Last weekend, I played 36 holes of golf.
This is not exactly breaking news. I meet people all over Eagle County who say, “You remember the time we played golf?” No, not exactly. I’m sure the comedy show that is my golf game is more memorable than you are. Sorry.
The newsy element of those 36 holes was that none of them were at EagleVail, Freud’s home away from home and home away from the newsroom.
On Day 1 of the weekend, my Sunday golfing buddy of nearly 20 years — we shall call him Austin, to preserve his anonymity, or not — got us on Red Sky Norman. On Day 2, I showed up at EagleVail, but the course was packed.
So, gasp, I went to Eagle Ranch.
During the winter, I never understand all the people with Epic Passes who go to Utah for Park City or out to Tahoe in California for Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood. “YO, PEOPLE, THERE’S A LOT OF TERRAIN AT VAIL, BEAVER CREEK, BRECK, AND KEYSTONE.”
Now I understand a little more. That and I take three weeks per summer to golf my brains out in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
Break out of your rut
It is nice to break out of the routine, and I know a lot of golfers in Eagle County do the same as me. You have your season pass/membership at your golf course/club and just play there over and over.
Why not? It’s there. It’s fun. It’s easy. You know what shots you have to hit. It’s all good.
As much as I enjoy EagleVail’s funkiness — I like to call it character and local course knowledge — it’s good to get out and play something else.
Even if it kicks your butt, which is a way of saying I had a nice time at Red Sky Norman. It’s the most fun you can have three-putting pretty much every green.
I mean that in a good way. For those of us who play EagleVail, the greens are small because it’s a tight course. You get on the green, you know the break because you’re playing the darn course three times per week, and you two-putt.
Norman’s greens have their own freaking ZIP codes. I kept on thinking I was making a good chip onto the green only to see that my ball was, in fact, seemingly still a 9-iron away from the pin.
To be clear, I am not criticizing Red Sky. It’s fantastic golf. The fairways, tee boxes and so on are nicer than most people’s carpets in fancy homes. The views from the Norman were staggering. If you have the resources or know someone — thanks, Austin — you should give it a go.
The transition, though, from EagleVail to Red Sky just slaps you upside the head. Perhaps since they’re both public loops, comparing my experiences at EagleVail and Eagle Ranch is a better idea.
Although, then again, they’re completely different courses, which is the point of the exercise of playing different golf courses. It was such a novel concept playing greens that don’t bleed away from the fairways. (Again, at EagleVail, we call that character, not crazy course design.)
And holy cow, were the Eagle Ranch fairways firm. Freud loved himself some bounce, just as long as his Precept — the golf ball of champions, as I call it, or, the cheap ball at Walmart, as I also call it — didn’t go into the native grasses. Freud has other phrases for native grasses that can’t be printed in a family paper.
Perhaps the most startling difference between EagleVail and Eagle Ranch are the par-3s. At EagleVail, they’re short with the exception of No. 13, which has a green inhabited by Satan. (Again, we call that character, people.)
With the exception of the aforementioned 13th, EagleVail’s par-3s don’t play more than 141 yards. Eagle Ranch’s shortest par-3 played 146 yards, and it’s the evil 11th. I mean that in the nicest way, and I’m probably not the only one to refer to No. 11 in that fashion.
There’s a reason Eagle Ranch touts it as the shortest par-5 in the county and I parred it if you consider it a par-5.
Like a lot of upvalley golfers, I play Eagle Ranch in the spring and in the fall, so it was fantastic to take on the course’s finish, hole Nos. 16-18, in a howling wind during the high season. (As far as I’m concerned, it’s not Eagle Ranch without a breeze.)
As a 28-handicap, I doubled 16, got a fantastic bogey on 17 and tripled the last without losing my golf ball, for which I think I deserve a medal.
Not only is it fun to play different courses to break up your summer, but it also makes the return to ye olde home course a little sweeter. I may or may not have played golf on Friday at EagleVail — apparently, my editor reads the paper and I need plausible deniability.
It was so nice to be back. (OK, Freud, calm down. You hadn’t played your home course in one week. It wasn’t exactly like you were climbing Everest.) Huzzah, short par-3s and greens I actually understand. (Again, they’ve got character.)
So, get out of your rut. Play Vail — I always forget how lovely the Gore Range is. How do I forget that? Play EagleVail. As much as I joke about character, there is serious holy cow factor on a bunch of the tee shots. Play Eagle Ranch. It’s a great Arnold Palmer design with lots of different tees for players of all abilities. (Love the Chairman’s set.) Play Gypsum Creek. Since they flipped the nines I still confuse the holes, but they’re all still there, and the mesa will test just about anyone. (Talk about a stretch of holes where not losing your golf ball is an accomplishment.)
Go play because it will be snowing soon enough and then you can use your Epic Pass to ski in far-flung places.