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Eagle Ranch golf course opens today

Daily file photoThe 18th hole at Eagle Ranch Golf and Country Club in Eagle.
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EAGLE – Happy Masters weekend, weather permitting.The “toonament,” as Hootie Johnson calls it, generally serves as the ceremonial opener for golf season in the High Country.Eagle Ranch is opening up just in time today and there’s a little Augusta connection.The obvious is that the course’s designer, Arnold Palmer, has four green jackets. The other comes from director of golf operations, Jeff Boyer.Amen”I think 11, 12 and 13 are about the toughest stretch of holes. It’s fitting that you can call them, Amen Corner,'” he said. “We’ve got a par-3, a par-5 and a par-4, and at Augusta, it’s a par-4, par-3 and par-5. But each are challenging make-or-break holes. It’s a great series of holes.”

All that’s missing are Rae’s Creek and the pimento sandwiches.Eagle Ranch’s back nine kicks into gear on 11, a 192-yard uphill par-3. Just like No. 12 on your TV set, if you’re short, you’re in the junk and if you’re above the hole, your second shot is not stopping.On No. 12 at Eagle Ranch, it’s time for some long ball. The 614-yarder starts from an elevated tee, and works its way up into the hills. It’s a lovely view from up there, but you do have to work for it.Completing Eagle Ranch’s Amen Corner is the par-4, 510-yard 13th. Again, no question. Pull the big stick. There is a big bunker to the left and a gully at the end of the first landing area, but the latter is not too penal. Just drill it.A tough finishNo. 14 – a short par-4 – and 15 – a drop-shot par-3 – provide some respite on the back nine. But, it’s only a short respite because you’re getting ready for one of the toughest finishes in local golf.This is where good rounds come to die. No. 16 is only a 593-yard, par-5 into the wind. Did we mention that water cuts the fairway as the hole turns right and then left? Then, there’s that little matter of a pond guarding the green. This is a three-shot par-5 for just about everybody.

The penultimate hole is 470 yard, par-4, yes, par-4. This is a theme at Eagle Ranch. It is tight with water to the right. Speaking of water, 18’s got plenty. For the love of everything holy, stay left on this closing 478-yard, par-4. Yes, par-4. If you par these three holes, buy yourself a double of your favorite at the 19th.Just to the right of 18 on the other side of the water is No. 9. These two holes amount to Eagle Ranch’s signature. Nine, like 18, is a monster par-4 at 498 yards.”My favorites have always been nine and 18 just because they finish each nine with a really good challenge from tee to green,” Boyer said. “Both are pretty long. That presents a challenge. But even with a long drive, you’re still forced to hit a middle or long iron into the green.”The kicker on No. 9 is that this hole’s green puts the “u” in undulation. Eat your Wheaties and check the pin position here. Nine is No. 1 on the card for a reason.The frontThe front starts with two long par-4s broken up by the 589-yard, par 5. There’s water off the tee, water splitting the fairway and the drink lines your approach to the green on the right.No. 4, at 380 yards, seems innocuous enough as long as you avoid the huge beach on the left side of the hole. Three-hundred-yard drives into the sand often turn into double bogeys on this par-4. Next up is the course’s first par-3, a flyover from elevated tees to a green guarded by a pond. Word to the wise, the fifth green breaks toward the drink.

Six is a 539 yard, par-5, which often plays into the wind, followed by the seventh, a definite birdie opportunity.Chip-insShoulder season rates are $69 for nonresidents, $59 for Eagle County dwellers and $52 for those from Eagle. These rates include cart. It’s $10 off for those teeing off after noon. … Season passes for Eagle residents are $1,150. For Eagle County residents, a pass is $1,550. Cart passes for the season are $500. … Eagle Ranch is one of the more walkable courses in the county and there are no restrictions on ambulatory golfers. … For Eagle residents, punch cards are available. Ten rounds are $375 and $545 with cart. The 20-round card is $650 and $950, respectively. … New for 2005 is an improved practice facility. Eagle Ranch is adding five new target greens on the range. The chipping green is being remodeled with bent grass. The practice bunker is being enlarged and there will be a new putting surface for lessons. … Upcoming tournaments: The Chad Fleischer Ski and Tee is April 16-17 and the Eagle Valley Chamber of Commerce Screaming Eagle Tournament is May 6. Fo more information or to book a tee time, call (970) 328-2882.Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 614, or cfreud@vaildaily.com.Vail, Colorado


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