More than 15 years in the making, the Hale Irwin/Todd Schroeder-designed Mountain Course at Glacier has officially opened, bringing the number of exquisite golf holes at the Durango club to 36.
By Jon Rizzi
Labor Day weekend brought World Golf Hall of Famer Hale Irwin to Durango to dedicate a golf course as singular as the one-word name of the property through which it climbs: Glacier.
Glacier’s 7,035-yard, par-71 Mountain Course, which Irwin designed with Todd Schoeder of iCon Studios in Broomfield, gambols about the dense ponderosa pines and roseate outcroppings of the San Juan Mountains north of Durango. Its ceremonial first tee—adjacent to the clubhouse and perched 150 yards above the fairway and 450 yards from the green—served as the launching pad for Irwin’s inaugural drive, as well as the stage for a ritual blessing performed by Mark Wing of the Ute Mountain Ute tribe and a colorful performance by a circle of tribal dancers.
The Mountain Course now complements Glacier’s Arthur Hills-designed Valley Course, which originally opened in 1975 as Tamarron and later was renamed The Cliffs. Considering plans for the Mountain Course were initially approved 16 years ago, “glacial” might also describe the pace at which it proceeded.
But a Schoeder-designed Glacier Nine did open in 2004, bringing the property’s hole total to 27. Owner Rick Carlton then waited out the recession, engineered a 228-acre land swap with the U.S. Forest Service and re-engaged Irwin and Schoeder. The Glacier Nine became holes 1-6 and 7-9 of the Mountain Course. Working with Aspen Construction, the team broke ground on the other nine holes in 2014. To build all 18 holes, they moved a 346,000 cubic yards of earth, 200,000 of which was dynamited granite and dolomite used to create a shaping layer that they then capped with 76,000 cubic yards of planting sand. Even with the short five-month growing season, the 18-hole, $11 million project, complete with six miles of cart path, opened this spring.
In contrast to the Hills-designed Valley course, which the initial Tamarron developer Stan Wadsworth conceived as the summer counterpart to his Innisbrook Resort in Florida, the Mountain Course takes full advantage of its spectacular setting 8,000 feet above sea level. Its plunging, reachable par 4s and par 5s bedazzle with their views and bedevil with their risks.
The 600 feet of elevation change puts a premium on club selection. Both designers’ favorite holes are on the shorter, higher back nine. For Schoeder, it’s No. 12, “Dolly,” a downhill par-4 that’s the “epitome of risk/reward play.” Irwin favors the long par-4 15th, “Gambler,” a stunner that drops a hole-shortening 100 feet from tee to a green protected by a pond and multiple bunkers.
On-course fauna includes bears, marmots, coyotes and the random moose and puma. Around the clubhouse, the Rocky Mountain goat—which serves as club’s logo—appears on the apparel of members, all of whom are thrilled by Irwin’s and Schoeder’s efforts. “The goal was to have a member-friendly course that would be challenging, playable and enjoyable,” Schoeder says. “It also had to be one they could be proud of. And I think we accomplished that.”
Nonmembers and on-property guests of Tamarron Resort can access the Valley Course, which sports its own new clubhouse and plush cottages outside Glacier’s gates. Real estate within the 1,000-acre development ranges from club cottages and cabins to .5- to 2.5-acre custom homesites and 5,000-square-foot villas. Purgatory Ski Resort lies 10 miles north.
Discovery packages start at $695 for a three-day, two-night stay plus a round of golf for two players and the club’s impeccable hospitality. theglacierclub.com
This piece appears in the Fall Issue 2017 of Colorado AvidGolfer, the state’s leading resource for the sport and the lifestyle that surrounds it, publishing eight issues annually and proudly delivering daily content via coloradoavidgolfer.com.
For more articles, the 2017 Travel Guide, and full issue, please visit coloradoavidgolfer.com/digital-issue.