IN the past half-decade in Colorado, the white picket fence has given way to the putting green.

The new American Dream is a swank house on a golf course. For many homebuyers, a view of the Rocky Mountains -- or, better yet, easy access to the ski slopes -- completes the deal.

After Tiger Woods helped ignite unprecedented popularity for the game of golf when he turned pro in 1996, a gravity-defying stock market, low interest rates, and a near-ubiquitous sense of wealth pushed the national market for golf-course residences into overdrive.

In Colorado, the boom never matched those in retirement-sanctuary states like Florida, California and Arizona. But it has been noteworthy On many Colorado courses, recent home-price appreciation has outpaced the already dynamic statewide residential market. Only time will tell whether 2001's wintry financial climate will cause the boom to plateau.

"When I look at why people are choosing (golf-course homes), it's a choice of lifestyle, and Colorado is what I would characterize as a 'quality-of-life' state," observed Roger Reinhardt, executive vice president of the Home Builders Association of Metro Denver.

Reinhardt said that, in the 1990s, with a throng of baby boomers teetering on the edge of retirement and the stock market booming, scores of homebuyers -- and second-home buyers -- figured, "'Now we can afford this lifestyle, and we're going to buy into it."'

The construction industry has worked overtime to keep up with the demand.

By the end of this summer, developers will have opened 46 golf courses in Colorado since 1995, bringing the state's total to 220, according to the Colorado Golf Association. At least 25 more are currently in planning or under construction. The net result: a blossoming of prime residential real estate.

"You rarely see a course built nowadays without houses on it," noted Matt Molloy, director of golf at Heritage Eagle Bend, southeast of Aurora.

The surge of golf-course homes has two epicenters: Metropolitan Denver and the Western Slope -- particularly the 30-mile radius around ski resorts.

Since 1995,17 courses have debuted in Metro Denver and 19 have opened in mountainous locales. The demand for residential property on the new mountain courses has been such that brokers often sell land by lottery, a strategy that often results in sellouts or near-sellouts in just a single weekend -- for land that tops out at $1 million per lot.

Summit County is a prime example, with three new or...

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