Eagle Ranch G.C. open for business | VailDaily.com

Eagle Ranch G.C. open for business

Chris Freud
Vail Daily/Shane Macomber The par-5, 16th hole at Eagle Ranch begins a challenging finish at the Arnold Palmer-designed golf course. Eagle Ranch has opened for its fourth season this week.

It is the youngest of the public links in Eagle County, but it has quickly developed a reputation as one of the finest.

Eagle Ranch’s fourth year is under way and many challenges await those who take on this Arnold Palmer-designed course. There’s the length – 7,575 yards from the tips and a daunting 6,756 yards from the men’s blues.

And, don’t forget the wind. This course can play even longer, if that’s possible to imagine. Then, there’s the water. It’s on 12 of the 18 holes.

All of this makes for a fun – with the caveat that it depends where your ball lands – and challenging day of golf at Eagle Ranch.

“A lot of mountain courses can be a little quirky,” Eagle Ranch director of golf Jeff Boyer said. “The thing I like about Eagle Ranch is that there are very few holes where you’re forced to take driver out of your hand. It may not be smart to pull driver, but you’re not forced to go with an iron.”

No. 1 is a benign par-4 to start the day, but let the fun begin on No. 2 – a par-5, 589-yarder, where water breaks up the fairway. There is a reason No. 4 graces the front of Eagle Ranch’s scorecard. This par-4 is comparatively short – 380 yards – but there’s a thing called sand. A huge set of bunkers guards the fourth green – and it is truly purgatory. If you land there, bring a shovel.

The course’s first par-3 comes on the fifth. It’s 182 yards downhill to a green guarded by an all too inviting pound. Be careful of the wind here. The tee boxes are sheltered from the wind, so look at the stick and adjust accordingly.

The second par-5 is “just” 539 yards from the tips, but there’s that little issue of wind. No. 6 usually plays into, what we shall tactfully call, “a stiff breeze.” On a breezy day, this hole can play more like 580-600 yards.

After a birdie opportunity on seven and a tricky par-3 on eight, it’s showtime. No. 9 is a par-4. We repeat, at 498 yards, No. 9 is par-4. Water lines the left and O.B. is right. The bunkers front left and back right of the green are there for a reason. Arnie Palmer wasn’t kidding around with this hole, which is No. 1 on the card. The King needed a driver and 4-iron to reach this one in regulation on opening day in 2001.

After stopping off at the grill – you can order food from the cart when you’re teeing off on nine – we begin Eagle Ranch’s fantastic back nine.

No. 10 eases you into the back with a par-4, followed by a very tough par-3 on 11. This green is guarded by water and a gully in front and to the right. Left is not really a good idea either. That’s because you’re usually above the hole here and the ball doesn’t exactly stop on a dime on this green. Get you cameras out for No. 12 – a par-5, 614-yarder. This is likely the course’s signature hole, working its way uphill to a green, which has a beautiful view of the valley.

“Twelve probably gets most people’s attention,” Boyer said. “It’s probably the most picturesque and interesting strategy hole on the golf course. For good players, especially with the new green we put in a couple of years ago, it’s a birdie opportunity if you keep it in play. If you don’t, that’s a whole other story.”

Yes, easier said than done. So, maybe you had a few errant shots or a couple of three-putts that are grinding on your mind. Enter No. 13 and let the big dog eat. It’s a par-4, 510 yarder, but it’s all downhill. Bomb away, avoiding the bunker in front of the first landing and let it roll.

No. 14 is a reachable par-4, especially from the blues, but avoid all those bunkers around the green. The 15th is a drop shot, par-3 where clubbing down is a necessity. These holes set up a daunting finish in the final three holes.

“For me, that’s the roughest part of the golf course,” Boyer said.

“I’ve had so many good rounds going into 16, 17 and 18 and it’s almost like I know that one or two or three of those holes are going to get me.”

You’ve got a wide open tee shot on the par-5 16th, which measures 593 yards, but the rub is the hole narrows as it winds right toward the green.

There’s also water which crosses the two fairways and a pond guarding the green, which makes it decision time on whether to go for it or layup and reach the green in three. Seventeen provides no relief. It’s likely one of the toughest tee shots on the course.

“I think 17 is a par-6 for me,” Boyer joked. “I don’t know. It looks like you’re hitting between two railroad tracks for me. On 17, it’s all about getting it onto the fairway and hitting it long. You don’t want to be hitting a long iron into the green.”

The last plays right along side No. 9, separated by water to the left. Like its counterpart to the left, 18 is a monstrously long par-4 (478 yards).

The further you go to the right, the more that drink comes into play. Bunkers and water to the right make par on the finishing hole, worthy of a celebration at the 19th.

Support Local Journalism