EAGLE COUNTY — The Vail Valley’s golf season got off to a slow start this year — which is good news, in a way.
During the 2012 drought, local courses opened weeks earlier than usual. The Gypsum Creek Golf Course was fully open in March and borrowed rental equipment from the Vail Golf Club to accommodate guests who wanted to golf, not ski on their vacations.
This year, a wet, snowy spring kept courses closed well into spring. The weather also kept people’s attention on other activities.
But the wet spring had its advantages for golfers, too.
“The course is really playing well,” said Alice Plain, Vail Golf Club director of golf. “The little bit of rain we’ve had lately has the course in great shape. It’s a huge improvement over last year.”
Plain’s comments about the Vail course were echoed at the valley’s other public courses in Eagle-Vail, Eagle and Gypsum.
With good course conditions have come the golfers, especially for the Fourth of July holiday. Course managers at all four courses said tee times were tight for certain times during the weekend. Plain said she expected last Friday to be Vail’s busiest day of the year so far.
At Eagle-Vail, head golf pro Ben Welsh said July 3 was that course’s busiest day of the season so far and that tee times were booking fast for Friday and Saturday. The logjam at the courses in Vail and Eagle-Vail started to ease Sunday, which makes sense, since it was go-home day for most visitors.
The numbers at Vail mean the course’s “pace of play” rules are fully in play. To keep players moving, Vail has course rangers to help keep people moving. That help extends to helping players find lost balls, if needed, to keep the carts rolling.
Welsh said Eagle-Vail has pace of play rules, too, aided by the GPS devices in every cart. If players get too far behind that course’s pace, they’ll be asked to skip a hole.
“Some players take pace of play very seriously,” Welsh said. “We try to keep everybody happy.”
While the upper valley courses get much, if not most, of the tourist play, plenty of visitors end up in Eagle and Gypsum, too.
At Gypsum, course manager Tom Buzbee said that course sees plenty of players from Texas and the Midwest in addition to valley residents. And, like much about summer travel, Buzbee said a lot of golfers book tee times a day or two before they want to play.
At Gypsum Creek, Buzbee said about half of that course’s players book in advance, with the rest booking tee times at the spur of the moment.
In Eagle, course manager Jeff Boyer said that course gets its share of visitors, too. Many of those people are return guests.
Boyer said people who golf in the valley often play multiple courses when they visit.
“People want to play something different,” Boyer said.
The Vail Valley gives players a chance to play very different courses in a single trip.
Players who haven’t played the valley’s public courses will find a few changes this year. The 12th tee box has been changed at Vail, and the restaurant at Eagle-Vail is open. Eagle-Vail is also about ready to again start its “Buckets and Brews” promotion, which gives players two beers and a bucket of balls for the driving range for $10.
Eagle-Vail also has a popular par-three course, which should only take 90 minutes or so to play.
The biggest change may be at Gypsum, where course managers have switched the course around, meaning last year’s front nine is now the back nine. That course restaurant is also open.
“People seem to like saving the upper holes for last,” Buzbee said.
As the holiday weekend crowds fade, course managers in the valley say there’s plenty of golfing available, and often at handy times.
Buzbee said he’s enjoyed seeing visitors and residents playing together at Gypsum Creek.
“I think it’s great for the community,” he said.
The course is really playing well,” said Alice Plain, Vail Golf Club director of golf. “The little bit of rain we’ve had lately has the course in great shape. It’s a huge improvement over last year.”