Shining Mountain Golf Course and Event Center Kicks Off Season with New Team

~ by Rick Langenberg ~

Meet the new team. Jeff Esterline, Max Nickelsburg and April Babin of the Shining Mountain Golf Course and Event Center. Shining Mountain will debut the new nightly opening of its Bella Vista Restaurant this Friday, and are planning regular entertainment there during the summer. The course is already open for play. Photo by Rick Langenberg

Shining Mountain has kicked off the 2017 season with a new management team, a stellar restaurant and head chef; and more importantly, a bold mission. And to top matters off, Woodland’s popular links hub will feature a slightly different name, branding itself as the Shining Mountain Golf Course and Event Center.

Local residents will get a hefty dose of the changes in store during the official grand opening of the nightly debut of the Bella Vista restaurant this Friday (April 21). During the opening, head chef Max Nickelsburg will unveil an upscale Italian menu, including such specialties as Rotelle of Chicken Parmesan with Linguine and Braised Veal Chop in Chianti, and much more. The restaurant, Woodland Park’s only Italian eatery, will be open six nights a week and seven days a week for lunch.

Katy Graves, known as “Whiskey Kate,” will perform live music for the grand opening festivities. Bella Vista is only one notable change at Shining Mountain this year. SM is featuring a brand new team, headed by general manager Jeff Esterline, food/beverages and events manager April Babin, head chef Nickelsburg, marketing director Kimberly Smith and IT specialist Joe Neal.“We are raising the Titanic and moving it a bit,” quipped Smith, in reference to past bids by Shining Mountain to run their operations. However, the new management team is making one of the boldest efforts to resurrect Shining Mountain, which hasn’t had a successful restaurant or year-round operation in recent years. “This is an absolute jewel in the mountains with plenty of potential. I am very confident in this team’s ability to make this work,” said Smith, who owns the CME Productions company, and has lived in the area for nearly 20 years. She has worked with past management teams and is bullishly optimistic about the prospects of the current Shining Mountain operators.

Since early April, many locals have enjoyed a sneak preview of “Chef Max’s” lunch samplings with his famed Calamari, Bella French Fries, fish tacos and more. Nickelsburg, who sports an impressive culinary resume, working at such places as the Swiss Chalet and several top restaurants in the region, is renowned for crafting fresh dishes with a unique style. He also headed the food operations of the former Maximillian’s Café in Woodland Park. Nickelsburg vows that his Italian-based offerings are much different than what people have experienced in the past in Woodland Park. “This is true, authentic Italian food,” said Nickelsburg, who especially is excited about some of the fish entrees he plans to introduce.   

Esterline, meanwhile, hails from the Pine Creek golf course in Colorado Springs, and spent time last year at Shining Mountain as a consultant. He also is a certified PGA (Professional Golf Association) professional. During a recent Woodland Park Chamber of Commerce after-hours gathering, Eserline made no pretentions that big changes are coming to the Shining Mountain Golf Course and Event Center with more of a commitment to consistency, quality service and community involvement.  

Besides the restaurant, Shining Mountain plans to do live entertainment on the weekends and feature regular events, such as poker nights. Their twice-a-month Bingo outings, a fund-raiser for the local Kiwanis Club, have attracted dozens of participants. The new team has even mulled the possibility of doing a dinner theater production at the Shining Mountain Golf Course and Event Center.  

Golf Mecca

And for golfers, plenty of great opportunities abound. The new management team plans to soon hire a golf professional, an addition that has never occurred before.  This could provide a lot more opportunities for clinics and lessons. Maybe with a little bit of instruction, golfers can learn to tame the 18-hole course, known for its multi-varied hazards. (Well, at least the opportunity is there). Despite the course’s challenging layout, efforts have been made to make the track a little more user-friendly. This trend is expected to continue this year.

The Shining Mountain course also is reaping the benefits of an experienced greens-keeping and maintenance crew. Initial reports indicate that the greens are in good shape for this time of year, despite the dry weather. “The golf course was in great shape last year. It should even be in better shape this year,” commented Smith.

Once again, the public course is offering annual passes and other packages.  Regular social and tournament play also occurs for a variety of men, women and senior groups. In addition, Shining Mountain is the home course for the Woodland Park High School golf team, which won the 2016 league championship. Disc golf is another big addition, as last year the course opened its facility to this burgeoning sport. Shining Mountain offers one of the few Frisbee golf layouts in Colorado, located on an actual links course. The interchange between disc golfers and regular players has occurred remarkably well.    

In mid-May, the Shining Mountain Golf Course and Event Center will feature a big two-day disk golf tournament that could feature some of the best players in Colorado. It also is open for amateurs. As in past years, the Shining Mountain Golf Course and Event Center offers a prime spot for hosting weddings and various events. “This is the best place to hold an event in the area. It is second to none,” said Smith.

Shining Mountain also will play a more active role in the community and with social media. With TMJ News, it will soon sport an on-line weather camera, outlining conditions and other vital information

In addition, the new team also wants to make Shining Mountain into a year-round operation. Smith said talks have surfaced with groups who want to use the facility for winter activities.

For more information about the Shining Mountain Golf Course and Event Center, call 719-687-7587 or visit them at