Estes Park – Home of the Stanley Hotel, which is known for two things. The movie The Shining and another event that has gone down in Stanley Hotel lore.
Enough about the Stanley, let’s see how this executive 9-hole (par 31) Lake Estes Golf Club played this day. The course opens with a straight-forward 170 yard par 3. It starts to build momentum on holes two through five and finishes strong the rest of the way. The par 3 third hole, along with the sixth offer the best photo opportunities of the snow-capped mountain peaks.
Starting on the fifth hole, the Big Thompson River comes into play. Today it was running high and fast from the late spring runoff. After a snowy winter, the fairways and greens were in excellent shape. The Big Thompson fronts the short par 3 sixth and the scenery can lull you into making a mistake on this beauty. At some point on each of the final four holes, you need to fly the river, so worm-burners will surely find a watery grave.
The course closes at 7pm and the pins are pulled at that time. I had to play the last five holes just shooting for the green. Amazingly enough, I played them at just one over. This is a walking-only course and it is easy to navigate. There are two handicap carts available that must be reserved in advance. The course is very playable for the beginning golfer but can also challenge the more experienced player.
One thing you don’t see everyday on a golf course is a fairway full of elk. I was not disappointed this day as a herd worked their way down #7. Should I hit or not? A local told me to “hit away and play through” as they will move out of the way. It didn’t matter since my drive missed the fairway. This course closes for safety reasons in the fall from mid-September to late October because the elk take over the fairways. I guess they come down to a safe haven to avoid all the hunters in the hills. So how do you handle the elk droppings in the fairways? Local rule allows you to lift (make sure you bring an extra glove), clean (and extra towel) and place if your ball comes to rest in one of these mounds of poo!
Back to the Stanley Hotel. It is the place to stay, if you dare. Most people are aware of Jack Nicholson’s performance in The Shining but only those of us who were guests on August 7, 1982 remember the wedding night Karen and I spent there. I won’t bore you with all the strange events, but they started as we entered our room and were greeted with two SINGLE beds.
Par: I liked this course because it offers the playability for all levels of golfers and it takes only a short portion of your day to play. Then it’s off to another Colorado playground. Estes Park is a true vacationland with Rocky Mountain National Park being the headliner. Hiking, biking, camping, fishing, and rock climbing are a few of the favorites. After a long day in the park, enjoy a dinner downtown followed by a leisurely stroll along the Riverwalk. But beware, once you return to the Stanley and room 217, strange things may happen in this “haunted” hotel.
690 Big Thompson Avenue, Estes Park, CO 80517; 970-586-8176; www.golfestes.com