The first game of my trip to Colorado was at CommonGround Golf Course which is located in the town of Aurora. My buddy Fred from Philadelphia was with me on this trip, so once we met up at the airport we drove out to a hotel in Aurora so we would be near the golf course the next morning. A few hours later we were up and out the door for our 7:30am tee time that cost us all of $52 . . . yes, just $52, that is correct.
CommonGround Golf Course is a really interesting story that has intrigued me since I first learned of the project back in 2008 when the course was still in the construction phase. The overall intent of the project was to create a golf facility that would be accessible and affordable to all, hence the name CommonGround. From my perspective this is a great idea and it would be nice if there were more places like this across the country. I like the clever name they came up with to go along with the project too. As I understand the story, the course is jointly owned by the Men’s and Women’s Colorado Golf Associations who were able to acquire the land for little to nothing from a nearby Air Force base. Once they had the land they hired premiere golf course architect Tom Doak to mold the basically flat property into something interesting – all the while keeping within a budget of $4 million. The two associations had been saving money for years to fund this project and they needed to stay within their budget as they did not want to have to take a loan to do the project. Wow, imagine that, only spending the money you actually HAVE, what a novel concept in this day and age!
It turned out to be just a short drive from our hotel over to the course and once we arrived and checked in we hit a few balls on the range while we waited for our tee time. When 7:30 struck we headed to the tee and met up with the two guys that we had been paired up with. We had been hoping to get a little local knowledge from these guys, but unfortunately it was their first time playing the course as well.
It didn’t take long to see the Doak features coming out in the course. The 1st green was an interesting one with a significant drop from front to back. The photo below was taken from behind the green.
Below is a look at the approach into the 3rd green which is at the end of a lengthy par 5. I don’t know if it was intentional or not, but there is definitely a punchbowl quality to this green site. With the flag at the back all of us used the “backstop” and hit our approach shots just a touch long so that they would roll backwards towards the hole. It worked too as we had 4 birdie putts of less than 10 feet. Note the mounding along the left. This is not typical coming from a guy who is best known for his minimalist designs.
Here is a look at the green on the 7th hole which is another par 5. Looking at the surroundings beyond this hole gives a pretty good idea of the type of terrain Doak had to work with here . . . totally flat.
The photo below was taken from the 11th tee. I loved the look of bunkers on this hole. I wasn’t exactly sure what line to take, but that is part of the fun when playing a course for the first time. One thing we did learn here that held true for our other rounds in the Denver area is that the ball flies a MILE at the high elevation. This hole is a 515 yard par 5 and I had less than 200 yards into the green for my second shot. I can promise you I’m not hitting 300+ yard drives at courses closer to sea level. In addition to the thin air we got some extra yards from the roll out on the firm ground conditions.
I really liked the look on this 191 yard par 3. I love seeing the mountains as a backdrop way in the distance. This hole had a cool green too . . . which proved to be a regular theme at CommonGround.
A view of the approach into the 15th green which is a LONG par 4 of 478 yards. The bunkers on the left have quite a different look to them than what one would expect from Doak.
The below photo was taken from the 18th tee. This uphill par 5 requires the second shot to be hit to a blind landing area which is always interesting the first time around a course. We all safely hit our drives straight out towards the bunker on the right side of the fairway.
After we finished up Fred and I went inside to the little grill room where we had some lunch and watched a little bit of the U.S Amateur which was happening at The Country Club in Brookline Massachusetts. Coincidentally, it was one year ago to the day that the U.S. Amateur was taking place right here at CommonGround. When Cherry Hills Country Club hosted the previous year’s U.S. Amateur CommonGround served as the second course where some of the stroke play qualifying was held. Pretty cool coincidence that we were there exactly one year later.
Fred and I both really enjoyed CommonGround Golf Course. Considering what he had to work with Tom Doak made a fun and engaging golf course with lots of strategy and some really interesting greens. When you consider the price, it’s pretty tough to beat CommondGround. While the golf course is not likely to show up on the Top 100 lists anytime soon, that was never the mission of the project. They succeeded in doing exactly what they set out to do – create a golf course that is fun, interesting and well maintained where anyone can learn or enjoy the game . . . all for about $50. I think everyone involved with this project should be proud of what they’ve accomplished. Well done!