Glacier Club’s new and revised courses
create a place of play that exists in harmony with its
wider setting. Most courses do not base their design
on environmental needs nor plan for an operations system
that will nurture the ecology of the course over the
long term. Glacier Club was designed as a “green”
course and uses a unique blending of disciplines that
blurs the edges between landscape architecture, planning,
and golf course design.
Purpose of Project
In order to reverse an economic decline, the new owners
of the existing Tamarron golf resort wanted to add 18
new holes and update the existing 18, as well as remodel
the clubhouse and add an array of other amenities and
accommodations. Capitalizing on a wide spectrum of skills
and “green” practices from within the firm,
the design team worked to create a compelling, nationally
recognized, cost-effective and environmentally friendly
golf course that respects the land, uses innovative
storm water management, and engages the golfer through
visual perception manipulation techniques.
The expansion and redesign of this true
mountain golf course went to extraordinary lengths to
preserve the mountain environment while using the undulating,
rocky topography of the San Juan Mountains to create
engaging risk-and-reward golfing strategies that would
earn it national recognition.
Situated in the San Juan Mountains of
southwestern Colorado, the Tamarron resort was masterminded
by golf-course builders Stan and Brent Wadsworth and
designed by Arthur Hills in the early 1970s. The setting
features picture postcard views in every direction,
but over the years, the facilities, including the irrigation
system, cart path, condominiums, lodge, and the course
itself, had deteriorated. The resort had changed hands
many times, but no owner had the necessary resources
for restoration and it began losing substantial revenue.
In late 2001, Tamarron was purchased by new owners,
who decided to rename it, add a new private nine-hole
golf course, re-design the old course and master plan
an array of new accommodations in a renamed facility.
Most so-called mountain courses are actually
in valleys at the base of mountains. Tamarron’s
original 18 holes were a true mountain course, with
the obstacles typical of that terrain. Only 300 acres
of the 750-acre site were originally used for the golf
course and condominiums, leaving a large parcel at the
back of the property that was steep, rocky, and heavily
forested, with narrow meadows and abundant wetlands.
Many stretches had no topsoil at all.
The project site itself was not at all
domesticated. Concerned that layering in a golf course
could soften the dramatic experience of the site too
deeply, the designers worked to let the land show through.
They fit the golf course into the vernacular of the
region, letting the terrain and its ecosystem guide
the design. Their approach was holistic, balancing the
site’s uses, minimizing the removal of vegetation,
preserving as much of the site’s forests as possible,
but clearing just enough to create fire breaks and a
playable golf corridor, using native grasses outside
the fairways and working hard to save more than 43 acres
of wetlands. Ultimately, less than a third of an acre
of wetlands was disturbed in the making of the course.
For both environmental and aesthetic reasons,
the designers rejected conventional stormwater management
systems of culverts and piping. Instead, they configured
irrigation with reclaimed water and structured the entire
course with an underlayment of 8 inches of sand and
a natural filtration system of bio-filter swales and
constructed wetlands. The design uses these to create
a highly advanced system for water conservation, irrigation,
and drainage, purifying the water that comes off the
course before it enters the Las Animas River.
The careful fitting of the course to its
alpine context gives golfers an authentic experience
of playing in rugged mountain terrain. The generous
landing areas are flanked by conifer-lined fairways
and the existing topography enhances the risk-reward
strategies for each hole, many of which are in close
proximity to wetlands. The course offers scenic views
to Missionary Ridge to the east and south, the Hermosa
Cliffs to the west and the Needles Range and Engineer’s
Peak to the north.
The master plan for The Glacier Club,
which sited parcels for town homes, single-family lots,
tennis courts, and swimming facilities, also incorporated
more than 8 miles of trails for hiking and mountain-biking.
These weave through the canyons, golf course, and along
the ridgelines of the site and connect to extensive
trails on adjacent Bureau of Land Management lands.
In addition to creating the new course and overhauling
the existing 18 holes, the team planned for the remodel
of the existing 150-room lodge, including the addition
of a new restaurant and conference facilities and planned
and programmed the new golf course.
Opened in July 2004, the new par-35 Glacier
Nine is 3,583 yards long and takes the golfer through
an elevation change of 400 feet. The designers worked
to infuse the existing course with the character of
the new one. The courses all feature five sets of tee
boxes to accommodate players of all abilities. The year
it opened, it was named one of America’s Best
Top 100 Resort Courses by Golfweek magazine
and earned a rating of 4½ stars (out of 5) in
Places to Play from Golf Digest.
The design of The Glacier Club pushes
the envelope in golf course design. The combination
of the firm’s long-time “green” practices,
profound expertise in landscape architecture, and acclaimed
golf design sets a new standard for how golf courses
can be built and nurture the land.
Role of the Landscape Architect
The submitter led the project and was responsible for
golf course planning and design, clubhouse planning
and landscape architecture, resort planning (design
and landscape architecture), and community planning
(design and landscape architecture). Sub-consultants
were responsible for golf course irrigation, civil engineering,
environmental engineering, clubhouse design, golf course
construction, and golf course management.
(1) Ultimately, the design disturbed
less than one-third acre of the site’s existing
wetlands and added 8 acres of new constructed wetlands.
(2) Over 50 percent of the 450-acre parcel was set
aside as open space and golf course. Above and beyond
the golf course itself, over 30 percent of the land
is common open space that is threaded with trails.
(3) The building of the course benefited the land
by opening up wildlife migration corridors, creating
firebreaks to slow the progress of forest fires, and
clearing out underbrush that would fuel fires.
(4) Course maintenance monitors beetle kill in coniferous
trees, stopping the spread of it to nearby forests.
(5) The course was sited to buffer and protect wetlands
while framing views to the San Juan Mountains.
(6) Grading was minimized to allow natural features
to dictate the character and strategy of each hole.
(7) The design and routing strategy brought the project
in $500,000 under budget.
(8) On the existing course, failing infrastructure
was replaced, two holes were reconstructed and 64
bunkers were reshaped to fit that course to the strategy
and playability of the new course.
(9) The design uses rock outcroppings, native grasses,
willows, ponderosa pines and gambel oaks to add drama
and an array of strategic playing routes to the course.
(10) Visual perception techniques, based on the proximity
of wetlands, native grasses, and long-distance scenic
views, make the course appear more difficult than
it actually plays.
Golf course contractor:
Golf Works, Inc.
Sugnet and Associates
Director of golf:
Golf course superintendent: