BOULDER, Colo. -- Thirty miles northwest of Denver, the city of Boulder is utopia for the outdoors enthusiast. From hiking or mountain biking on the Front Range, to marathons and cycling training, all sports under the sun rule in Boulder.
Even at the city's only golf facility -- Flatirons Golf Course -- its active populace is evident.
A bike rack sits near the clubhouse, and it's not uncommon to see cyclists on Arapahoe Avenue with a golf bag over their shoulders.
Rest assured, Boulder takes its golf seriously, too.
Flatirons, named after the five flat and slanted faces of Green Mountain to the city's southwest side, has the aura of a classic, metropolitan country club -- and that's no coincidence.
The course was built in the 1930s as part of the public works projects during the Great Depression. It originally opened as Boulder Country Club in 1938, and while it has always been on 130 acres of city-owned land, the parks & recreation department didn't take over operations of the course until the 1960s. The country club moved to its present location on the outskirts of town in 1963.
Flatirons Golf Course hosts 45,000 rounds annually in a dry, mild climate that is suitable for golf (and most other outdoor activities) year round, except for the occasional winter snowstorm along the Rockies' Front Range.
The city has maintained the course well, and the greens are as smooth and fast as some private clubs you might find around Denver. The parks department recently rebuilt the bunkers and adding new ones at Flatirons. This fall, the course will receive more than 40 new tees, including a set of forward tees that play 4,700 yards, on a course that stretches to 7,000 yards from the championship tees. At a par 70 and with lush, flat fairways that don't generate too much roll, Flatirons is all the challenge anyone needs.
Flatirons begins and ends with three par 4s that play more than 400 yards, so a steady swing from start to finish is needed. As for the holes in between, they are a mix of precision and brawn. Ponds and small streams guard some. Of the two par 5s, most players will find the 572-yard seventh tough to reach in two. But the 490-yard 14th, despite a sharp dogleg right, is a green-light special.
Flatirons Golf Club: The verdict
As the only golf course within the Boulder city limits, Flatirons is an overachieving municipal course with a country club-style layout but a welcoming atmosphere for casual and serious golfers. Walking or riding 18 holes here -- or just taking advantage of the practice facilities -- is a great way to enjoy a day outdoors in Boulder if you're not up for a higher rpm activity like cycling or hiking.
While the course continues to be improved, more upgrades are coming. In 2014, a new irrigation system will be installed that will increase water coverage and reduce water use. Flatirons also uses organic fertilizers and pesticides, something eco-conscious users of the course will applaud.
After golf: Dining and shopping in downtown Boulder
Boulder's downtown scene is entirely different than Denver or anywhere else in Colorado, so be sure to head into town and walk the Pearl Street mall, home to an assortment of locally-owned shops, bars serving local microbrews and restaurants dishing up locally-sourced and organic foods.
One of my Pearl Street favorites is SALT the Bistro, which has a great atmosphere either upstairs or in the basement and some fantastic meats for dinner, as well as a long cocktail and happy hour menu. Or, the Mediterranean Restaurant (or simply "The Med") has a delicious menu of European-style dishes and pizzas.
There are a handful of bars with rooftop decks or patios along Pearl Street, or head to "The Hill" near the University of Colorado campus for a busier scene. If you would prefer some afternoon tea instead of alcohol after golf, visit the unique Dushanbe Teahouse, which has an enormous variety of teas to go with a pleasant setting beside Boulder Creek.
For more information on Boulder activities, visit www.BoulderColoradoUSA.com.