Jake was a competitive golfer for over a decade dating back to the days of being the Captain of his high school golf team. He has played more than 200 courses across 32 different states in the US. Now semi-retired, Jake continues to golf 3-4 days a week with a current 2 handicap, gives golf lessons to his friends and family, and provides a wealth of knowledge to Golf Circuit from his competitive playing days. Jake combines practical expertise with technical knowledge to create golfing strategies and training techniques for both beginners and scratch golfers.
Murphy Creek Golf Course is a municipal course located in Aurora, Colorado. While municipal courses don’t typically get the highest of reputations, a lot of players say Murphy Creek shares some resemblance to Ballyneal, one of the highest rated courses in Colorado. I frequently play the Aurora municipal courses and Murphy Creek is by far the best and most unique course to play. Outside of Murphy Creek, Saddle Rock is definitely worth a play and then the quality of the municipal courses goes downhill fast from here.
Aurora isn’t located close enough to the mountains to get the beautiful mountain views or provide you with that secluded and picturesque golf experience you’d expect from Colorado. But, it is actually my favorite public course located around the Eastern Denver area.
Murphy Creek is very well kept, has some unique and fun holes, and is extremely long from the tips. The course has received some praise over the years, being ranked the #2 public course in Colorado and the #1 toughest public course in the state too. Additionally, Murphy Creek hosted the US Amateur Public Links Championship back in 2008.
Murphy Creek Quick Facts & History
Course Designer: Ken Kavanaugh
Type: Public Municipal (City of Aurora)
Cost: usually around $48 during the week and $53-$80 on the weekends for green fees, add about $21 on top of that if you want a cart to ride
Distance: 7,548 yards from the tips
Elevation: approx. 5,400 feet
Address: 1700 S Old Tom Morris Rd, Aurora, CO 80018
Course Website: Murphy Creek on AuroraGov
Murphy Creek was designed by Ken Kavanaugh who is known for designing courses around the Arizona, Colorado, and Texas areas. The course was opened in 2000 and has been one of the most popular public courses in the Denver area since then. Coming in at 7,548 yards from the longest tees, Murphy Creek has 5 tee boxes ranging down to 5,982 yards from Gold and 5,335 yards from the Red tees.
Playing Murphy Creek: What to Expect
Length & Tee Boxes: The course is long. Even from the white tees you are looking at nearly 6,500 yards with every par 3 except for one clocking 180+ yards. Furthermore, there are quite a few tee boxes across the holes where you have to hit your ball over a hazard area, creating a very realistic opportunity for penalty strokes if you don’t hit a tee shot clean or have limited distance.
Bunkers, Hazards, and Rough: There isn’t much water around Murphy Creek and the course is very wide open, to an extent. Each hole is lined with thick rough and tall desert and weed-like grass areas if you stray too far from the fairway.
The course has a lot of deep bunkers but also a unique feature is the amount of bunker-like sand areas it has. Called “unmaintained waste areas” there are big patches laying both in the middle of some holes and on the outskirts of the fairways. These waste areas are not sand, more like gravel, which can make them challenging to approach when you’re hitting out of one greenside.
Greens & Approach Shots: About half of the holes have very hittable greens, featuring some decent sized hills and backstops to keep you from going too far out. The other half are situated right up against the minimal water on the course or up against some thick bushy hazards. Missing an approach shot can easily land you with a penalty. The layout makes for some fun approach shots and a lot of risk reward opportunities – fortunately the greens are all decently sized, if you can hit them that is.
With respect to the greens themselves at Murphy Creek, they are very standard. A few have some decent slope and some unique hills but none are overly challenging. The greens are usually very well kept after, especially for a muni. But other than that, there isn’t too much to talk about.
Murphy Creek Scorecard
|Hole / Par||Par||Red||Gold||White||Blue||Black|
While the front 9 comes in a few hundred yards shorter than the back from most of the tee boxes, it is in my opinion the more challenging side. Hole #1 is probably the easiest birdie opportunity on the course due to the super short distance, but the green is one of the more challenging ones. Hole #3 is a beast at 640yds from black making it the hardest hole on the course. At #5 you have a really fun par 3, which is somehow apparently the second easiest hole on the course (which I might agree with if you hit the green…). The front 9 follows the typical layout with the odd handicap holes going from the toughest to the second easiest.
The back 9 gets longer, especially with the par 3’s. The #11 par 3 comes in as the easiest hole on the course, but you have to carry some thick woods to hit the green from 200+ yards. We have a 600 yard par 5 at #16 which is the second hardest hole on the course due to its length. And then the last par 3 is a blistering 248 yards from the black tees.
Featured Holes at Murphy Creek
I snapped some pictures and took some notes on a few of my favorite and some of the most notable holes at Murphy Creek. I was playing from the white’s today with a few higher handicap friends, so most of these pictures are from the white tee box but I’m going to quote the distances from the tips.
Hole #3: 640yd Par 5 (Handicap 1)
This is probably my favorite hole on the course, especially of the par 5’s. From the tee box you are staring down a quite large fairway, but one with a bunker placed right in the middle of it. If you play from the tips and aren’t carrying 250+ you can certainly end up in it. The hole is sort of shaped like a speed bump – the fairway sits above the tee box giving you an uphill drive, and then the green sits a good ways below it.
The hole is lined with bunkers in the middle of the fairway, unmaintained waste area off to the right side, and then the green sits down low, with some thick hazard grass behind it.
