Born into a prominent Philadelphia family in 1865, Spencer Penrose followed his ambitions west, making his fortune in mining, ore processing and real estate speculation. By 1916, he had built a road and staged an automobile race to the top of Pikes Peak. He’d also purchased the El Pomar estate and another 490 acres on which he would not only put The Broadmoor grand hotel but also an 18-hole course designed by the preeminent course architect Donald Ross, the designer of Pinehurst, who referred to his layout at the base of Cheyenne Mountain as “his finest work.” At 6,400 feet above sea level, it stood as the highest course in North America at that time.
From the day it opened, July 4, 1918, the world-class course enhanced The Broadmoor’s reputation as a world-class resort. Setting the tone, Penrose by invited four of the country’s foremost golfers—U.S. Open champion Chick Evans, PGA champion (and Broadmoor head golf professional) Jim Barnes, future PGA champion Jock Hutchison and Western Amateur champion Warren Wood—to christen the course with a match.
Within a decade, Penrose’s resort had established the Broadmoor Invitation and Broadmoor Ladies Invitation, both tournaments that drew top amateurs and future major champions. A passel of similarly prestigious national championships followed. Before his death in 1939, The Broadmoor had hosted four of the six Trans-Mississippi Amateurs it would eventually hold, as well as the first of the three Western Amateurs.
The championship pedigree Penrose initiated endures to this day, with courses that have welcomed eight USGA championships (two U.S. Amateurs, two U.S. Senior Opens, two U.S. Women’s Opens, the 1982 U.S Women’s Open and the 1962 Curtis Cup Matches) and will host the 2025 U.S. Senior Open. The Broadmoor has also held five NCAA Division I Men’s National Championships and three Women’s Western Amateurs.
Eulogized as the Pikes Peak region’s “greatest builder and benefactor of the last quarter century,” Penrose is entombed in the Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun on Cheyenne Mountain—the same structure that golfers to this day use to gauge how their putts will break on The Broadmoor’s East and West Courses.