By David R. Holland –
A new golf course opened last summer on the northern Colorado I-25 corridor heading to Cheyenne. And, with distinctive agricultural landscaping, perhaps it’s like no other you have ever seen. RainDance National Resort & Golf in Windsor pays homage to farming and will have your head spinning like a “rotary hoe” with the sightings of farming artifacts at every turn.
A silo Country Store complex is the pro shop; weathered fence posts serve as signage; and a dust-bowl era 1932 Ford Model A pickup can be seen on the way to the first tee.
A dust-bowl era 1932 Ford Model A pickup can be seen in the Funk Yard driving range. Photo courtesy of Chris Wheeler Photography.
One other exclusive RainDance Golf Resort fact: This is North America’s longest course at 8,463 yards.
Martin Lind, the RainDance master-planned community developer, grew up here. Four generations of his family worked sweet corn, wheat and sugar beet fields; endured grueling Depression hard times; and eventually redirected the farmland to residential, commercial, industrial developments and golf.
The rustic feel of farming history is apparent in rotary hoe cultivator tee markers, and a John Deere 45 combine is positioned behind the 11th green, serving as an aiming point for uphill approach shots.
But even more fun is the “Funk Yard” double-sided practice range, named after one of the course’s designers, PGA Tour player Fred Funk. After watching golfers at Topgolf, Lind realized their biggest joy was to aim at stuff.
So, farming “stuff” began to appear inside the corridors of the practice/driving range for golfers to aim at. Besides an antique truck and tractor, Lind had three giant dead cottonwoods dug up from the Cache la Poudre’s banks and “planted” on the range.
Since the project was more than a decade in the making, Lind had time to collect the vintage farm equipment and relics. Sure, golf courses have been developed on farmland before, but never one this creative and entertaining.
FROM A DREAM TO RAINDANCE GOLF
When the 2008 recession hit, Lind said he was going broke fast, dimming his vision to create more communities where people could stay close to home and play and work. The financial institutions weren’t cooperating, but he discovered if he had a jet, he could borrow against it.
It was 11 years ago that a meeting between Lind and Funk started the RainDance dream. Funk was looking to unload his jet since paydays on the
Champions Tour were not as hefty as when he played on the PGA Tour.
Funk and Lind had an instant connection and talked about creating a new golf course on 300 acres of land with 20– to 30–foot–deep, rugged arroyos that flow down to the Cache la Poudre River some 55 miles north of Denver.
Arroyos and greens are a striking contrast. Photo courtesy of Chris Wheeler Photography.
Lind did have experience after building Pelican Lakes Resort & Golf, a 27-hole golf community in 1999. He purchased more land over 36 years and founded The Water Valley Company, but the recession was a hindrance that had to be overcome.
“I asked Fred if he had ever designed a golf course,” Lind said. “Fred said no but it was on his bucket list, and he had a million ideas.” Funk teamed up with Harrison Minchew, a 37-year member of the American Society of Golf Course Architects. Minchew had spent 26 years with Arnold Palmer Design.
GOLF COURSE LAND FLOWS FROM TOP TO RIVER BOTTOM
The RainDance first tee points directly at Longs Peak, and that was no accident.
“The land demands ‘big,’” Funk said. “There are big fairways, big greens and big bunkers, and right out of the gate we’re starting at the top of the property aiming the tee, the fairway and the green at 14,259- foot Longs Peak. That’s part of why it was just a perfect property to become one of the best locations anywhere.”
“It’s an amazing setting with the river and the riparian area allowing all the wildlife to play and have safe harbor in these arroyos that have been here for thousands of years,” Lind said. “I think it is a fun course for the novice but challenging also for professional golfers.”
The distinctive agricultural landscaping is perhaps like no other you have ever seen. Photo courtesy of Chris Wheeler Photography.
Lind also loves that at the high point you are in this very arid terrain with prickly-pear cactus, but when you get down to the bottom of the golf course (a 225-foot elevation change) in the river bottom, you have a tee box next to the 100-year-old cottonwoods and wetlands of the Cache la Poudre River.
Minchew said he had never worked with arroyos like at RainDance Golf. “When you have huge arroyos, native grasses and vegetation, those are features that give an architect an extraordinary opportunity for a great golf course,” Minchew said.
THE FIREPIT, G.O.A.T. RANCH, AND HOEDOWN HILL
The Firepit is where views of holes 4, 7, 8 and 18 open up for fellowship and stargazing. It’s a great location for post-round discussions and relaxing.
