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Nature galore: There's plenty to see at Deer Creek Golf Club near Denver

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LITTLETON, Colo. -- Deer Creek Golf Club, located in the far southwestern fringes of Metro Denver, has a wealth of scenery and geography to keep one busy on an 18-hole journey that traverses protected wetlands, creek beds, rolling terrain, impressive conditioning and some tiered greens.

Built in 2000, this 7,019-yard par 72 is your chance to play a Scott Miller (architect based in Arizona) course in Colorado with views that include the rugged mountain terrain of the Dakota Hogback -- a long, craggy ridge that separates the eastern fringe of the Rocky Mountains with the Great Plains, just off Denver's busy C-470 loop.

Developers of this housing-community golf course had to protect more than 40 acres of wetlands in the building of the 18 holes, and you will discover early in your round that Deer Creek, even though it is mostly a trickle of narrow water, comes into play along with tall grasses that are standing in most water hazards.

Actually, Deer Creek was instrumental in the founding of Littleton, which got its start from the 1859 Pike's Peak Gold Rush that brought not only gold seekers but merchants and farmers to the community. It was Richard Sullivan Little, an engineer from New Hampshire, who first worked with Deer Creek to construct irrigation ditches for the farmers in the area then built the Rough and Ready Flour Mill in 1867, cementing the economic base of Littleton.

Though architect Miller came much later, he relished building the course that had 40 acres of marshland, because he specialized in courses with a target flavor.

'We also spend a lot of time in our office ensuring that the average golfer has a generous landing area for their tee shot,' Miller said. 'So that the golfer doesn't have to stand on the tee box every time and pull another golf ball out of his bag. But our designs allow for the traditional recovery shot, too.'

Besides Deer Creek, Miller designed award-winning We-Ko-Pa, an American Indian-owned course near Scottsdale, Ariz.; Sandia Golf Club, near Albuquerque, N.M.; and the Golf Club at Eagle Mountain in Fountain Hills, Ariz.

Deer Creek Golf Club: Pick a line

Picking a line from the tee is key at Deer Creek. 'The front nine has more undulation and elevation changes,' Assistant Professional Chris Bennetts said. 'The second nine is flatter and has a lot of marshlands.'

If your are finicky about peace and quiet on a golf course, you might not like the eight holes that run alongside super busy C-470. Developers tried to mitigate the noise with mounding and a fence, but it doesn't negate all the rumbling.

The first hole requires a tee shot over tall grasses and water to a generous fairway that bends right and measures 380 from the back tees.

Golfers are quickly introduced to Deer Creek Golf Club's challenges with the demanding third hole. This par 4 is a dogleg right with a forced carry over a huge ravine.

'It's my favorite hole,' said Bennetts, 'because it is the No. 1-handicap hole, and I just like a challenge in a 462-yard par 4 that has length and trouble and a green sitting on a plateau. You have to hit it 200 yards from the back tee just to reach the fairway.'

The seventh hole is definitely a target at 398 yards. Big hitters can bomb it straight but must cover a gully of no recovery. The shorter hitter can go to a fairway right, but the approach must carry the creek to a green that is sloped back to front and is well-bunkered.

Sixteen is a classic island green of 199 yards completely surrounded by the marshlands and bunker in front. Be on the green or be in trouble.

Eighteen is a strong 446 yards that has trees right and a ditch that comes into play diagonally. The tee shot can get in trouble if it is too far right. Best play is down the left-center of the fairway, setting up an approach over the ditch to a contoured green, bunkers left and trees in back.