We’ve been here before under the topic extreme golf, but merely touched on the subject. Time to check out some more extreme golf courses and in this case we are going for elevation… the highest.
We know La Paz in Bolivia is the highest golf course in the world at 10,800 ft/3,292m (follow the link to the previous article) but it only holds that illustrious title because Tuctu in Peru is no longer operative. At 14,335 feet (4,369m) above sea level Tuctu was certainly the highest, but sadly it has been abandoned. Built by the British as they traveled the Andes, Tuctu was a rudimentary nine-hole course, but at such an altitude it would not have been surprising to see a sign there saying “for acclimatised golfers only”. Remember that severe altitude sickness can kick in at 3,600m. Tucto was abandoned in the ’90s and is now completely overgrown with dense bush and vegetation. You would not know that a golf course had once been there.
There was a course in the Himalayas built by the Indian Army at 11,000 ft (3,353m). It was a rough-cut nine-hole event but it too is no longer in playing condition.
Then there’s the contested Gulmarg Golf Course in the mountainous and war-torn region of Jammu & Kashmir. The land lies between India and Pakistan and the course is in a terrible state and is nearing closure. Interestingly there is conflicting information as to its altitude – 9,000ft (2,743m) or 7,000 ft (2,134m). .. that’s quite a difference but there is no way to check it as the region is firmly closed to adventurous golfers. Dodging bullets would certainly add an extreme element to the game. In fact, according to Faisal Ahmed, a reporter for The News-Times India, “Gulmarg is a living – no a dying – witness to the tragic reality of Kashmir.”
So what does that leave us with? La Paz we’ve already discussed. So what else is there above 9,000 ft (2,743m)?
Quite a lot actually.
- Jade Dragon Snow Mountain Golf Course, Yunnan Province, China – elev. 10,000 ft (3,048m)
- Copper Creek Golf Club, Copper Mountain, Colorado, U.S.A – elev. 9,700 ft (2,957m)
- Mt. Massive Golf Course, Leadville, Colorado, U.S.A – elev. 9,680 ft (2,950m)
- Telluride Golf Club, Telluride, Colorado, U.S.A – elev. 9,500 ft (2,896m)
- Breckenridge Golf Club, Breckenridge, Colorado, U.S.A – elev. 9,324 ft (2,842m)
- The Lodge Golf Course, Cloudcroft, New Mexico, U.S.A – elev. 9,200 ft (2,804m)
… America having a disproportionately unfair advantage on the rest of the world!
Situated in Gan Haizi at the foot of the Snow Mountain of Jade Dragon, the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain Golf Course is one of the world’s longest golf courses, and, thanks to its elevation of 3,048m, everyone hits the ball almost 20% further! It is a superb 18 hole golf course and one in which it is adviseable to book ahead for a game. It has some rules and regulations that are likely to drive you demented as they bear no relation to anyone else’s rules – but the course is world class and in a truly stunning location.
Copper Creek Golf Club in Colorado is only open between 1st June and 30th September. The venerable Pete and Perry Dye designed this course and have cleverly incorporated all the natural features in this mix between links and mountain style holes. It’s not a long course but it’s tricky. However, it is walker friendly so long as you haven’t come straight from sea level. The first 9 holes wind through spectacular alpine features amongst pines, lakes and streams leading onto rolling emerald greens. The last 9 are quite different as the fairways cut through forest and the straggling remains of an old mining town. The mountains of Ten Mile Range provide spectacular scenery throughout. As with the Jade Dragon course you will find that your ball literally flies through the air – very satisfying. Having clearly stated that the course is only open for a few months of the year this is not strictly true – during the winter months, die-hard golfers play on the snow with coloured golf balls.
Copper Creek Golf Course
Originally established in 1939, Mount Massive Golf Course sits at the base of two of Colorado’s highest mountains, Mt. Elbert and Mt. Massive. It was, at that time, the highest course in America, but is now just topped by Copper Creek. It is built in an extremely scenic valley that is home to an abundance of wildlife. The natural rough, a combination of sagebrush and wildflowers, is very fragile at this altitude, so carts are not permitted in the rough. In September the frost needs to melt before players are allowed on the course, so starting tee times vary between 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Be patient.
It’s a bit of a toss-up as to which course is the higher – Copper Creek or Mount Massive. Mount Massive, at 9,680ft, claims that it is, but although the Copper Creek Golf Club is at 9,500ft, parts of the course are at 9,700ft…. your choice then as to which is the highest! In winter, at Mount Massive, they get up to high jinks on the golf course…
Telluride Golf Club at Telluride, Colorado sits at 9,500ft. This course has stunning views of Wilson Peak, Mount Wilson, and other jagged peaks which are liable to distract you at every swing. It is surrounded by the highest concentration of 14,000 foot mountains in the United States and you will be equally challenged every step of its 6,574 yards and 18 holes as to whether you keep your eye on the ball or on the spectacular views. That old golfing adage “keep your head down and keep it still” will be almost impossible to follow. Because of its altitude you will get 15% more distance which might compensate for your lack of concentration.
Breckenridge is just down the road from Copper Creek and not much lower in altitude – we’re splitting pins over about 100m. Designed by Jack Nicklaus, this beautiful 27-hole course has a great combination of variety and views and is frequented not only by keen golfers but by bear, beavers and elk. It is for this reason that each nine holes is named after one of them. As with Copper Creek the elevation will be a challenge for anyone coming from sea level.
Breckenridge Golf Course
And finally The Lodge Golf Course in New Mexico is the last course over 9,000ft in North America. Originally constructed in 1899 by the Alamogordo and Sacramento Mountain Railway as a by-product of the railroad’s search for timber and railway ties, the resort of Cloudcroft became an immediate success as a mountain retreat and a welcome reprieve from the heat of Texas. The 9-hole Golf Course was built at the same time and is one of the highest and most unique courses in North America. It is governed by the Scottish tradition of playing different tees and separate flags on each hole which, when played twice, becomes a challenging 18-hole round.
The Lodge Golf Course, Cloudcroft, New Mexico
That’s it… the 6 highest golf courses in the world… after La Paz.