Bella Ridge Takes Shape

The first new golf course to be built on the front range in several years is falling into place

By Jim Bebbington

Bella Ridge is a labor of love. For decades the Podtburg family milked dairy cows on their farm near Johnstown and Berthoud. Rick and Carol Podtburg raised four boys on the land, and all took up golf.

“Shooting golf balls out the back pasture has always been a thing,” said Stephanie Podtburg, who is married to one of the four brothers, Greg.

So as the development from both the north and the south crept closer, in the mid 20-teens the Podtburgs began thinking about moving their dairy to a new site and building a golf course on the family farm. The community means a lot to them, Stephanie said, and they wanted to keep the family land in business and in the family.

They moved their dairy operation, Longs Peak Dairy, to a new site near Pierce. And then they called course architect Art Schaupeter, who has already crafted two front-range bangers: TPC Colorado and Highland Meadows.

Bulldozers have been shaping the course since late last summer. Schumpeter, who is now an executive with Troon Golf, has been on site many times this winter to keep the project moving.

Rick and Carol Podtburg with their four sons Eric, Greg, Marcus and Wade, daughter-in-laws Sandy, Stephanie and Andrea, all their grandkids and three great-grandkids. Photo taken in 2022 the day the family moved its last cow from the Johnstown family farm, which is being prepped now to open as Bella Ridge Golf Course in 2025. Photo by Kathlene Woltemath Photography.

“The goal is to have everything seeded by this fall and open up next summer,” Schaupeter said. “The last hole that gets grass dictates when you open.”

Schaupeter said the ‘ridge’ in the Bella Ridge name is legit. The land he was given to work with slopes 170 feet high-to-low. The mountain views from the top are magnificent, with the dairy’s namesake Longs Peak dominating the skyline. Holes are routed in ways that will make it possible to play multiple loops. Holes one through six loops back to the clubhouse, as do holes seven to nine.

Schaupeter said his design philosophy – ‘put the golf in the player’s hands’ – means that many holes will have risk/reward options. Higher handicappers will have safe landing zones awaiting them; the bold will have corners to cut and other adventures to try to go low.

“There will be seven sets of tees – there is a tee for everybody,” he said.

The family is ready for the course to be completed but has taken steps to stay connected to the past.

Photo by Jim Bebbington

On the day they loaded up the last dairy cow to take it to the new farm, they all posed in the middle of a pasture – Rick and Carol, all the couples, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. The site was chosen very specifically. When the project is done, the family will be able to gather again, and behind that exact spot will be the mountains in the distance and their beautiful new golf course extending into the distance.

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