Hole #5: 305yd Par 3 (Handicap 17)
While this is theoretically the 2nd easiest hole on the course it is quite a tricky tee shot. My one gripe with this hole is that it is actually easier from Blue than from White. And the same goes for Black tees (if you can hit a 200+ iron shot). The tee box is a bit higher elevation than the pin, but the only thing separating the box from the green is a huge area of waste land and.
The green has two bunkers directly on the front side – and in my 10+ times playing Murphy Creek the pin is always set directly behind these two bunkers. So from the White tees you have to hit directly over the bunkers. There is a big backstop on the back side of the green so you absolutely want to go longer rather than shorter. Playing from Blue or Black puts you further off to the right which takes the bunkers out of play a bit more (hence why I say they are easier than white).
Hole #6: 563yd Par 5 (Handicap 3)
Hole 6 at Murphy Creek isn’t on the top of my list, but it’s the third hardest so I’ll give a little bit of a peek. At 563 yards it is moderate length compared to the others at the course. From the tee you can’t quite see the flagstick. The fairway takes a hard dogwood left – from the tees dead straight puts you in a hill with thick unmaintained grass, or in the big bunkers in front of it. The green is nestled in the back left with a bit of a cliff off the left side.
Longer drivers can take one over the hill straight ahead and end up with a nice approach or layup shot. Otherwise, hitting it down the fairway or right around the dogleg bend is the best place to be.
Hole #8: 208yd Par 3 (Handicap 15)
I might also disagree with the handicap on this hole. From the tips it is 208 yards dead across water. The green is quite big but if you don’t hit it you have a very real chance of ending up in the water. There is a decent sized bunker to the right of the green if you try to play it safe and steer clear of the water.
Playing from White or Blue does take the water of out play by a little bit and gives you more safety room to miss right and avoid the water. It’s certainly not the hardest hole, but the long water you have to gap can make it intimidating. I took the picture here from the black tees to give you a look at the daunting water.
Hole #9: 348yd Par 4 (Handicap 11)
Murphy Creek is around the same 5,280ft of elevation that Denver is at, meaning you can absolutely rocket some drives if you are a long hitter. Hole number 9 is the perfect opportunity for that. The tee box looks directly over a big hazard area but really tempts you to go for it. You only have to carry about 270 yards to clear the hazard area from the Black’s.
Definitely one of the biggest risk rewards holes out there – driving the green gives you a great look at birdie or better. If you play it safe and aim for the fairway, you end up with a downhill shot, over a massively deep bunker with a huge drop off on the back side of the green. If you don’t go for the green shot off the tee box it’s better to hit a wood and approach the green from an angle to take the bunker out of play and give you more green to work with.
Hole #11: 211yd Par 3 (Handicap 18)
I like featuring the par 3’s because I think they’re all pretty fun here. Every one of them requires you to carry something. Hole 11 is no different – there is a ton of thick bush and hazards in front of the hole and to the right, requiring you to carry the majority of the distance of the hole to land it in a safe area. Outside of it being a bit longer of a distance for higher handicappers it isn’t too crazy. The green is plenty big with some backstops on the back to make it very manageable.
Hole #14: 421yd Par 4 (Handicap 14)
This is one of the easier holes on the course, but one that I like to highlight for fun. You have water all along the hole to the left, from Blue and Black you have to carry the water to hit the fairway. Again, it isn’t difficult but the position of the green does make it a bit more fun. The green sits a bit lower than the fairway and is nestled up right against the water. If you can drive 300 you’ll have a nice short approach shot, but it can get tricky from longer distances as the ball loves to roll off the back side if you don’t land it soft.
Hole #15: 600yd Par 5 (Handicap 2)
Hole 15 is probably the second hardest purely because of distance, coming in at 600 yards. It is a dogleg right with water all to the right side. So long as you can keep it in the fairway there isn’t much to this hole other than the distance. Arguably not a very difficult hole in my opinion.
Hole #17: 248yd Par 3 (Handicap 16)
Again with the par 3’s being the easiest on the course, I’m going to have to disagree with this one purely on distance. From the tips this beast is 248 yards, over some hazard areas, with everything on the right side landing you a penalty stroke.
I played this one from White’s (where I took the photo from). I play this from this tee box a lot because I tend to play Murphy Creek with some buddies who can’t even hit a driver 248 yards (not meaning this in a bad way) and this course is just too long if you aren’t a big hitter. Every time I’ve played hole 17 from the White tee box, it is always 208-212 yards. Despite being listed at 198 on the cards. It’s a 3 wood off the box for most guys to get to this one which is why I think it deserves a bit more difficult a rating.
Murphy Creek Summary
All-in-all, Murphy Creek is an exceptional municipal golf course. It isn’t as sweet as some of the prestigious courses you will find out closer to the mountains in Colorado, but for around $50 it is probably one of the best public courses around the area.
While the length makes it challenging, playing this course well requires a lot more than just distance. The bunkers are all pretty deep, the course fancies bunkers in the fairways, and the unmaintained waste areas are unique to be shooting out of. It’s definitely worth a play if you’re in the area. The one downside is that they are starting to develop a lot of houses and communities around the course, so it is losing a bit of it’s appeal due to that.
Murphy Creek gets my #1 rating on public golf courses in the Aurora, Colorado area. Stay tuned for my write-up on Saddle Rock, my second favorite course in the area.