From atop the mesa in northwest Colorado Springs, the view has always been magnificent, but Al Hill and his wife Margaret dreamed of developing the land into something more. The couple’s purchase of the property in 1949 marked the beginning of a private club, luxury resort, and residential community that would pair manmade elegance with an unparalleled natural setting.
Construction of Garden of the Gods Club began in May 1950. In September, the Hills gathered with Colorado and Texas friends for a dedication ceremony involving placement of a copper capsule into the lobby fireplace wall. A snapshot of the times, the capsule contained bubble gum, a bottle of Dr. Pepper, a Coke, a Hopalong Cassidy comic book, a plat of the survey for the develop ment, current magazines and newspapers, brochures and curios
commemorating Seven Falls, Jacoby’s book o
n Canasta, and “other items” that reportedly included an unlucky chameleon who scurried into the capsule the moment before it was sealed.
On June 10, 1951, the Hills invited local residents to an Open House and donated the fifty-cent admission charge to the Junior League. The official Grand Opening celebration was spread over three days, June 1 4-16, to allow as many members as possible to participate. The lavish event, which featured gourmet food, live music, and dancing, launched Garden of the Gods Club as a premier private club in the western United States. The same year, The Gazette Telegraph described the club as “a mecca for those interested in fine taste and splendor.”
Garden of the Gods Club quickly became an exclusive retreat for Hollywood’s elite, captains of industry, and political and literary luminaries. Visitors included Robert Mitchum, Claudette Colbert, Gene Autry, John Wayne, and Walt Disney. Members and guests enjoyed the immaculate tennis courts, gorgeous pool, gourmet dining, and extravagant events.
Garden of the Gods Club originally consisted of the lobby, bar, dining room, a small party room, 22 guest rooms and two suites to the north, three suites and four rooms on the second floor of the main building, two tennis courts, and a swimming pool. Original members were primarily from Colorado, Texas, and Oklahoma. The club was designed to be a tennis club, only open in the summer, but Al Hill’s golfing friends eventually convinced him to add a golf course to the property.
J. Press Maxwell designed a world-class, 18-hole, 7,000-yard golf course. Over 200 acres of Kentucky bluegrass and bentgrass were planted to create the course, named after the famous Kissing Camels rock formation at nearby Garden of the Gods Park. At the same time, the Hills built a Moroccan-themed clubhouse featuring a golf shop, locker rooms, and a dining room and lounge, and forty South Patio rooms were added to the club to accommodate members and their guests. The golf course officially opened for play in June of 1961.
In 1962, the grand tradition of the Smoochers Ladies Invitational and the Camel Drivers Men’s Invitational began, followed by the Sheiks & Shebas in 1967 and the Golden Camels in 1973. Throughout the years, Members and guests have enjoyed challenge, competition, and camaraderie amongst the splendor of the golf course and surrounding scenery.
Tennis continued to be a popular pastime, and the club began hosting the Club Championships in 1967. A few years later, in 1975, Hill family members played in an exhibition that opened the two indoor tennis courts. To accommodate families with children, a Recreation Center was constructed, featuring a junior Olympic-sized pool, wading pool, and four outdoor tennis courts.
As the club continued to attract new members, the original clubhouse was eventually rebuilt. Designed by renowned architects Lake-Flato, its soaring glass and powerful stonework captured stunning views of Garden of the Gods and Pikes Peak. In 1998, golf course architec tMark Rathert added nine holes to the Kissing Camels Golf Course, which brought the course to 27 holes.
In 2007, Sunrise Company purchased Garden of the Gods Club from Hill Development. Since then, Sunrise has invested $5 million dollars into property improvements, including the following:
The Hills’ original vision for a private club, luxury resort, and residential community is alive and well today. Whether golfing our 27-hole championship course, competing on the tennis courts, staying fit at the Sports Club, relaxing at the Spa, playing with their kids at the Recreation Center, meeting friends for dinner, or dancing the night away at one of our many parties, Garden of the Gods Club members find their days filled with family, friends, and experiences that they will cherish for a lifetime.