FEATURE: Aurora’s Top 18

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    A flotilla of ducks cruises across a small lake, creating gentle ripples in the water. Tall grass blows lazily in the breeze and smooth sheets of sand shine in the summer sun.

    This scene unfolds regularly below golfers teeing off on Hole 14 at Murphy Creek Golf Course, one of A surprising mix of water hazards, sand traps, thriving wildlife and man-made obstacles give Aurora Hills, Centre Hills, Fitzsimons, Meadow Hills, Murphy Creek, Saddle Rock and Springhill their own identities as courses, but complement each other as we assemble Aurora’s best 18 holes. A panel of head professionals and course officials helped us pick the best from the best for each hole around the city (e.g. the best hole No. 1, hole No. 2, etc.) to create an ideal loop.

    Rich Dierker (Springhill), Mickey Byrne (Saddle Rock), John Magnuson and Brian Brown (Meadow Hills), Caine Fitzgerald (Murphy Creek), Kevin Wilmes (Fitzsimons), Charlie Ray (Centre Hills) and Karin Rivale from the city’s golf department lent us expertise from round after round played on city courses to put together a track that measures a hefty 7,476 yards from the blue tees and plays to a par of 74 (37 on the front and back sides).DSC_7825-CMYK8

    Starting and ending at Meadow Hills — the nearly unanimous site of the best No. 1 and No. 18 holes in the loop — Aurora’s mythical top 18 has plenty for everybody among four holes at Murphy Creek and Springhill, three each at Aurora Hills and Saddle Rock and a pair at Meadow Hills and Fitzsimons.

    Seven par 5’s, some measuring more than 600 yards from the tips, should tantalize the big hitters, while masters of the short game get five par 3’s to chew on.

    You can’t set up one tee time for this round, but as you play around the city, make note of these holes and see if they are your favorites, too.

    Hole No. 1 — Meadow Hills, 453 yards, par 4

    The tone setter for the round of Aurora’s best holes comes at Meadow Hills, where No. 1 is lined on both sides by towering trees, which are beautiful, but pose plenty of problems if accuracy off the tee is a problem. Meadow Hills pro Brian Brown highlights the hole’s “intimidating length,” but a straight opening drive makes it possible to be on the green in two shots, leaving the chance for a long birdie or two-putt for par.

    Hole No. 2 — Springhill, 209 yards, par 3

    Aurora’s top 18 holes include five par 3’s in all, with the 209-yarder at Springhill — the longest — up first to test the short game. A fairly straightforward layout, which Centre Hills pro Charlie Ray advises employing a middle iron to handle, finishes on a big green that is trickier than it appears.

    Hole No. 3 — Murphy Creek, 577 yards, par 5

    Pull the big driver out of the bag at Murphy Creek, where the first of seven par 5’s in the round offers MurphyCreekNo.3an epic expanse of 640 yards from the black tees and ambience with a classic-style barn looming to the right of the fairway. Hitting your tee shot over the large bunker in the middle of the rolling fairway is key, but two more sand traps lurk over the crest of the hill to create problems. The hole finishes on an elevated green. It’s the type of hole that helped land Murphy Creek in the No. 10 spot on Golf.com’s 2012 list of best Public Golf Courses in Colorado.

    Hole No. 4 — Springhill, 530 yards, par 5

    Quickly back to Springhill, the round’s second-straight par 5 measures 530 yards — this course’s longest setup — and appeals to the nature lover and gambler in every player. The fairway narrows as it gets closer to the green and cuts between a pair of small lakes, offering potential trouble for those looking to hit the green in two or three shots. Risk and reward are all over.

    Hole No. 5 — Fitzsimons, 96 yards, par 3

    On the heels of back-to-back challenging par 5’s, relief arrives in the form of a 96-yard par 3. Short and straight, this is an early opportunity for an ace or birdie if you can handle your irons and stick a shot in between the three small bunkers in triangle formation around the green. Take a look at “Ike’s Tree,” named after former President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who frequented the course in the 1950s, on the next hole.

    Hole No. 6 — Saddle Rock, 568 yards, par 5

    Moving on from the shortest hole, Saddle Rock’s hole No. 6 measures 568 yards from the blue tees and nearly 600 from the blacks. Big drives can come off the significantly elevated tee box, but narrow fairways pose a threat to your score. Bunkers box the hole in on the left side for an extra challenge.

    AuroraHillsNo.7Hole No. 7 — Aurora Hills, 190 yards, par 3

    A back-to-back stretch at Aurora Hills opens with a par 3 that can be rewarding or draw the ire of motorists or pedestrians. The intriguing 190-yard hole runs parallel to Alameda Avenue, requiring a steady hand off the tee to avoid landing in the bunkers left of the fairway or hitting an unsuspecting car.

    Hole No. 8 — Aurora Hills, 482 yards, par 5AuroraHills#8Behind-1

    Following the par 3 at Aurora Hills, the subsequent par 5 is long, arrow-straight and “fun” in the words of Meadow Hills’ Brian Brown. Second shots get an extra boost from a fairway that slopes slightly downhill, which makes this a very birdie-friendly hole.

