CASTLE ROCK, Colo. -- Its zip code is prestigious, but there is no little brother syndrome at The Ridge at Castle Pines North , one of the top public golf facilities in Colorado.
Located around the corner from private Castle Pines Golf Club , which hosted the PGA Tour's International from 1986 through 2006, the Ridge offers its own, semi-private experience at another one of the state's top facilities.
The Ridge, which opened in 1997, was designed by Tom Weiskopf and is set on high, rolling foothills south of Denver. Most golfers will drool a little at some of the real estate that is located beside fairways; though thankfully, it's done from afar, as playing corridors are plenty wide so as to showcase a natural side of the Rockies foothills.
The Ridge at Castle Pines North: The course
The golf course plays a par 71 with five par 3s and four par 5s. Each nine looks quite a bit different, as the front side plays north of Castle Pines Parkway and features holes that are more exposed on high ground overlooking the surrounding area. The back nine plays to the south and within some denser pockets of trees.
Big, inviting fairways welcome golfers on the opening two holes and most others, too. But the most appetizing drive is the par-4, 476-yard ninth, which, from one of the course's higher spots, heads steeply downhill from tee-to-green.
The back nine, while shorter, calls for a little more precision in spots. The par-5 13th, which plays gently downhill through a corridor or ponderosa pines, anchors a back side on the Ridge that definitely takes the round up a notch, removing the more wide-open spaces of the front nine for playing corridors set deeper into ponderosa pines and rolling terrain.
Two beautiful, downhill par 3s on the back are offset by the uphill, par-3 17th that plays to a green set just below some of the property's most dramatic rock outcroppings. The view from the green are even better than the tee. To make up for a shorter yardage than the front nine, there are some holes, such as the 15th and 18th, that require a thinking cap.
The 18th, "On the Rocks," is named so because the tee boxes sit atop the very rocks that frame the 17th -- or maybe it's a reminder that the 19th hole is about 400 yards away.
The Ridge at Castle Pines North: The verdict
The Ridge at Castle Pines North has a safe seat at the table of the Denver-area's best public golf courses (Golf Magazine's 2012 ranking lists it at No.7 public in Colorado).
One of Weiskopf's best assets as a designer is that most of his greens are easily reachable by shorter hitters, and fairways are very generous. The course's main defense is the slope in the greens and big bunkers, plus a healthy amount of hazards.
Managed by Troon Golf, the facility boasts a fantastic clubhouse restaurant, the Ridge Bar & Grill, with a patio overlooking the 18th. Around the corner from the first tee is an enormous practice area with a driving range and numerous practice greens.
On the course, conditions are superb and so is the service both inside the clubhouse and from the gals out running the beverage cart, who come by early and often.