Over the years I have traveled extensively throughout the US and the world. I have always looked forward to visiting a new city, a new country and playing new golf courses.
Recently I had the opportunity to travel to Grand Junction and Montrose, Colorado to play golf. As with every new golfing venture, I was curious about the area and its golf courses. So I did what everyone does these days, I went to the Internet. Upon reading about the Colorado National Monument, Colorado’s answer to the Grand Canyon, and viewing photos of the courses I was going to play, I developed a keen interest in my upcoming trip to these cities located four hours west of Denver by car.
Along with my three companions on the trip, golf writers from Vancouver, B.C.; Mesa, Arizona; and Yakima, Washington; I played 72 holes of golf in two days, 18 holes at Redlands Mesa and Tiara Rado in Grand Junction and 18 holes at Cobble Creek and The Bridges in Montrose. I found all four courses, although different in terrain and difficulty, to be well designed, quite scenic and fun to play.
Redlands Mesa is a semi-private course located in an upscale community at the base of The Colorado National Monument. Rated the #1 Best New Affordable Course in America by Golf Digest in 2001, and the #1 Public Golf Course in Colorado by Colorado Golf Magazine in 2009, Redlands Mesa is an outstanding track. It stretches from 4,890 to 7,007 yards, has 41 strategically placed bunkers, 11 elevated tees and spectacular views of the multicolored sandstone face of the “The Monument”, as The Colorado National Monument is referred to by locals. With its challenging course design and its breathtaking views of “The Monument”, Redlands Mesa is a “must play” when visiting Colorado.
Tiara Rado, a municipal course owned by the city of Grand Junction, is a course for all ages and all skill levels. To me it was much more interesting and scenic than most municipal courses I have played. When the back nine’s extensive remodel is totally completed, and the new lakes and tee boxes come into play, I think Tiara Rado will rank as one of the best municipal courses in Colorado.
Playing to 6,289 yards from the tips, the course is tree lined with well placed bunkers guarding small to medium sized undulating greens. It is an enjoyable course, one that will only get better when all the remodeling if done. It is well worth the reasonable green fees of $41 including cart Monday thru Thursday and $46 Friday through Sunday..
Following our first day of golf, our group dined at Naggy’s Irish Pub in Grand Junction. With Irish music playing in the background, we recounted the day’s golfing success and failures while enjoying tasty Irish dishes and pints of Guinness. I dined on an Irish stew that would have made anyone from the Emerald Isle quite proud.
Our second day of 36 holes was spent in Montrose, an hour south of Grand Junction. As a native Californian who lives in Vista, a relatively wind-free city forty miles north of San Diego, this day was a new experience. Playing in winds with gusts up to 40 miles per hour, I gained a new respect for Tour players who often are subjected to winds of this velocity. Both courses, Cobble Creek, known for the creek that winds it ways throughout the course, and The Bridges, a Nicklaus course with water on 15 of its 18 holes, are links style courses. Both have left and right dog-legged fairways, lengthy par 3’s, large undulating greens, and of course, lots of water..
Played from the 6400-yard tees, both courses were challenging, particularly the holes played into the wind. Playing downwind at an elevation of nearly 6,000 feet was a lot less difficult and in fact was lots of fun. Both Wes Bolyard, my playing partner from Mesa, Arizona, and I hit balls way beyond our normal length. Never in my life had I hit a 155-yard pitching wedge onto a Par 3 and I doubt Wes had ever hit a 343-yard drive followed by a 240-yard five wood onto a Par 5. It was truly an experience being able to hit drives and iron shots of that length, shots that Tour players hit on a regular basis without the benefit of a blustery tail wind.
When we finished playing The Bridges, we adjourned to the elegantly designed clubhouse which overlooks the Par 5 seventeenth and the Par 5 eighteenth. Both holes feature water to left of their fairways almost the entire length of each hole. Both are wonderful closing holes and a true credit to Nicklaus and his design team.
After golf, we headed to The Stone House, an excellent restaurant in Montrose. We dined on melt-in-your-mouth steaks after a brief stopover in the bar’s relaxing lounge next to a warm and inviting fireplace. The Stone House, well known in Montrose for friendly hospitality and tender and delicious steaks, was a great place to finish our day following golf at Cobble Creek and The Bridges.
On my last morning in Montrose, before heading back to Grand Junction for my flight to San Diego, I had breakfast at Damiano’s Cowboy Caio. Owned and operated by nationally known restaurateur Anthony Damiano, a member of the World Master Chef Society, and his wife Lisa, an accomplished pastry chef, Cowboy Caio has become a favorite for locals and tourists alike.
There aren’t many places I know of where you can you get large portions of really good food served by a fun waitstaff in a restaurant with an unusual mixture of cowboy and Italian décor and cuisine. Breakfasting at Cowboy Caio was a real treat.
In addition to golf, my four days in Grand Junction and Montrose included a two mile hike up and back on the Serpentine Trail on “The Monument”. Located just minutes away from the agriculturally oriented city of Grand Junction, the trail offers spectacular views of both the extensive valley and the rock rimmed canyons formed millions of years ago by glaciers and broad rushing rivers. At one overlook along the trail, a sign explained the various layers of rock I was observing dated back 1.6 billion years.
I highly recommend a Serpentine Trail hike when visiting Grand Junction. However, if you are a non-hiker, take the 20 mile drive through “The Monument” and make stops at vista points along the way. You’ll see incredible multi-colored rocked canyons, spectacular views of the valley and the city of Grand Junction in the distance.
When in Grand Junction, be sure and dine at one of downtown’s most well known restaurants, Il Bistro Italiano. Housed in an unpretentious pink building, Il Bistro Italiano is a comfortable unassuming restaurant that serves mouth watering Italian food at reasonable prices. Our family style dinner, which followed recipes brought over from Italy by owner/chef Brunella Gualerzi, included antipasto, salad, pasta, sea bass, and boneless beef short ribs cooked in a tasty red wine sauce. Dinner, which was enjoyed with more than one bottle of Cabernet Franc from the local Garfield Estates Winery, was topped off with a dessert of a chocolate cherry almond tart covered in a rich chocolate sauce.
A quick note about the wine industry in the Grand Junction/Montrose area. There are 19 wineries in the area, 18 of which have tasting rooms. You may not be familiar with the wines or wineries as most all of the wines produced in the area are sold and consumed in Colorado. However, I think this will change as the wineries grow larger and increase production. My prediction is that Grand Junction/Montrose area wines will be winning prestigious awards at wine tastings throughout the US and quite possibly the world. The Cabernet Franc from Garfield Estates Winery definitely gets my vote.
Venturing to new places to play new golf courses is a real treat for me. My four days in Grand Junction and Montrose only scratched the surface of the many things to do and places to see in the area. I have decided to put these two cities on my “Places To Go Back To” list as both are ideal cities for a family vacation, a romantic getaway, or an even longer golfing getaway.
For more information about Grand Junction and Montrose, go to www.visitgrandjunction. com and www.visitmontrose.com. There you will find information about the area, accommodations, restaurants, etc. as well as information on the Redlands Mesa, Tiara Lado, Cobble Creek and The Bridges golf courses.