-area course in a residential community comes with lots of elevation changes and long views. Dedicated open space on the south side provide some solitude and views. The course is near Castle Pines and a little cheaper green fee than the Ridge Course. Green fees: $103
Colorado National: Big-swinging, low-handicappers will want a crack at Colorado National, home course of Colorado University and tips out at 7,676 yards (six sets of tees plus two combo sets). Green fees: $67-76
Deer Creek Golf Club: A sneaky-scenic course along the front range, Deer Creek was designed by Scott Miller and has excellent walking rates during the week. Green fees: $40-70
TPC ColoradoTrip Dispatch Part II: Spotlight on the new TPC Colorado near Denver
The newest golf course in the Denver area is located about 50 minutes north near the small town of Berthoud. TPC Colorado, now on the Korn Ferry Tour schedule, is currently offering limited public play as the residential development and membership fills out. This course is big (a 773-yard par 5!) and wide open but plays along a series of reservoirs, most notably on the par-3 8th hole. Thee are three short par 4s, so it's not all about the bombers here. Architect Art Schaupeter built both blowout bunkers and sod-walled pots. There are also some odes to classic architecture such as a Biarritz green and a drivable par 4 inspired by Riviera. Green fees: $175 | Read reviews of TPC Colorado
Fossil Trace Golf Club
The mountain west is where Jim Engh designs has built a roster of his imaginative brand of golf course architecture. Just a 20-minute drive from downtown Denver, the City of Golden commissioned Engh to lay out a course within an old quarry and the results at Fossil Trace are quite remarkable. The opening par 5 heads downhill around an old chimney and winds up and down rolling open land. The back nine has a seriously cool stretch of holes in the quarry capped with one of the most memorable holes anywhere: the par-5 12th that requires playing over and around mighty rock formations. Convenience to the urban core and a green fee lower than other A-listers bumps Fossil Trace up a few spots. Green fees: $67-100 | Read reviews of Fossil TraceGolden, Colorado"Both 12 and 15 have unusual rock obstacles I’ve heard complaints about; however, I liked the challenges they present and the fore-thought they require on your approach shots"
Omni Interlocken Resort
The vast majority of Colorado golf resorts are on the other side of the continental divide in Summit County or about 75 minutes south along the front range in Colorado Springs. However within about 30 minutes of downtown in Broomfield is the Omni Interlocken Resort, on the way to Boulder from Highway 36, features 27 holes of scenic, optmimally-conditioned resort golf designed by Gary Panks that opened in 1999. It offers public access and dynamic pricing and according to Golf Advisor reviews, the locals also love it. That it's right off a highway in a bustling suburb is a little misleading: it's a quiet and homes-free 27-hole layout and has been ranked a Top 5 course in the state by Golf Advisor reviewers from 2015-2019. Green fees: $99-140 | Read Reviews of Omni Interlocken ResortBroomfield, Colorado"This is a well maintained and interesting layout, with some very nice views East out of the foothills. There are some really well designed, elevated tee boxes, a few forced carries, but generous landing areas."
Bear Dance Golf Club
One of the better daily-fee courses in the area is nearly an hour south of town in Larkspur on the front range. Bear Dance is a textbook mountain course (no chance walking it) with rolling holes cut through dense woods in a very lightly-built-out residential development. The routing, beginning with a downhill par 4, is delightful with holes cut through dense corridors as well and expansive vistas. The greens are fast and sloping, maybe too much so, and what goes down must come up: there are some tough uphill holes, including two par 5s. A favorite photo opp is the bear paw bunkers guard the drivable par-4 6th hole but the back nine has some even prettier mountain and butte views tucked well away from the highway. Green fees: $69-145 | Read reviews of Bear Dance Golf ClubLarkspur, ColoradoMost [holes] are fairly tight, with trees defending one or both sides. However, there is good variety; with a few short par 4s and plenty of tee shots where you have options besides driver off the tee. The par 3s are all beautiful and enjoyable as well. Conditions this day were great. Everything was lush.
The Ridge at Castle Pines Golf Club
The Ridge at Castle Pines North is the Troon-golf managed, semi-private option in the famed Castle Pines (of former The International fame) development south of Denver. Designed by Tom Weiskopf, it has wonderful hole variety, including the trademark short par 4, and topographical interest. As the centerpiece of a residential community, there are a lot of homes in view, which is the only thing holding it back from a spot in the top two or three spots. Green fees: $85-135 | Read reviews of The Ridge Course at Castle Pines NorthCastle Rock, ColoradoPlaying here always feels like a treat ... The course is always engaging. This course lets you leave life's burdens behind...at least for 4 1/2 hours. It's always enjoyable at The Ridge!
Riverdale Dunes Course
Here's another Denver-area course on the opposite side of the mountain range but gets the most out of its canvas and has very competitive green fees and walking rates available for those who head northeast of town. Riverdale's Dunes Course, one of two 18-hole courses at the facility, is a highly reputable Pete and Perry Dye design void of residential development set near the South Platte River. Green fees: $37-65 | Read reviews of the Riverdale Dunes CourseBrighton, ColoradoThe Dunes is always in wonderful shape with plenty of intriguing and challenging holes. While the course is wide open, the rough is punishing and there's a lot of water (i.e., bring extra balls). There's not a single house on the course, which is a pleasant surprise. It is crowded, but that's to be expected when it's a great deal.
Commonground is one of your best bets to play an affordable Tom Doak design. The course is east of town in Aurora on a pretty featureless site, so it's Doak's shaping and design - and the distant mountains less so - that makes it a memorable stop. It's also the home of the Solich Academy that offers junior caddies. Green fees: $48-66 | Read reviews of CommongroundAurora, ColoradoYou'd be very hard-pressed to find a more thoughtful municipal layout...especially in a parkland setting. The land given to Doak was average, at best, but his design ability truly came out in creating a great course with an uninteresting parcel of land.
Green Valley Ranch
Another top facility east of downtown, Green Valley Ranch has a Perry Dye-designed championship course and a 9-hole par-3 course. The property has a linksy feel with few trees that lends itself to windy conditions. It's a walkable course with a First Tee caddie or forecaddie program where all you pay is the tip. Green fees: $60-75 | Read reviews of Green Valley RanchDenver, ColoradoHoles were very fun and varied. The course is a links type course with lots of very long grass off the fairway with lots of bunkers and lots of wind. The course is very open course with very few trees.
Todd Creek Golf Club
One of the market's newer residential courses (2007), Todd Creek is a convenient facility to the airport and was built by Arthur Hills & Chris Wilcynski. It's a wide open and links-inspired layout that can play over 7,400 yards. It culminates dramatically with the 17th and 18th holes hugging a large pond. It's flat and technically walkable but holes are pretty spaced out. Green fees: $50-60 | Read reviews of Todd Creek Golf ClubThornton, ColoradoThe course is always in good shape, is challenging but not overly so. There are some really interesting holes and there is a really good finishing hole. The practice facility is excellent: plenty of room, large putting green and two practice chipping greens that includes a bunker.