This is the 2nd of a series of 3 reviews of golf courses designed by my new buddy Jim Engh. I will no doubt be reviewing more than a total of 3 Engh courses in the future but these are ones I evaluated on my recent Colorado trip.
Fossil Trace – The History
What a cool name for a golf course. Fossil Trace, located in Golden Colorado is on some very historic Earth. The name Fossil Trace comes from the great find of fossils found on the course. There are various fossils ranging from 64 million year old Triceratops footprints to palm fronds.
Behind a great rock wall left of the 12th green many of the fossils are on display. Once you are done recording a birdie on #12 like I did, you can go look at some Triceratops foot prints.
The fossils aren’t the only history lying under the plush fairways of Fossil Trace. Back in the late 1800’s this piece of land was a clay quarry. Many holes have remnants of the old clay mining operation. Several holes have very cool and rustic mining equipment. The first hole (above) has an old mining smelter chimney which Jim Engh liked so much he left it right in the middle of the fairway. The old mining tractors parked near many of the holes add a very unique look and feel to the course.
Jim Engh did a great job utilizing the existing terrain at Fossil Trace. There are some amazing holes which vary greatly between big elevation changes, tight rock canyons, rock formations, wide open and tree lined holes.
Most of the tees are target type tees. You have a small teeing area and then a rough, non grassy area to clear before you reach the fairway or the green. The fairways for the most part are fairly wide. If you do manage to miss them however, you may never see that ball again as there are many clay areas just off the fairway.
Many of the holes at FT give the player several choices of how they can be played. There are many risk/reward opportunities. #10 is a very short par 4 which a bomber could try to drive the green. The reward is a possible eagle putt on a par 4. The risk, which I know all too well, is carrying the tee shot 300 over water. Ahem… I’ll tee off with a 5 iron next time and save myself a sleeve of balls and about 5 strokes.
The terrain allows for some fairly crazy happenings on the course. On the 585 yard par 5 12th, I somehow hit a 3-wood onto the green after a 285 yard drive. That’s a 300 yard 3-wood, mainly due to the slope of the fairway down to the punchbowl green.
As mentioned in my previous course review on Red Hawk Ridge, Fossil has many of the Jim Engh signature “muscle bunkers.” These are jagged, teeth shaped bunkers with very steep walls. I did hit several shots that looked like they’d make it to the green but the big teeth of those muscle bunkers ate up my shots.
The pro shop at FT is not extremely big, especially given the fact that they serviced about 40,000 rounds of golf last year. A little bigger retail area could make them more dough.
The cafe is adequate and the food is great. If you get a wild hair while hanging around the club house and cafe, you can look at some fossils and even have your picture taken next to a Triceratops skull.
Check out this list of awards. Not bad for a course barely 3 years old.
2nd Best New Affordable Golf Course in the US
Golf Digest 2003
Top 10 New Courses You Can Play in the US
Golf Magazine 2003
Golf Development of the Year Runner Up
Golf, Inc. Magazine 2003
Top Public Access Courses by State
Best Course in Colorado under $50
Colorado Golf Magazine 2004, 2005
Best Opening Hole in Colorado
Colorado Avid Golfer 2003, 2004, 2005
Best Course to Bring Out-of-Staters
Colorado Avid Golfer 2003 Staff Pick
Colorado Avid Golfer 2005 RMGWA Pick
2004 Best Golf Course in Denver
Best Course in Colorado under $50
Avid Golfer Magazine 2004
The “Ultimate 18” in Denver – Holes #4 and #12
Fox Sports Net 2004
Overall, playing the course was quite enjoyable. If you get a chance to play in the Denver area, you must book a tee time at Fossil Trace.
The course does go over the line of what I would call “traditional” design to a more somewhat experimental realm. There are greens with huge tiers, and I mean huge. Putting on one of those tiers would result in a 200 on the stimp meter downhill and 6 inches on the stimp uphill.
Jim Engh seems to like punch bowl greens and there are plenty here. Many approach shots which might be slightly off can get very favorable bounces onto the green. For amateurs I can see this feature adding fun because they may get an unexpected GIR, but I’m not about rewarding errant shots.
There are some spectacular holes at FT like the par 5 12th fossil hole. The fairway has huge rock spires jetting up like rocks you’d see while boating at Lake Powell. Yet along with the spectacular holes are some holes I’d call the “oops we ran out of real estate” holes. The prime example is the 16th, a par 3. Though the score card says the hole is 160 yards, practically all the tee locations that were available maxed out at 100 yards.
Course Rating and Slope
There are 75 pictures in the Hooked On Golf Blog Fossil Trace photo gallery.