    Hole No. 9 — Murphy Creek, 311 yards, par 4

    To drive the green or not to drive the green, that is the question on hole No. 9 at Murphy Creek, the “classic risk-reward hole” in the words of Charlie Ray of Centre Hills. A straight drive needs to travel at least 220 yards to clear the junk below the green and a nice gentle slope from the top of the elevated green can pay off, but too much mustard puts it in the parking lot above. Drive the ball down the fairway for the more conservative approach, but beware of the two staggered bunkers in front of the green. A good chip from the sand is possible, but too much pace could carry the ball over the edge of the green.

     Hole No. 10 — Aurora Hills, 545 yards, par 5

    The third Aurora Hills selection in a four-hole span opens the back nine of Aurora’s top 18 with a challenge, as a winding 545-foot par 5 is lined with potential problems. Stay in bounds on your tee shot and there’s a massive green to aim at on the approach in.

    Hole No. 11 — Fitzsimons, 230 yards, par 3

    The longest par 3 on the Fitzsimons course is No. 11 at 230 yards — a great contrast to the 96-yarder back at No. 5 — but the odds of putting your tee shot on the green are strong with an unfettered fairway ahead. Avoid the bunker on the left and enjoy the boost the hole could give to your scorecard.

     Hole No. 12 — Murphy Creek, 469 yards, par 4

    DSC_4152-CMYK12One of the most picturesque holes in the bunch, No. 12 at Murphy Creek features an old windmill down the right side of the fairway, just on the other side of a significant bunker. Cows roam in a field to the left, where trouble awaits tee shots that drift. Access to the green is tight so find an iron you’re comfortable with on the way in.

     

    Hole No. 13 — Springhill, 529 yards, par 5

    This par-5 hole at Springhill has a lot going on in its 529 yards. John Magnuson of Meadow Hills enjoys this hole because of its plentiful obstacles, abundant trees, a double dogleg, a smattering of bunkers and fairly small green to aim at.

     Hole No. 14 — Murphy Creek, 383 yards, par 4

    MurphyCreekNo.14Wildlife, water and a slew of bunkers make this par 4 at Murphy Creek a treat for the senses, as well as skills. A significant lake often teaming with ducks, herons and other waterfowl unfolds beneath the elevated tee box, with a zigzagging shoreline alongside the fairway to the right. Second shots carry plenty of risk as two tight bunkers guard narrow access to the green

    Hole No. 15 — Springhill, 420 yards, par 4

    The most variable hole layout at Springhill starts with a blind tee shot that rewards accuracy to stay in a good spot on the fairway. Depending on the lie, second shots can be extremely tricky if you hope to reach the green of this par 4, which sits high and to the left.

     Hole No. 16 — Saddle Rock, 204 yards, par 3SaddleRock#16ForwardTee

    This par 3 at Saddle Rock is as visually appealing as they come, boasting an elevated tee with water and long grass to the left, flanked by a pair of strategically placed bunkers. Keeping the tee shot right gives a great chance for an ace or makeable short putt.

     

    Hole No. 17 — Saddle Rock, 568 yards, par 5SaddleRock#17

    The second 568-yard hole at Saddle Rock is the last par 5 of Aurora’s top 18 and offers a wide variety of terrain. When the pin is placed high on the green, it’s tempting to attack it straight, but it requires navigating an undulating fairway with plenty of chances to go out of bounds. A good reading on the variable green is vital.

    MurphyCreek#18ApproachHole No. 18 — Meadow Hills, 401 yards, par 4

    Aurora’s top 18 closes where it opened. This par 4 is tricky at the finish, especially with a very tight green challenging that is ringed by backyards and homes. Work a tee shot from right to left — “challenging” according to Saddle Rock’s Mickey Byrne — and drop your second shot on the tiered green, not too high or too low, and your round could be made.

     

    CITY OF AURORA GOLF COURSES

    Aurora Hills Golf Course 50 S. Peoria St.Pro Shop: 303-739-1550 Head Golf Professional: Cary Callihan, PGA

    Centre Hills Golf Course 16300 E. CentreTech Parkway Pro Shop:303-326-8674 Head Golf Professional: Charlie Ray, PGA

    Fitzsimons Golf Course 2323 Scranton St.Pro Shop: 303-364-8125 Head Golf Professional: Dan O’Shaughnessy, PGA

    Meadow Hills Golf Course 3609 S. Dawson St.Pro Shop:303-690-2500Head Golf Professional: Brian Brown, PGA

    Murphy Creek Golf Course 1700 S. Old Tom Morris RoadPro Shop:303-361-7300Head Golf Professional: Leslie Core-Drevecky, PGA

    Saddle Rock Golf Course 21705 E. Arapahoe RoadPro Shop:303-699-3939Head Golf Professional: Mickey Byrne, PGA

    Springhill Golf Course 800 N. Telluride St.Pro Shop:303-739-6854Head Golf Professional: Dick DierkerBook tee times onlineon the Golf page atwww.auroragov.org