Prepping for putting |

Prepping for putting

Geraldine Haldner

For the Vail Golf Course staff, the last couple of weeks have been a time to preach prevention for the promise of better turf later in the summer season.

Once the snow has receded and the mud has dried up, Vail’s greens and fairways often look greener than they really are and the question of when one can tee off for a full round of golf becomes the paramount piece of knowledge sought in the unlikeliest places.

“I’ll be in the grocery store and someone who recognizes me will ask when are you opening. It’s a question I get a lot this time of the year,” says Vail Golf Course General Manager Randy Houseman.

Despite knowing that the typical opening date for the county’s highest golf course, situated at 8,150 feet, falls within the second week in May and traditionally lags about a month behind lower-altitude courses in Gypsum and Eagle, Houseman says a few eager golfers seem to think a relatively low snowpack and shorter ski season on Vail Mountain should translate into an expanded golf season in Vail this year.

“By and large people around here understand we can’t just open up the minute the ski hill closes,” Houseman says. “But there are a few that seem to think that the opening date should change this year for some reason – maybe it’s global warming or something.”

Putting golfers’ minds at ease, here it is – Vail’s golf course will open May 10.

“That’s pretty typical for our golf course,” says Piet Pieters, director of the Vail Recreation District, which operates the 22-year-old, 18-hole championship course – one of four public courses in the Vail Valley.

In fact, Pieters says, the course is slated to be ready five days earlier than initially thought back in April – and three days ahead of last year’s opening date.

By opening day, Jim Myers crews will have put in long hard hours to make the Vail golf course the best it has ever been.

“(By) June and July, once we get all that seed established and grown in, I think conditions will be good,” Myers says, adding that greens treated last fall prior to frost, “will be 10 times better than they have been in the past.”

Since early April, Myers’ crews have been at work rehabilitating damaged fairways and tee boxes, aerating and slit-seeding.

The reasons for delaying the opening date are scientific and rooted in the belief that an ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure.

Winter temperatures and a six-month snow cover often compacts soil to a density where moisture can’t penetrate and vegetation does not receive enough air to thrive. Heavy traffic on wet soil would compact the soil and hamper root growth,” Myers says.

Opening earlier in the spring would also thin winter-weakened grasses, which would not regenerate as quickly as they do during the growing season. New seeds need time to grow in before they are resistant to foot and cart traffic.

“Once you get new seeding in and a ton of people trample on it, obviously it doesn’t give the plant a chance to get established,” Myers says. “That’s what most people don’t understand. They say, “oh it looks great, let’s fire up, let’s go.'”

Paying for golf in Vail:

A new green fee structure is being instituted for the 2002 golfing season:

Shoulder seasons (May 10 to June 13; Sept. 16 to Oct. 13)

– Outside Guest – $650 (18-holes); $35 (9-holes)

– Eagle County Resident – $55 (18-holes); $30 (9-holes)

– In-District Taxpayer – $45 (18-holes); $25 (9-holes)

High season (June 14 to Sept. 15)

– Outside Guest – $105 to (18-holes); $65 (9-holes)

– Eagle County Resident – $75 (18-holes); $50 (9-holes)

– In-District Taxpayer – $55 (18-holes); $35 (9-holes)

Geraldine Haldner covers Vail, Minturn and Red Cliff. She can be reached at (970) 949-0555, ext. 602 or at

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