The 16th hole of TPC Colorado at Heron Lakes is taunting me. It’s asking me to play the hero’s role. The dramatic par 3—aptly named Center Stage—measures only 140 yards downhill to a sprawling, 9,000-square-foot, elevated green perched on a peninsula fronting McNeil Reservoir. In honesty, the layout offers plenty of safety. A conservative shot to the middle of the green (a section that also offers the most generous landing area front to back) is the prudent play and makes par a reasonable outcome.
But possible glory awaits those willing to hit their tee shots at the flagstick, which today is stoically positioned on a tiny right-hand sliver of the bent-grass green. The hole’s location, still in place from the final round of the Korn Ferry tour event that concluded the previous day, is tucked between two vast bunkers that guard the right edge of the putting surface and a deep pot bunker front and center that threatens to swallow tee shots that come up even a tiny bit short.
“There’s a sense of adventure out there,” golf course architect Art Schaupeter says of the 7,991-yard-long, par-72 layout that he designed. “There are a lot of neat and heroic shots that you can take on if you want to.”
The TPC Colorado at Heron Lakes is the newest addition to the TPC Network, a collective of 32 golf properties, each with a design capable of hosting tour-sponsored championships. When all phases of development are complete, this sprawling residential community in Berthoud (an hour’s drive north of downtown Denver) will feature nearly 1,200 residential units, a resort-style pool, resident beach club, lake club and marina, and more than 8 miles of regional biking and hiking trails.
“Our biggest distinguishing characteristic compared to other Colorado courses is our tie-in to the natural beauty of the terrain,” says the club’s general manager John Buser, referencing the property’s abundant views of the Front Range. “It’s a breathtaking background and the style of golf course design lends itself to 18 memorable golf holes.”
Many of those holes incorporate classic design elements that golfers and course architects have revered for centuries. The 238-yard, par-3 second, for example, features a massive, 11,500-square-foot green positioned at a left-to-right angle from the tee box and defined by a deep swale that dissects the putting surface. It’s a green design once made famous by the Biarritz Golf Club on the southwest coast of France, conceptualized by Willie Dunn Jr. in 1888.
While some TPC Network properties, like TPC Sawgrass, offer a traditional resort experience for the public, TPC Colorado at Heron Lakes is semi-private. A limited number of public tee times are available each day, but most of the community’s amenities will be reserved for members. Discerning travelers wishing to tee it up on Colorado’s sparkling new championship layout will be most at home at The Elizabeth Hotel, a boutique Autograph Collection property located about 17 miles north in Fort Collins.
Back on the 16th tee, I watch as my tee shot—a subtle draw—drifts just left of the flagstick. The ball hangs suspended above the green, dramatically highlighted by ominous storms clouds approaching from over the mountains in the distance. The scene is building to its climax, and just as I prepare for a hero’s welcome from my playing partners, I watch as my ball lands only a foot or two short, careening off the back embankment of the cavernous pot bunker and plummeting into the sand.
At least for today, the performance that unfolds at Center Stage is tragic, but happier endings seem destined to follow. “One of the bedrocks of this golf course is to put the golf in the player’s hands,” Schaupeter says. “There’s a lot of options out there, a lot of different ways you can approach these golf holes. If you take an adventurous spirit’s approach to the round, especially the first time, that’s the best tip I can give. The key is just to go out there and have fun.” tpc.com