|No. 9 at The Broadmoor comes up on the clubhouse, but the next stretch of holes are played under a mountainous backdrop. (USGA Museum)
The East Course at The Broadmoor has hosted many prestigious championships, professional and amateur, since golf architectural legend Donald Ross designed the layout in 1918 on one of his rare trips west.
The host course for the 2008 U.S. Senior Open, much like the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines or next year’s U.S. Open at Bethpage Black, is a layout open to anyone who plucks down a green fee.
While the world’s best senior professional and amateur golfers will compete on the venue July 31-Aug. 3, the rest of the year the course hosts players of varying abilities.
My objective was to play a quick round on the par-72 East Course (par will be 70 for the Senior Open) and get a glimpse of the setup for the venue’s first-ever Senior Open.
It only took one drive on the fairly benign looking par-4 first hole, a mere 381 yards from the middle tees (429 for the Open) to realize the 50-and-older crowd could be in for quite a struggle. My opening drive only went slightly right, just off the fairway, but an extended family search failed to produce the ball in the fast-growing rough.
At this point, my thoughts turned to the words of Broadmoor Director of Golf Russ Miller. He greeted me on the expansive veranda before the sunny mid-morning round and said the course was in a fevered grow-in mode. His advice: A straight driver and a good putter should have little trouble on the course.
As our futile opening-hole search proved, I wasn’t that straight of a driver, and unless my younger brother was deliberately standing on my ball, the USGA-mandated graduated rough starting at 1½ inches and growing to 4½ for the secondary primary cut was working quite well.
A heroic recovery from the rough only led to a three-putt double-bogey 6, which led me to believe that I didn’t fulfill Miller’s second East Course tip either – my putting wasn’t up to snuff on these fast poa annua greens.
But marching to the second hole, an equally long and dangerous par 4, framed by the majestic Front Range Mountains and the cool, blue Colorado sky, I started thinking maybe there was some East Course magic weighing me down.
After all, it was Ross, the legendary architect from Dornoch, Scotland, designer of famed Pinehurst No. 2 and 412 other U.S. courses but only a handful west of the Mississippi, who journeyed by train in 1917 to design this mountain-encircled green grass temple.
The course opened a year later and was soon recognized by many publications and critics as the best and most scenic in the Rocky Mountain Region.
Over the years, thousands of golfers have attacked Ross’ Colorado golfing conundrum with equal amounts of vigor, fear and appreciation.
Dozens of major amateur events have been contested here as well. The East Course - there is also a West and Mountain layout - first burst into national prominence at the 1959 U.S. Amateur, where a 19-year-old, crew-cut Ohio State student named Jack Nicklaus knocked off defending champion Charlie Coe in the 36-hole final.
Another U.S. Amateur followed in 1967, won by current Champions Tour player Bob Dickson when the championship was waged at stroke play. In 1982, Juli Inkster won the third of her three consecutive U.S. Women’s Amateur titles.
The professionals joined Broadmoor lore in 1995 when Annika Sorenstam made the U.S. Women’s Open title her first professional victory.
While the Senior Open makes its first visit in 2008, another Women’s Open is set for 2011.
The East Course, which also has a few holes designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr., offers water hazards on nearly half of the holes, and some of my shots found a home during the round. Some of Ross’ trademark crowned greens are another key design feature.
After the first six holes open up near the clubhouse and massive resort hotel, the next three and much of the second nine are played in the secluded mountain stretch of the course, where the hotel and homes fade away, only to be replaced by the solitude of high-altitude golf at its best.
An old-fashioned halfway house is situated not far from the green at the lengthy par-5 ninth hole. From the outdoor patio, views of the mountains and the Colorado Springs skyline are a nice bonus before heading to the 10th tee and departing back down toward the clubhouse.
It’s been said that the thin mountain air can add 10 percent to your distance and that’s certainly needed on the second nine, which is more than a 100 yards longer than the opening nine holes.
Several of the holes feature elevated teeing grounds where the ball seems to hang in the sky forever, highlighted against the dramatic backdrop. The tight par-4 18th hole, the final Ross challenge, is a dogleg-right with a large pond fronting the elongated green.
During the lead-up to the Senior Open, Miller has talked to players on a daily basis who say the East Course is one of the toughest layouts they have played in a long time. But all of them have enjoyed every minute spent on the course, an agreeable sentiment following our round.
It’s going to be fun to see what the Senior Open competitors can accomplish at the end of the month.
And for those planning a visit, please see if you can find my drive off the first fairway. Trust me, it’s lying there somewhere.
Art Stricklin is a freelance writer whose work as previously appeared in www.usga.org.