But the G.O.A.T. Ranch is where one can practice or bring the family for enjoyment. “That’s Colorado’s largest green (61,500 square feet) right there,” Lind said. “We think it is a fun place for the whole family to spend time and enjoy friends.”
Lind said Minchew designed the 9th green into the G.O.A.T. Ranch. The mammoth green is shaped like a triangle and has six bunkers. One can also use the complex as a par 3, hitting shots to it from the first and second tees (measuring up to 160 yards).
Then there’s Hoedown Hill, a 12-acre plot adjacent to the silo Country Store pro shop that is the highest point in Windsor and is scheduled for bunny slope skiing, tubing and sledding, and a proposed hotel.
There’s 120 feet of elevation from the top to the bottom of Hoedown Hill and the sledding portion is nearly 1,100 feet in length.
Summer activities of hiking and mountain biking can be launched from here with zip lining proposed for the future. And concerts can be held here year-round.
The RainDance Roadhouse, a BBQ food truck, is open during your round of golf. A clubhouse is in the planning stages and might be placed in an area above the 18th green, and cabins or glamping opportunities are possible in the future.
LIVING IN A RAINDANCE COMMUNITY
The RainDance master-planned community, which is served by electric cooperative Poudre Valley REA, also wants its residents to remember that the land’s farming heritage — from summer to harvest — and the amenities are as cool as Colorado evenings. Community gardens and demonstration farms will be part of the grounds.
Ted’s Sweetwater Grill with views of The Covered Bridge and the Rocky Mountains west, is a neighborhood spot for food and drinks without having to leave the community.
The 1.5-acre RainDance River Resort is just a portion of the 13-acre RainDance Park and includes a day at the pool or a picnic on the large grass lawn in RainDance Park.
The RainDance River Resort is Northern Colorado’s largest water park right in the community. It includes a lazy river, splash pad, waterslide, lap lanes and play pool. Concessions and weekly food trucks will also be here.
RAINDANCE’S PLACE IN NEW COURSE HISTORY
“Just think about it,” Lind said during the grand opening ceremonies. “How many courses do you know of opening in the past 20 years? Not many.”
In Colorado, a renovated City Park Golf Course opened a couple of years ago in Denver along with TPC Colorado in 2018 in Berthoud. Flying Horse Ranch in Colorado Springs opened its North Course in 2019.
The Oakwood Land Company announced in 2022 that it purchased Kings Point, the 907-acre property in southeast Aurora. The community will have approximately 1,700 homes as well as a PGA-level golf course and country club on the site, located at E-470 and Parker Road.
Another new project called Rodeo Dunes will be in the prairie dunes around Roggen, Colorado, just an hour northeast from downtown Denver. The 36-hole golf resort will be part of the Keiser family portfolio. Mike Sr. developed must-play complexes of Bandon Dunes and Sand Valley. Sons Michael and Chris Keiser will head up this destination resort.
So, it seems the 2008 recession is now in the rearview mirror.
Back to that longest course in North America tagline. Longest in the world is Dragon Snow Mountain Golf Club in Lijiang, China, at 8,548 yards. In Colorado, Antler Creek in Falcon is 8,058 yards. The Korn Ferry Tour’s TPC Colorado Championship at Heron Lakes plays at 7,991 yards.
Other USA qualifiers? That’s The International Golf Club’s Pines Course in Bolton, Massachusetts (8,325 yards), Ross Bridge in Hoover, Alabama (8,191), and the Pete Dye Course at French Link Resort in Indiana (8,102).
“Harrison Minchew and Fred Funk did a wonderful job incorporating the arroyos and other native features into the design to create a great variety of holes that are equal parts challenging, stunning and fun,” said Allan Long, Director of Event Services at The Broadmoor World Arena.
“The first thing that caught my eye at RainDance National was the dramatic property. The course is big in scale and sits on exceptional land with extraordinary natural landforms throughout. At the end of the day, I found RainDance National to be a memorable golf experience, and the minute I holed out on number 18, I wanted to go back to the first tee.”
RainDance National Resort & Golf is so well done it has to be on your list of travel golf opportunities in Colorado. And during your visit, remember to take time to celebrate life on the farm.
David R. Holland is the author of The Colorado Golf Bible and a former sportswriter at The Dallas Morning News.