WESTMINSTER, Colo. -- When Golf Digest awarded Hyland Hills a four-star ranking, Colorado golfers had to know there was something special about the 45-hole complex.
For years it was listed no. 18 in the state by the magazine. While it's no longer on the list because of the 1990s golf course building boom, this setting still remains a favorite for Denver golfers.
In 2012 it was renamed The Greg Mastriona Golf Courses at Hyland Hills, recognizing Executive Director Mastriona's tenure of more than 40 years with the Hyland Hills Park and Recreation District -- the first such district in Colorado, established in 1955.
"Most golfers like all the mature trees (pines, spruce and native cottonwoods) and the fact that it challenges you to use all your shots," said Allen Brown, the director of golf at Hyland Hills. "I like that it started out as a parkland layout and has evolved into a Columbine Country Club-like course with all the ponds and the canal."
The land was a natural for golf. It is a historic agricultural area, settled in the late 1800s when the Farmers' High Line Canal was built, to go with natural drainages that provided a steady source of water for farming. The site remained agricultural and undeveloped through the 1950s.
Hyland Hills: Then came golf
When it opened in 1963, the Henry Hughes design was a new star on the golf scene in Denver, the first 18-hole championship course (and a nine-hole par 3) in the Northern Metropolitan area, and water was a key ingredient. Today, the Gold Course (7,100 yards, par 72) features three peninsula greens, hilly terrain and seven ponds that come into play on 11 holes.
Hyland Hills has hosted numerous championships: The first Colorado State Public Links Championship was here in 1965, and Hale Irwin won the Colorado Golf Association Stroke Play Championship that year, too. In 1967, Bill Musselman defeated Bernard Woody in the Colorado Golf Association's Match Play Championships at Hyland Hills.
In 1985, Colorado golf course architect Frank Hummel fine-tuned and rerouted what is now the Gold Course and added the North nine.
After the facelift the Gold Course was awarded the 1990 United States Women's Public Links Championship and hosted the 46th annual Colorado State Public Links Championship in 2010.
Hyland Hills: The Gold Course and its supporting cast
From the back of the 11th green on the Gold Course, a 438-yard uphill par 4, the panorama opens up for a great view of the Rocky Mountains. The eighth, however, will most likely be the water hole you remember most. This 196-yard classic peninsula par 3 has a rock wall in front protecting the green and two bunkers left and two on the right. There's just no bailout room, and a 7,200-square-foot putting surface with a ridge in the middle is a tricky two-putt from long distance.
Then there's the 15th, a 576-yard par 5 with a tee shot over the canal. If you don't bomb one past the huge double-trunked cottonwood in the middle of the fairway, you will just be advancing a ground ball as far as you can on your second shot.
The Blue Course evolved from the front nine of the original 18 holes and offers 3,272 yards at par 36. It has two par 5s, two par 3s and five par 4s. The Blue plays more than 40,000 rounds a year as it proves to be one of the most popular nine-hole golf courses in the Northern Metropolitan area. The entire complex has hosted as many as 100,000 rounds in one season.
Among the par-3 courses, Brown says the South is a little more challenging than the North with several shots over water. But the North is a family-friendly steal as kids play free accompanied by a paying adult.
The Greg Mastriona Golf Courses at Hyland Hills: The verdict
Hyland Hills is truly a Colorado hidden gem and one of the best bargains in the state. Resident fees apply, but the highest price a non-resident will pay for golf and cart on the Gold Course is $51. And fees are the same seven days a week.
"Our goal is to have the best course conditions of any Parks and Recreation Department in Colorado," said Brown, who has construction experience from working at Plum Creek and Grand Lake. "The irrigation system is 50 years old, so that will be redone in a project that will last three to five years."
There is an excellent lighted practice facility with four target greens and an 18,000-square-foot practice putting green. Golfers participating in the lesson program receive instruction in a private lesson area. Golfers also have the option of instruction on the golf courses to experience real playing conditions.
The certified junior program includes 300 kids and was first implemented in 1965.
Ciancio's Restaurant at Hyland Hills is located in the clubhouse and is open to the public seven days a week for breakfast, lunch and dinner.