Ironbridge Golf Club
Like the currents of the Roaring Fork River, good news has flowed steadily from Ironbridge Golf Club this year.
Head PGA Professional Doug Rohrbaugh and his son, Tristan, respectively won the HealthONE Colorado Open (plus three PGA Section championships) and the CHSAA 3A Boys state title.
Moreover, after five years of limping along as part of the bankrupt Lehman Brothers empire, the Glenwood Springs club finally got new owners August 29.
The ownership group, led by longtime Roaring Fork Valley residents Jim Light and John Young, purchased the course assets and the undeveloped lots on the 533-acre property for $4.82 million at an auction held by Sheldon Good & Company. Light, whose development group, Chaffin Light, counts Basalt’s Roaring Fork Club among its many successes, sees similar potential in Ironbridge.
“We’re about embracing the community, not being an exclusive enclave adjacent to Glenwood Springs,” he says.
To wit, his team listened to residents and quickly backed off renaming and rebranding the property (“There’s a powerful ‘Ironbridge Strong’ sentiment among those who endured the lean years,” Young says). Plans call for completion of a fitness center by Christmas and a community clubhouse and restaurant shortly thereafter.
Priority A, however, is “softening” the Arthur Hills-designed golf course—which, in an ironic twist, given the name of the previous owners, they have enlisted PGA Tour star Tom Lehman to do.
Opened in the shadow of Mount Sopris in 2003, the picturesque 7,224-yard semiprivate layout clearly targeted the low handicapper and members who could benefit from local knowledge. But for golfers paying daily fees, Ironbridge was a one-and- done experience.
“Augusta has 40 bunkers; you have 70,” Lehman told Light and Young. “And they’re catching the average player, not the good players.”
Working closely with Superintendent Eric Foerster, Lehman is removing 26 bunkers, re-grading a number of holes and changing the grasslines. “It will still play difficult for better players,” Foerster says, “but the higher handicapper will be able to navigate and negotiate it much better.”
That will speed play on the sprawling layout that gains some 500 feet in elevation. So will GPS-equipped carts and new teeing areas that borrow from the designations at ski resorts.
“The double-black diamond extremes—the tips—are for 0- to 4-handicaps and the blues and greens are for double-digit players,” explains Foerster. “This takes away the stigma of the ‘ladies tees’ and the ‘old man tees.’ We started it this season and it’s worked great.”
The refaced course will reopen in May with $79 rounds, stay-and-play packages at nearby hotels and membership opportunities for individuals, families and businesses. “We’re hoping people will target us,” Light says. “They’ll be able to play it without losing a dozen golf balls.”
Colorado AvidGolfer is the state’s leading resource for golf and the lifestyle that surrounds it. It publishes eight issues annually and proudly delivers daily content via www.coloradoavidgolfer.com. Jon Rizzi is the founding editor and co-owner of this regional golf-related media company producing magazines, web content, tournaments, events and the Golf Passport.