The Bridges Golf & Country Club in Montrose, Colorado is one of the best-kept secrets in the Rocky Mountains

MONTROSE, Colo. -- When savvy explorers of Colorado's beauty shun the lavish snow-splashed mountains of the elite resort towns, they often find the real secrets of the Rocky Mountains.

Montrose is such a place -- and The Bridges Golf & Country Club is its signature golf experience.

Situated at 5,794 feet, The Bridges opened in 2005 with a prestigious Nicklaus Design label and a layout dotted by water.

"Golfers like diverse and interesting holes," said Eric Feely, general manager at The Bridges Golf & Country Club. "There are certainly no two holes alike and all have a fun element to them. They are challenging yet fair. And there are very few golf courses in our area with bentgrass fairways, which continue to get better every month."

The land already featured the historic Loutsenhizer Canal, which is fed by the Gunnison and Uncompahgre rivers, before the golf course was even built. The course design centered around manmade lakes, natural marshes and streams. Landscaping includes indigenous species of pine, spruce, ash and cottonwoods, as well as an array of natural shrubs and grasses.

Residential lots are four to six feet higher than the golf course, creating views of the San Juan Mountains, Horsefly Mountain to the south and Grand Mesa to the north.

"It all depends on how you use water like this," said Jon Garner, a design associate with Nicklaus Design. "Obviously there are places we know people are going to hit the ball and we didn't put water there. Instead, we used the water as a strategy -- the closer you hit it to the water, the shorter your approach will be or it creates a better angle to the green. Another key to using water is to give the golfer a bailout on the opposite of the fairway -- a large landing area to safely receive a shot."

Favorite holes

One of Feely's favorite holes is the par-3 12th, which features a new 245-yard tee box and plays slightly downhill.

"Naturally, from 245 you must hit a good tee shot over native area with natural grass outcroppings to a well bunkered green," Feely said. "The green has several unique slopes that makes a two putt difficult if your tee shot is not well placed."

The 17th, a 580-yard par 5, is another challenge.

"The hole is a sweeping dogleg left with a large pond the entire length of the hole," Feely said. "The views of the San Juans are outstanding and the green has several levels where a flagstick can be placed. For big hitters this hole can be a good eagle opportunity, especially if the flag is in the lower right portion of the green."

Do you like short par 4s? The third hole is only 319 yards, but it has a gauntlet of bunkers.

"First you have to navigate the fairway bunkers, all six of them, then you have a short shot to a small green protected again by four more bunkers," Feely said. "A solid 250-yard tee shot to either side of the split fairway that avoids the bunkers is the key to playing this fun hole."

The Bridges Golf & Country Club: The verdict

"The most difficult aspects of the golf course are avoiding the many hazards and bunkers that are right in front of you," Feely said. "The golf course can be long (7,207 yards at par 71) if played from either of the back sets of tees, but more reasonable from the bronze tee. It is a true joy to play every day and in good condition."

One would think The Bridges would be a bear to a novice, but if you play the correct tees you can stay out of trouble.

And then there's the weather.

"When we were building the course Montrose really blossomed as a retirement city," Garner said. "The weather is outstanding. I've even seen beautiful days in November and December."

And the course is opened year-around. You can play in the dead of winter if the course is clear of snow.

The Bridges has an excellent, large practice area with a driving range, putting green and chipping and sand areas. PGA instruction is also available.

Be sure and ask about the clubhouse suites for stay and play. Other amenities include a snack bar and Remington's, an excellent clubhouse restaurant.

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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The Bridges Golf & Country Club in Montrose, Colorado is one of the best-kept secrets in the Rocky Mountains
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