updated 9/26/2006 8:21:22 PM ET 2006-09-27T00:21:22

Spring is a great time to play golf - the grass growing in, the flowers blooming, the excitement of playing after a long winter.

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Summer is the time for some, the warm weather and long days a great combination. A few golfers even like winter, though the options are limited to courses in warm-weather places.

But when it comes to the whole package - course conditions, weather, scenery - fall is dead-solid perfect.

And here's a little secret: when it comes to price, views and conditions, there might not be a better place to play in the fall than the Colorado Rockies.

"It's incredible here," Steve Kaufman of Des Moines said after a round at Ironbridge Golf Club near Glenwood Springs. "Everything is in such great shape and the views are absolutely amazing."

What's not to like?

Fall in the Rockies is postcard-perfect, the yellows of the aspens and reds of the scrub oaks a stark contrast to the deep green of the millions of pines, creating what looks like a multicolored shag carpet along the Interstate 70 corridor from Silverthorne to Glenwood Springs and on up the Roaring Fork Valley into Aspen.

The courses in the Rockies already provide eye appeal with dramatic elevation changes, plentiful wildlife and views of the towering, often snow-sprinkled peaks above. But when fall hits, the richness of the dark green fairways winding through the pines and brightly-colored aspens make you feel like you've been transported into a painting.

The weather, while starting to turn cool, hasn't quite reached frigid, temperatures hovering in the 50s and 60s with relatively no humidity, and the skies almost always clear. That not only means an ideal comfort level, but perfect conditions on the golf courses, from ultrasmooth greens to fairways that match any in the country.

"It's ideal," said Kurt Vogelman, of Edwards. "You play right into the cool weather, then comes the beautiful fall weather that a lot of the world would only dream about. It's perfect."

So imagine all of that, but without the crowds and the high prices.

Slideshow: Top 10 'accessible' golf courses Head to the Northeast, the fall foliage mecca, and you'll have to deal with crowded roads and hotels, not to mention peak season prices for everything.

Peak season in the Rockies is (naturally) in the winter, when people trek from around the world for pristine skiing conditions, and during the summer driving months. Trying to lure people to the mountains, resort and hotel owners drop rates dramatically during the fall months, sometimes up to 70 percent. Same with the golf courses, which often offer green fees at 50 percent of summer prices.

Hyatt Beaver Creek has fall golf packages that include two rounds at one of four courses and a night at the resort for $235. Red Sky Ranch in Wolcott has deals with several Vail-area resorts, starting as low at $159 for one night a round of golf, and luxury resort Cordillera has golf-and-stay deals starting at $294.

Head to Aspen and the St. Regis Resort and you can get two rounds at Ironbridge, breakfast for two and a room for $445 after Oct. 1.

It doesn't really matter where you go in the Rockies - chances are there's a deal to be had if the leaves are changing.

"They put good value rates and it's very much competitive to the nice golf courses you'd see on the East Coast," said Scott Mason, general manager of Hyatt Beaver Creek. "And hotels are even stronger because the ski season is in such high demand that we will cut rates literally 70 percent in the offseason so people will have the opportunity to stay and experience it."

Even with the low prices, the Rockies are still a fall destination that flies under the radar. Hotel rooms are relatively easy to get and so are tee times, which means plenty of space for the rest of us to enjoy the spectacular scenery and lush courses.

And those who don't make it to altitude are missing out on some incredible golf courses.

The plush resort area of Cordillera features four distinct courses, stating with the Summit at 9,000 feet to the Valley at 7,300 feet. Beaver Creek Golf Club starts in the heart of the ski village, works its way almost to the bottom of the valley, then climbs back up on a route filled with spectacular holes.

Red Sky Ranch, just down the valley from Vail, the Norman and Fazio courses featuring fairways you can putt off and pool-table smooth greens.

Keep going through Glenwood Canyon, head south down Highway 82 and you'll come across Ironbridge, an exceptional course that features four of the most picturesque holes (10-13) you'll ever see carved out of a canyon that's a half-mile cart ride away from the clubhouse.

The list keeps going, each course as good as the next. And the best part is that most people don't know the deals they can get to play these kinds of courses.

"It's very underrated," Fogelman said. "A lot of second homeowners come out, but as far as tourists I think it gets underutilized out here. I guess the whole world is just so busy they don't have the time, but if they did they'd be here."

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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