25 Highlights in 25 Weeks: Highlight #2 – What’s In a Name?

Pelican Lakes Resort & Golf turns 25 on July 12, 2024! To celebrate, we are listing the top 25 moments in Pelican Lakes’ history. These events are not ranked and highlight the biggest events, features, and happenings at the distinguished 27-hole facility in Northern Colorado.

Pelican Lakes Highlight #2 out of 25: Alcatraz – The Final 3 Holes at Pelican Lakes

For over a decade, golf professionals and staff at Pelican Lakes Resort & Golf in Windsor, CO have been attempting to create an official moniker for the course’s difficult final stretch of holes.

The holes in question are Nos. 16-18. Two par 4s and a par 3. While they don’t seem daunting on paper, ask any current or past member how they have typically fared on those holes and a common theme is unearthed – they’re some of the hardest finishing holes in the state.  

Director of Golf Kurt Hinkle uncovered a possible descriptor late in 2023 after “simply Googling what ‘pelican’ translated to in Spanish,” he said. “Members have playfully referred to those holes as The Wall, The Gauntlet or the ‘Bleep You’ Finish, but those options didn’t offer the best creative tone to be permanently etched on a plaque.

“Once I discovered the word ‘Alcatraz’ means ‘strange bird’ or ‘pelican’ in Spanish, and knowing there was an inescapable federal penitentiary in the San Francisco Bay also named ‘Alcatraz,’ my search ended. Plus, a few of our members could be described as ‘strange birds.’”

(Hinkle’s kidding about the last part.)

And that’s how Alcatraz was born. Our decision on the naming was reinforced by member Guy Gordon. “There’s so much jail on those holes. Get it? Jail?”

When a monument sign is posted in the ground this spring near the 16th tee, those holes will forever be referred to as “Alcatraz.”

An in-depth blog on this topic was posted on Dec. 11, 2023 and can be read here.

While some golf rounds are unaffected, what’s remembered are the rounds that went sour once they stepped off the par 5 15th hole – arguably the easiest of the four par 5s on The Lakes – and headed over to the par 4 16th hole.

Let’s lay it out for you.

From the blue tees the 16th hole is 351 yards, the 17th is 185 yards, and the 18th hole is 409 yards. These yardages represent the shortest par 4 on the course (No. 16) and the longest (No. 18).

What’s not translated by reading the scorecard is the unique difficulty each hole offers.

The 16th hole looks innocent from the tee box. It’s a slight dog leg left and only 351 yards from the blues. The layout initially encourages longer players to pull out their driver. However, the experienced player leaves the driver in the bag and uses anything from a 3-wood to a long iron. The reason being – just find the fairway and the next shot will be within 150 yards because the fairway narrows significantly around 100 yards in. Three elevated bunkers border the right side of the fairway from roughly 130 yards to the green and the Cache la Poudre River slides down the entire left side, leaving an extremely narrow area to place a tee shot.

That’s the most difficult task on this hole – placing a tee shot in a safe spot to attack a deceptive green. The green is subtle on the left side, but the middle to right portion has made for some tricky pin placements. It’s protected on the right front by a bunker as well as one behind the hole. While it may be the shortest par 4 on the course, it’s far from the easiest.

Handicap-wise, the 17th hole is easier than the 16th. The 12th handicapped hole can stretch to 208 yards from the black tees and 125 yards from the reds, but the tee shot is not what golfers worry about – it’s the green.

However, reaching the green can be challenging. Never mind Lake Water Valley along the entire right side of the hole, the green is guarded by four small bunkers – one in the front and three behind the hole.

Once you’re on the green, the fun begins. The “easiest” pin placement is on the right side while a cup anywhere else on the green can provide slippery challenges for players. This green breaks severely downhill from the back and middle to the front and putts from behind the hole tend to drift several feet past. Two-putt pars are the norm, but this hole thrives on three putts.

Then you get to the most talked about hole at Pelican Lakes, the signature 18th. What most players don’t realize is this hole features seven bunkers – the most bunkers on any of the 27 holes at Pelican Lakes – which only adds to its difficulty.

The hole requires players to hit their tee shot no more than 220 yards, usually leaving them about the same distance into the green. The Poudre River runs along the left side of the fairway then meanders through the middle of the hole creating a split fairway around that 220-yard mark. This means most players will use the same club twice before reaching the green. This is arguably the hardest second shot on the golf course. It plays slightly uphill and the cottonwoods bordering the far side of the river create a narrow window that can appear smaller depending on how the round’s been going.

Once they’re over the river, the challenge continues.

Protected by five greenside bunkers, the 18th green presents a challenging finishing test. The relatively large green features three tiers, with not a lot of deceptive undulation like the previous two holes. However, approach shots left on the opposite direction of the pin can lead to some of the longest lag putts on the course.

Walking off this green with a par can feel like a birdie.

And there you have it – the Pelican Lakes Alcatraz. Depending on how players finish these holes, they can be left feeling like either a pelican, or a strange bird.