How to Survive 18 Holes at the Longest Golf Course in North America
Playing the longest golf course in North America sounded like a fun idea. Now that I’m standing on the tee box looking at a 300-plus yard carry just to reach the fairway, it’s become a slightly modified version of fun—as in, the laughable kind. Stepping up to the tee box, I give it my best swing. Not bad at all, I’m briefly thinking. On any other course, the long, towering drive would be looking at the green with a wedge in my hand. Not at RainDance National Golf Course. On the longest golf course in North America, I’ll be driving the cart up to find my ball tucked away in some rough native grass. Nothing fairway about it.
Opened in the summer of 2022 in Windsor, CO, RainDance Golf Course sprawls at a whopping 8,400 yards. The high plains links-style course north of Denver is as long as it is beautiful. RainDance PGA Head Golf Pro Chris Williamson tells me they technically have never opened the pro tees to the public, but have allowed certain individuals to play back there. The course record stands at 67 from the pro tees. The tournament tee boxes, or the “purples” as they’re labeled, are the tips for the general public—measuring a plenty-colossal 7,759 yards.
At 8,400 yards for pros and up to 7,759 yards for amateur golfers, RainDance is the longest golf course in North America. (As for the longest one on the planet—that would be Western Australia’s Nullarbor Links, stretching 850 miles (not a typo) to Southern Australia)
Carved into Colorado’s rolling plains and arroyos, RainDance was co-designed by Players Champion PGA Pro Fred Funk, who ironically is not known as a long hitter, and Harrison Minchew, a member of the American Society of Golf Course Architects, who previously worked with the Arnold Palmer Design Company.
Prior to testing my golf endurance on this 18-hole goliath, I’ll email Minchew, who is attending the Irish Open at The Kildare Hotel and Country Club, a course he’d designed for Arnold Palmer. Minchew tells me he knew from the start that RainDance “could and should” be a proper tournament venue. Considering the average elevation of the course stands just shy of a mile high at 4,900 feet, he knew it would need to measure approximately 8,000 yards to compensate for thinner air density. He set out to build a one-of-a-kind golf course that plays long, firm, and fast with some significant downhill tee shots.
“My first desire was to have the course fit seamlessly into a beautiful high desert arroyo city,” says Minchew. “The native vegetation on the side is extraordinary, and we wanted to preserve as much of it as possible. Where we did need to disturb with heavy grading, we reestablished native vegetation.”
“Occasionally, I can drive a ball 300 yards. I even won my local men’s golf league this summer. None of this remotely qualifies me to play RainDance from the tips.”
Minchew wisely advises that I not play from the purple tee box, comparing it to an average snow skier attempting to ski a double black diamond run. A better skier than golfer, I know I’ll be in for a challenging day on the green. Just how challenging remains to be seen.
RainDance is made for the new power hitter who can regularly drive the ball 300 yards plus. The tournament purple tees are designed for amateurs and tournament professional golfers. I should note, that is not me. I’m a solid average golfer who regularly shoots in the high 80s and low 90s. Occasionally, I can drive a ball 300 yards. I even won my local men’s golf league this summer. None of this remotely qualifies me to play RainDance from the tips.
The No. 1 mistake many first-time players make here, says Minchew, is selecting at least one tee box too far back. I’m guilty of being probably two or three boxes removed from where I should be playing. Each hole has six tee boxes, ranging from the “Tour” tee box at 8,463 yards to the “Yellow” tee box at 4,919 yards. In between, there is an option for all range of golfers to enjoy the course.
“The rock-hard ground will carry balls down slopes for what seems like forever. Quite often, I’ll hit what I initially think is a great shot, only to watch it roll off into some distant ravine.”
Courtesy of RainDance National Golf Course
Despite being well out of my depth, I soldier on, rolling up to the purple tee boxes and squinting at the horizon, wondering where the flag is. More than once I find myself just gazing at the spectacular views of the Rocky Mountains in the distance and the long rolling fairways weaving seamlessly through the Colorado plains.
Some of the distances I play include a 270-yard par three, a 602-yard par 4, and an insane 752-yard par 5. Basically everything seems like a long par 5 to your average golfer from the purple tees. The length of the course is only offset by its firmness. The rock-hard ground will carry balls down slopes for what seems like forever. Quite often, I’ll hit what I initially think is a great shot, only to watch it roll off into some distant ravine.
The course is full of blind shots, 200-plus par threes, fast-rolling greens, and chasms filled with lost golf balls. My normal stat sheet of fairways hit and greens in regulation is replaced by lost balls and three-putts. Yeah, this course is tough, but it’s also a blast to play—even if it humbles the best of golfers along with the rest of us. Throughout my round, I’ll hit some fairways (much to my joy) from the purple tees. More often, I find myself wondering where I should drop.
The bogies add up over 18 holes, and my final score exceeds 100. More importantly, I have fun braving the continent’s longest golf course, as it would be seen through the eyes of a pro on tour. Chris Williamson tells me RainDance would welcome the opportunity to host a major event. Once the property is built out, it could hold any event that exists in the game of golf.
RainDance’s course record stands at 67 from the pro tees (8,400 yards). The tournament tee boxes, or the “purples” as they’re labeled, are the tips for the general public—measuring a plenty-colossal 7,759 yards.
Minchew, who has designed 75 courses, tells me that RainDance is one of his favorites.
“It’s the most dramatic site I’ve ever worked on—the topography is wonderful for golf and the arroyos are spectacular” he says. “That, plus the fact that homes only encroach at the beginning of the course with the rest of it being out in nature, makes it the most wonderful golf design experience I’ve ever had.”
Eventually, the property will be a stay-and-play resort. Memberships will also be available, but I’d encourage golfers to test drive this beast sooner than later—with a hard-earned caveat. Unless you’re seriously up for it, tailor your experience here to the more moderate tee boxes (relatively speaking), and leave the tips to those other overreachers and their interminable fun.