EAGLE COUNTY — Remember the scene in “Caddyshack” where the priest is struck by lightning while playing the round of his life in a get-the-ark-ready deluge? Some golfers really are like that.
Need proof? Well, the Eagle-Vail golf course was closed due to weather Monday and Tuesday, and the weather the rest of the week was anything but ideal. Beyond that, only 10 holes are open at the moment. Despite all that, Chris Devens in the course’s golf shop said the course is seeing between 20 and 30 golfers a day, with several of those people going around twice.
“We’ve already had a ton of pass holders come in,” Devens said.
In the west end of the valley, the courses at Eagle and Gypsum have both been open for some time, and golfers are getting in time either at the driving ranges or on the courses. On nice days, there can be plenty of people chasing balls around.
“Even in April we had days of 100 or more golfers,” Gypsum Creek Golf Club’s Christy Martin said. “We’ve had people from up and down the valley.”
Last weekend, Eagle-Vail was booked full, although the weather played a role in whether or not people were actually able to tee off. Weather also plays a role in when a course can actually open.
Vail’s golf course is one of the most dependent on weather, which, as we all know, can be variable this time of year. While the course every year aims for a mid-May opening, course officials hope some warmer weather in the coming week will allow the course to open Friday.
Other courses are opening during the next few weeks. Cordillera, which, except for the nine-hole “short course” near the lodge, is open only to members and guests, will have three courses open this season. The valley course, adjacent to Interstate 70 at Edwards, is open now. The “mountain course” is set to open Friday and the “summit course” is set for a June 6 opening.
Since weather can throw a large monkey wrench into golfing plans, this is the time of year when it’s easy to find deals on a round.
Golfers can play Eagle Ranch for as little as $69 per round, and people can pay as little as $39 for 18 holes and a cart at Gypsum Creek.
High-season prices can be quite a lot higher, of course, and people seem willing to spend.
A 2011 report by the National Golf Course Owners Association states that the national golf economy generated $68.8 billion in goods and services that year. In 2005, when the national economy was humming at a high level, that number was $75.9 billion.
The national industry is still trying to lure younger players to the game — and local courses including Eagle-Vail participate in the “First Tee” youth program to find fresh faces. Local courses, though, rely on both locals and visitors to fill out tee-time sheets.
Locally, golfing isn’t at the level of skiing, but plenty of tourists still take golf vacations, or at least include it in their plans when coming to the high country. Again, though, weather plays a crucial role. In the deep drought year of 2012, many tourists who had booked ski vacations ended up spending at least some time golfing at Gypsum Creek, which had used the lack of snow to open early.
Then there’s this year, when the grass at Vail hasn’t fully awakened from its seasonal slumber. When the weather does clear, though, expect courses and driving range to get, and stay, busy throughout the season.