Review: Keystone Resort Golf Courses, CO

The Tale of Two Courses
I love resorts that have at least 36 holes of golf.  When I am on vacation I enjoy playing as many holes as possible per day.  While there are a few great 18 hole resorts that I could probably play multiple times during my stay, having the added variety of another 18 just makes it more enjoyable and really offers a better value.  Keystone resorts has 2 x 18 hole course that are very distinct and very different from one another.  I’m not sure I have a favorite between the 2, they were very different from each other.  My day at Keystone was the Tale of Two Courses.

Keystone Ranch Course

The Keystone Ranch Course is not your typical mountain style course.  It almost has a linksy feel to it as it plays in an expansive mountain valley with only a few trees.  It doesn’t have big mountain drops or towering pines lining holes or much that makes you feel like a typical mountain course.  Instead the mountains surround the course offering great backdrops and scenic views in the distance.  Even though it isn’t a true mountain course, it still plays at a high elevation so your ball carries further and for the resort guest that  has a higher handicap, they will enjoy this course. 
The first couple holes of the front 9 feel a little out of place.  The major it of the holes wrap around the driving range and lake right out of the clubhouse doors, but 1 and 2 are across the road for just a short out and back.  But once you cross back over and get into the heart of the front 9, there are some great holes.  4-6 and 9 are some of the more  scenic holes on the property.  There is a meandering stream that feeds into the ponds and lakes that comes into play on 4 and 6.  The 5th hole hits toward the abandoned ranch barns that remind the golfer of the history of the property.  The 9th hole might be one of the most stunning par 4s around.  It has a huge elevated tee overlooking the a lake and the short hole wraps around the left side of the lake and doglegs to the right.  You can hit an iron safe off the tee or you can try to drive the green.

Once you wrap around the lake and by the clubhouse, you head out to the back 9.  It follows and out and back kind of pattern down out narrower valley.  It still feels pretty open and you can see almost every hole on the back 9 from every tee box.  Holes 13,14 and 18 were especially memorable.  The long par 5 that starts by “kicking a field goal” through a couple pines, and the short down hill 14th that has a small perched green and the brutal par 5 finishing hole that requires all 3 shots to navigate the huge lake on the left hand side of the hole.  The back 9 was slight more predictable since this valley had a pitch that made balls move in the same direction.  The holes went back and forth so it wasn’t always right to left of left to right, but you knew you had to hit on the high side for each hole.

It was early in the season and yet Keystone Ranch was in excellent shape.  The green were smooth and fast, but tricky to read.  I had numerous putts that I misread.  It was always be a little bit.  There seemed to be less break than it looked, but then when I putted straight thinking it didn’t break it would.  Tee to green was very nice, fairly open but still offered plenty of challenge with some tall grass and numerous water hazards.  The bunkers were fairly tough and some had some rocks in that you might just want to move your ball so you damage a club. 

Keystone Ranch is certainly a unique course in the mountains.  It is fair for the high-handicap golfer, yet challenging for the better golfer.  The scenery is beautiful and peaceful.  You will enjoy your round at the range.

For more information:

Quick Hits
+Open scenery
+Great Conditions
+Enjoyable for all skill levels
+Friendly staff

–Tough to read greens

Keystone River Course

The Keystone River course is what you expect from a mountain course.  It has lots of elevation change, so many scenic views and even has a flowing river for a number of the holes on the front 9.  Because of all the elevation change within the course and the fact that the course is already at 10,000 ft above sea level, the ball carried a little further.  I hit my longest drive and my longest 3-wood shots while playing the Keystone River Course.  It is tougher than the ranch course from tee to green and yet I found these green easier to read, even though they had more undulation, it was more predictable and easier to navigate.

The River course is right off the main entrance to the Keystone resort and even a couple holes are visible from the road.  Once you meander up the hill to the clubhouse, we are kindly greeted by the staff and taken care of.  The starting hole is a decent cart right straight up the hill to a tee box that sit well above the fairway of this open hole par 5.  It is a dramatic way to start.  Holes 3-7 wind around, through and over the river.  It comes into play on the par 3s as you can hear the water rushing by.  Holes 5 and 6 and holes that require precision navigating the water hazards, some of them blind.  Hole 7 is the most beautiful par 3 on the course.  The river angles through the hole and then flow by the right side of the green.  You finish with a massive downhill par 3.

After a quick pass by the club house, you once again climb the hill for hole 10 to be greeted by beautiful panoramas of the mountains and Lake Dillon.  The back 9 has some of the most elevation change I’ve ever seen.  It seemed like each hole was playing on the side of a mountain.  Most played downhill, while only a couple played back up the hill.  Holes 14 and 16 were most memorable for me and could potentially be so for many golfers because I hit my longest shots on those two holes.  14 is a big downhill par 4 that I ripped a driver 343 yards.  (thank you thin mountain air).  16 is an even bigger downhill hole and this time I only hit 3-wood but almost ran out of fairway after hitting it 305 yards.  It comes to a dramatic finish with the big par 5 18th hole that again offers big mountain and lake views.

The River course is certainly dramatic; it has lots of elevation change, it has tree lined fairway, the river comes into play on the front 9 and the greens have some severe undulations.  Yet, I scored lower on the River course than I did the Ranch course, mainly because of the putting.  The greens were in great shape on both courses, but I had an easier time reading the River courses greens.  The River course is a true mountain golf experience.  It is much harder from tee to green, but can also be more rewarding with distance.

For more information:

Quick Hits
+Stunning vistas and elevation changes
+Challenging fairways lined with trees and river
+Undulated greens
+Well maintained
+Helpful staff

–Many challenging holes for high-handicap golfers