Golf Course Architecture spoke with Schaupeter about the project.
How did your involvement in the project begin?
I first walked the property in 2005 with developers Jon Turner and Jim Birdsall, who along with Chris Frye, make up Heron Lakes Investments, the owners and developers of the golf course and the surrounding 800-acre Heron Lakes master-planned community.
The golf course will be the first new golf course opened in the state of Colorado in more than ten years, and it will be the first new TPC course opened since 2010. The TPC affiliation brings with it high expectations, including superior course conditioning, a commitment to environmental sustainability and the presence of a professional tournament. All of this will be accomplished, with the course set to host an annual Web.com tour event for at least five years, beginning with the inaugural event in the summer of 2019.
What’s the layout like?
The golf course, like many of the original, historic and famous courses of Scotland, is routed as a single eighteen-hole loop. In harmony with the history of the sport, as well as the history and tradition of Colorado, the golf course will provide a real sense of adventure and discovery for players as they play it. The golf holes are grouped into three core sections spread out across the site, each one providing a uniquely different setting and golf holes of individual character. Golfers will experience each of these settings as they traverse the property from east to west on the first nine holes, and then again on the second nine holes after they turn to the east and head back to the clubhouse.
Golfers will recognise that they are in for a unique and special adventure on the first tee as they confront two stacked-sod-wall pot bunkers framing the tee shot landing area, and must decide whether to engage them and try to catch the large downslope in the fairway, or play just short of them into a comfortably wide part of the fairway on this opening par 5 hole. Built using Durabunker material, the Scottish-style pot bunkers will be a theme throughout the golf course, as will be the need to make strategic decisions on each shot. Combined with larger bunkers of random shapes, the bunkering of the golf course will have the primary strategic role. Players will have to identify which bunkers are most impactful to their scores if they should enter them, as recovery shots out of them will not all be equal and a player’s desired line of play might not be feasible.
The trade-off with the challenge of the bunkers is the overall playability of the golf course for all calibre of player, as water is only in play on three holes, and the large, broad golf course will have 55 acres of fairway for players to utilise as they navigate their way through each hole. With the periodic and strong winds and the undulating ground slopes, players will need all that acreage to try and position themselves for the best angles of approach to the varied hole locations on each green – or to just avoid some of the more challenging bunkers! Part of the fairway area will be expanded with bentgrass surrounds at the greens, giving players additional options on what type of recovery shot to play if they miss the green.
What would you identify as the course’s highlights?
The eighteen holes each have their own individual character, presenting the players with unique challenges throughout the round. There is an interesting mix of short and long holes relative to par that will give players plenty to think about if par and scoring is their focus. Otherwise, there are a variety of options for them to try out on each hole. I have designed each hole so that ‘the golf is in the golfer’s hands’. They will pick and choose their own routes through the holes trying to play to their individual strengths or preferences. With control of their own destiny through their own decision-making and execution, players will have a more enjoyable golfing experience.
Holes of note include the short, par four sixth hole, which is inspired by the classic tenth hole at Riviera Country Club. It is one of three short par four holes that could be reachable from the tee in the right conditions.
The eighth hole will grab the players attention. as the mid-length par three plays through a chute between two groves of trees – the only trees on the entire course – to a green at the end of a narrow peninsula. The incredible view of the Rocky Mountains looking across Lonetree Reservoir that is unveiled when players reach the green is worth the effort.
The tenth hole is another short par four that presents golfers with multiple options of play to consider on the tee. Deep pot bunkers and strong fairway contours set up a variety of landing areas for players who don’t want to attempt a shot straight away to the green. The hole plays along the shore of the massive and beautiful Lonetree Reservoir, and is one of the prettiest settings on the site.
The thirteenth hole is one of the longest holes in all of golf, and coupled with having a one-of-a-kind bunker on it as the main strategic element, will leave a lasting impression on the players. The long par five plays to a length of 773 yards from the far back tee. No bunkers on the tee shot give players the illusion that it is a benign hole, but upon reaching their ball they’ll have a view of the second shot challenge, which will be to navigate the modern-day version of The Old Course’s ‘Hell Bunker’. The massive and deep bunker runs over 100 yards long and is characterised by the three cavernous (six to eight feet deep) stacked-sod-wall pot bunkers within the one large bunker area that defines the direct line to the green. Players will need to summon up their courage to find their proper line-of-play over the bunker, lest they leave themselves at least a 180-yard-long third shot into the green.
