American Society of Landscape Architects ASLA 2007 Professional Awards
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The new nine-hole golf course emerges from the native landscape, highlighting native grasses and natural rock outcroppings. Each hole is designed to accommodate players of all abilities with interesting risk-reward strategies from tee to green. (Photo: D.A. Horchner/DesignWorkshop)

The nine new holes take golfers through an elevation change of 400 feet, with eight holes playing downhill. The dramatic changes in elevation capture borrowed views and provide interesting prospect over the golf holes. (Photo: D.A. Horchner/DesignWorkshop)

The remodeled golf course incorporates the same risk-reward style and environmental sensitivity as the nine new holes. Each hole is punctuated with interesting character, shadow, and reveal and playing corridors that highlight the surrounding environment. (Photo: D.A. Horchner/DesignWorkshop)

The cart path for the golf course also serves as a trail system for the community, providing glimpses to the golf course and engagement with native vegetation and wildlife habitat. (Photo: D.A. Horchner/DesignWorkshop)

Every hole includes five or more tee boxes artistically placed in the native landscape, which accommodates players of all abilities. Each tee is crafted to emerge from the surrounding environment and provides different strategies from tee to green. (Photo: D.A. Horchner/DesignWorkshop)

All wastewater is treated and cleansed with the golf course. In lieu of conventional drainage, the course was graded to collect and filter all stormwater runoff through bio-filter swales that cleanse the water before it rejoins the Animas River. (Photo: D.A. Horchner/DesignWorkshop)

A hierarchy of constructed wetlands and swales collects and purifies water before it reaches existing wetlands and streams. Surplus stormwater is transferred into bio-filter detention basins, and any overflow passes into a bio-swale of native grasses over sand. (Photo: D.A. Horchner/DesignWorkshop)

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Glacier Club, Durango, Colorado
Design Workshop, Denver, Colorado

"Just beautiful--a great example of this type of project done well. Golf courses are a significant part of the practice and this could have broad environmental impact for the entire industry. We applaud the landscape architect's light hand."

— 2007 Professional Awards Jury Comments

Project Statement

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.

Special Factors

(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.

Project Resources

Owner’s representative:
Mal Dunlevie

Golf course contractor:
Golf Works, Inc.

Russell Engineering

Environmental engineering:
Sugnet and Associates

Golf course operator:
Troon Golf

Director of golf:
Patric Flinn

Golf course superintendent:
Mark Hanson

John Pomeroy


Preservation of wetlands and the addition of eight acres of constructed wetlands for a bio-filtration system were primary priorities of the planning and design of the new course and redesign of the existing course. (Photo: D.A. Horchner/DesignWorkshop)

Glacier ponds were preserved and highlighted throughout the golf course and the design preserved as much forest as possible, with sufficient clearing to create much needed fire-breaks and ample golf playing corridors to accommodate players of all abilities. (Photo: D.A. Horchner/DesignWorkshop)

The strategies of the golf holes are created by nearby native wetlands, steep mountain topography, and constructed features. Each hole blurs the edge from where golf ends and the native landscape begins creating unique risk-and-reward strategies. (Photo: D.A. Horchner/DesignWorkshop)

The course is positioned next to the steep rise of the Hermosa Cliffs, with views to the bluffs and mountain ridges. The borrowed views are carefully aligned to manipulate the visual playing characteristics of each hole. (Photo: D.A. Horchner/DesignWorkshop)

More than half the site is open lands, with 30 percent open space above and beyond the course itself. These areas are threaded with eight miles of trails that also connect to regional trail systems. (Photo: D.A. Horchner/DesignWorkshop)

The golf course was designed and constructed with native plant materials that fluctuate with the seasons to provide an aesthetically pleasing environment that protects the natural environment, cleanses stormwater runoff. and provides enjoyment for golfers and non-golfers alike. (Photo: D.A. Horchner/DesignWorkshop)

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