By Gus Jarvis
CORNERSTONE – When Greg Norman was in the midst of designing Cornerstone’s members-only 18-hole golf course a few years back, he said he wanted its play to resemble a walk in the woods. As a few of members of the media found out on Tuesday, playing the challenging yet rewarding course on Horsefly Mesa was that, and more.
Just a stone’s throw from Telluride, Cornerstone is surrounded by the stunning views of the San Juan Mountains to the south and the Gunnison uplift to the east.
It’s fair to say this reporter was a bit apprehensive about playing such a prestigious course, not being on a fairway in some time and playing with borrowed clubs and shoes no less. But as the round progressed, it became clear that the Cornerstone course, which fully opened July 5, is designed for everyone.
The course design follows the contours of the natural environment, an aspect clearly evident from the 6th tee, so that play really does resemble a walk in the woods. With his “least disturbance” philosophy, Norman’s design takes advantage of the terrain that changes from vast open vistas to rock outcroppings to aspen groves to meadows lined with scrub oak.
Hole 7 – a 500-yard, par 4 – offers several tee locations to separate the duffers from the long-ball hitters. From four of the tees, one’s drive must carry a deceptive ravine to reach the fairway. The forward tees offer an easier approach. (This reporter hit from the back tees, and then moved forward to play a mulligan for a more successful drive.)
Despite its intimidating start, hole 7 became a rewarding experience as the fairway opened up next to an aspen grove and a full view of the valley below.
Reaching the green, all of which are situated to provide scenic vistas, offers its own set of challenges, with a bit of sage advice from our experienced caddy, Jim Steggs, helping the ball find the cup.
“The ball tends to run a little faster when you are putting toward Montrose,” according Steggs. A light touch on the putter carried the ball a surprising distance, and when putting away from Montrose a little extra mustard was needed to push the ball toward the hole.
Like all great courses, the secrets to playing Cornerstone are not going to be solved in one round. Hole 12 – a 400-yard, par 4 – provided the perfect example. After reaching the green in two and facing a 14-foot putt to make birdie, this reporter recorded a bogie.
No matter how you fare on the fairways, the natural surroundings are sure to lift one’s spirits. With the late afternoon light dancing across the San Juans and purple clouds moving across the sky, the pain of a three putt is somewhat lessened.
After 18 holes, Cornerstone’s clubhouse for is a haven of hospitality and fine dining. Executive Chef Peter O’Brien calls his menu “frontier cuisine.”
“It’s healthy and light,” he said as he prepared dinner in the kitchen that sits adjacent to the dining room. “I like to use the grill and add a little spice.”
Indeed, O’Brien’s Gunpowder-rubbed N.Y. Strip with a poblano corn cake covered in chipilini sauce was a unique dish that matched well with the scenic surroundings and the vintage wine. O’Brien often hosts wine tastings and food pairings with Cornerstone’s members.
If golf isn’t your game, Cornerstone, a year-round member community that covers just over 6,000 acres, also offers 3,000 acres of open space with more than 20 miles of hiking and horseback riding trails. There are only 412 homestead properties planned for the area and current homestead prices range from $300,000 to $1.98 million. With the aim of being as environmentally friendly, Cornerstone has completed phase I of a waste water treatment plant, which is Colorado’s first 100 percent reuse plant.
But if you are coming to golf at this gem of a course in southwest Colorado, be sure to take advantage of Cornerstone’s 20-plus acre golf practice facility where honing your short game or straightening your slice isn’t drudgery, it’s a luxury.
For more information on membership and available homesteads visit www.cornerstonecolorado.com or call 877/855-7273.