At the other end of the par five spectrum is the reachable fifteenth hole. All players, with a good tee shot and playing from the appropriate tees, will be faced with the decision of whether to go for the green or lay up for position on the third shot. The green is nestled into a semi-punchbowl setting between two hills, with only part of the green visible from the fairway. The best line to reach and hold the green requires a player to carry a deep pot bunker and hill front left of the green and let the backside slope funnel the ball onto the green. The direct shot to the visible part of the green will be treacherous as the right side of the green falls off steeply. A shot missed one yard right of the green will end up fifteen feet below the green surface elevation and twenty to thirty yards away by the time the ball stops rolling.
The signature hole though, might be the shortest one on the course. The par three sixteenth hole is spectacular in its setting, playing from tees up on a ridge down to a dramatic green out on a point overlooking McNeil Reservoir and with Long’s Peak and the Colorado Rocky Mountains as the backdrop. The main tee is 200 feet wide running the length of the clubhouse, and is positioned right up against the clubhouse patios. Combined with the 9,000-square foot green the hole will have an incredible variety of ways in which it can be set up. With no wind and a maximum length of about 150 yards, this downhill-playing hole won’t require much more than an eight or nine iron. The hole is named Center Stage, and players will need to embrace the moment here as they play to an audience on what will be a most memorable experience for them – it will be a lifetime memory for those players fortunate to make a hole-in-one here.
What was your design philosophy with TPC Colorado?
The design of the golf course focused on creating maximum fun and maximum interest for all players, fully engaging them emotionally in their golf round. Big, broad holes will provide a multitude of strategic options and different lines of play for all golfers to discover and consider. Tournament golfers will be challenged to control their tee shots on the fast, sloping fairways so that they can find preferred angles to the holes while avoiding the deep pot bunkers. Recreational golfers will appreciate the room that they are given to knock their ball around and still keep it in play as they enjoy the day with friends and family. They will also enjoy the flexibility of the course setup, as the various teeing areas provided on each hole will allow the course to be set up at just about any yardage from 4,157 yards up to 7,991 yards. The recreational or ‘bogey player’ should find the course very playable with multiple options at the shorter end of the yardage range.
This combination of highly strategic and completely playable golf holes will create a thoroughly enjoyable golfing experience for all. TPC Colorado will be notable for this enjoyable and thrilling golf experience, as well as the spectacular setting along the Front Range of the Colorado Rocky Mountains.
The bunkers on the course have been developed by Durabunker. GCA spoke to the company’s Rhydian Lewis about their work at TPC Colorado:
“Art explained to us that the ownership at TPC Colorado were big fans of the iconic sod wall bunker, but given the problematic nature of maintaining such bunkers, particularly in a climate of extremes such as Colorado, it was difficult to justify their inclusion in the design.
“Fortunately for us, Art got to see the synthetic sod wall bunkers we built at Tennessee National and immediately recognised the potential Durabunker had to bring the ownerships vision to life, while relieving the grounds staff of the traditional maintenance burdens associated with this style of bunker.
“The idea of successfully combining form and function with regard to bunker design and construction, is certainly one we feel Durabunker epitomises, particularly when in the hands of imaginative course architects. On visiting the site, we recognised the distinctly links feel to the golf course, particularly the holes that hugged the numerous lakes at the venue, and on further discussion with Art we all felt certain that Durabunker would complement the design intent beautifully. On seeing the progress since our initial site visit, we haven’t changed our minds and strongly believe that Durabunker has added considerably to the authenticity required to identify TPC Colorado as an inland links and positively impacted the visual definition as well as the character of the golf course.”
Lewis said that in terms of design detail, close attention was paid to ensuring ease of entry and egress from the bunkers, lowering back lips sufficiently for golfers and mechanical rakes to enter what in many respects are relatively deep hazards.
“We dished out bunker bases to create gathering areas and avoid the situation of balls coming to rest at the foot of quite severe bunker faces, though the 65 degree angle for we built at for greenside bunkers is 10 degrees shallower than similar links style bunkers at most championship venues in Europe,” he said.
“We also discussed the importance of diverting water flow around the bunker walls rather than behind them and Art ensured that the contouring of the surrounding landscape as well as the bunkers themselves aided this important design goal. It is evident that the contouring has maximised the shadowing effect and created some stunning definition to the landscape meaning the footprint of Durabunker stretches beyond the mere aesthetics and performance of the synthetic sod wall face itself to provide ground surface relief and a variation to the landscape. Form and function is indeed attainable, even with traditionally problematic sod wall bunkers.”