The 18th hole on the River Course at Keystone Resort & Conference Center is pure Wild West: Ice-capped peaks of the Rockies loom in the distance, their bases kissing the frigid waters of Lake Dillon. Barren, north-facing hillsides sit to the left, opposite pine-dotted, sage-covered slopes to the right. Directly below stretches a sweeping par 5 that invites a grip-it-and-rip-it downhill tee shot and offers a great chance for birdie, assuming you avoid a dozen bunkers along the way.
In short, it’s a special place, one visiting golfers won’t soon forget. The 6,886-yard River joins the Robert Trent Jones Jr.-designed Ranch to give Keystone a one-two punch of first-rate golf. Throw in Keystone’s myriad other activities—horseback riding, mountain biking, ecology walks, whitewater rafting and sailing, for starters—and you have a true summertime playground in a region where ski season has long been king.
Less penal than the Ranch course, the River is marked by wide fairways, in some places up to 55 yards across. Because of its location at the base of the mountains near Keystone Village, it’s exposed to less severe temperatures and more sunlight, allowing it to remain open up to a month longer than other area courses.
Just down the road, the 7,090-yard Ranch winds through a valley, where it’s subject to the slightest puffs of breeze. The aptly named layout is situated on a former cattle ranch and lettuce farm; an abandoned barn and rusty spokes of hay rakes linger as reminders of the area’s rugged past. Bears occasionally wander from the mountainside onto the course at night—appropriate, since it can play like a carnivore if the wind whips and you’ve got an uphill shot over a bunker or a long carry to clear one of six water hazards.
Located about 90 miles west of Denver, Keystone offers plenty of accommodations—more than 1,600 rooms in all—including the AAA Four Diamond-rated Keystone Lodge. Dining is an experience too, particularly at the Alpenglow Stube, North America’s highest gourmet restaurant. Accessed by gondola, the Stube sits atop North Peak at 11,444 feet, where breathtaking vistas of the Continental Divide abound.