Poor Donald Ross. For decades since his death in 1948, Ross—and the spirit of Ross—has been forced to suffer the fate (and in some cases the indignity) of having his golf courses stripped, stretched, overhauled, burnished and otherwise bastardized by generation after generation of greens committee and architect.
Ross’s courses have probably seen more changes through the decades than any other architect’s, chiefly because there are so many of them. But in 2007 at least, from the great beyond, Ross was able to turn the table on one of his most notable editors.
Robert Trent Jones, the most popular architect for 30 years after Ross died, played a role in altering a number of Ross courses, most notably Oakland Hills Country Club outside of Detroit in preparation for the 1951 U.S. Open. Trent Jones no doubt made the host South Course there a more difficult tournament venue, but when he was done it didn’t look much like the course Ross had left behind.
Congressional Country Club’s Blue Course (site of the 2011 Open), Oak Hill Country Club’s East Course and Aronimink Golf Club are other important designs that were subjected to varying strokes of Trent Jones’ red pen. So was The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
In 1952, The Broadmoor hired Jones to expand the existing18 holes Ross had completed in 1918. To create what would become the new East Course, Jones routed nine new holes through an upper level of the property on the far (south) side of Cheyenne Mountain Boulevard and also personalized the look of nine of the lower Ross holes. And so it was for over 50 years that the renowned Broadmoor East Course—site of Jack Nicklaus’ first U.S. Amateur title in 1959, site of Annika Sorenstam’s U.S. Open victory in 1995 (the first of 72 LPGA Tour victories to follow)—while half Ross and half Trent Jones, bore the almost exclusive imprimatur of Trent Jones.
But in 2005, preparing to host the 2008 U.S. Senior Open (won by Eduardo Romero; the 2011 Women’s Open also returns in 2011), The Broadmoor shifted away from its status quo much like it did in 1952 and hired Ron Forse to revamp the look and playability of the entire course.
The club located old aerial photos of the course that showed a very different shaping to the bunkers than the curvaceous versions Trent Jones was known for and that had defined the East Course since in opened for play in 1956. Ross’s bunkers were geometrically shaped, slightly squared, and looked to have steep grass faces.
Forse, an architect based out of Pennsylvania known for his work restoring classic courses including many by Ross, began
transforming the bunkers and surrounding areas in the likeness of the original forms. Not just on the 1918 holes, either, but on Trent Jones holes as well. Yes, here at The Broadmoor, original Robert Trent Jones holes were being Rossified.
As the refurbished East Course reopened in 2007, you could almost hear the chuckles of Donald Ross whistling through the ponderosas.
The new old-style bunkering works unifies what are two very different sets of holes. The 1918 holes are arranged up, down and across a gentle slope that rises from the hotel to the foothills at the south. Across the road, the Trent Jones holes climb to higher elevations higher up the mountain while ascending and descending more abruptly. Trent Jones’ strategic assertiveness and design largesse are on display here with holes like the ninth, a sweeping par five with a water feature blocking the green, the majestic downhill 10th, and the virtually all-carry 240-yard par three 12th.
The Ross holes remain more nuanced, and two of the better ones are the shortest: the uphill par four second at just 347 yards from the rear tees, and the idyllic 170-yard fourth over a pond. Each features a severely tilted green and measure shots by precision rather than power.
Strengthened by Forse’s retro-inspired shaping, it works, arguably, better than it ever has, much like any other great course that starts in one place, moves into another, and then returns to the beginning.
What weren’t altered were the East Course’s greens, which are uncomplicated but swift, tilted and full up mysterious, subtle break. This is mountain golf, and being above the hole generally spells doom. In fact, cracking the code in the greens is almost the entire battle at The Broadmoor. Local wisdom says putts break away from Cheyenne Mountain, but that only gets you half way to total knowledge.
It’s a testament to Nicklaus’ putting that he won an Amateur here. Once the course crosses over onto rugged property—the meat of the course, although not necessarily the best holes—Trent Jones throws at the player a precession of holes that bend right to left (six of seven, not counting the par threes), opposite Nicklaus’ preferred ball flight.
The nine Ross holes Trent Jones didn’t touch are now the base holes for the West Course. Trent Jones returned again in 1964 and built another nine holes to compliment them, also across the road but even higher up the side of the mountain. The West Course gives the resort players a more rollicking, narrower warm-up for the big show, although par threes like the long ninth and eleventh, and the par five 18th, would qualify as major holes anywhere.
The third course, the Mountain Course, rounds out The Broadmoor lineup. Formerly known as the South Course and designed in 1976 by Arnold Palmer and Ed Seay, the course perennially battled maintenance and infrastructure issues.
In 2006 Nicklaus Design, with Jack Nicklaus II in the design lead, reconceived and rebuilt the course. In contrast with the East and West courses, which portray classical, early-century design influences, the Mountain course, playing well up into the foothills with the longest views on property, is thoroughly modern with a high degree of shaping, sculpted bunkering and the incorporation of native elements such as boulders, high plains grasses and scrub into the hole outlines.
With three very different courses, each excellent in their own category, The Broadmoor is one of the most complete and scenic golf resorts in the U.S. (East Course,91; West Course, 86)
One of America’s most historic hotels and resorts, and one of the grandest old clubs west of the Mississippi, The Broadmoor traces its roots to 1891 when it was originally built as a casino, and then later a boarding house. In 1918, two years after the Penrose family purchased the property, it began hosting guests as the Five-Star resort it is today.
The historic main building remains the centerpiece of the property though the resort has expanded exponentially outward from it through the decades. Today there are 593 rooms and 107 suites spread throughout the main building, plus the South and West Towers, as well as 44 new cottage rooms along the East Course’s 18th fairway. The expansive campus is like a small town, with walking trails, an impressive tennis complex, full-service spa, pools, a lake and a variety of retail shops.
Resort dining doesn’t get much better than The Broadmoor. In fact, the restaurants here have been setting the culinary standard throughout Colorado Springs since 1938. Most hotels would be happy to have one restaurant as good as the Tavern, a comfortable wood and burnished-brass outfitted room off the main lobby that’s been serving steak and seafood for over 70 years.
But it doesn’t stop there. Charles Court is one of the most favored destination restaurants in the region with a formal, upscale dining room showcasing local fare such as buffalo and a tremendous, deep wine list. Located on the top floor of the South Tower, the Penrose Room, opened in 1961, is sophisticated dining at its finest featuring prix fixe menus and entrée courses that include duck, venison, Colorado lamb and foie gras.
The Broadmoor’s newest venture is Summit, a modern brasserie-style restaurant that sources local and seasonal ingredients and lures diners’ attention with a glass-enclosed 14-foot wine tower. There are also fine breakfast, brunch and lunch restaurants in the two clubhouses, a wonderful lakefront dining room, several lobby bars, and a 19th-century themed saloon called the Golden Bee featuring live ragtime piano.