Eagle-Vail opens 18 Saturday | VailDaily.com

Eagle-Vail opens 18 Saturday

Ted Martin tees off on No. 18 at Eagle Vail Golf Club for this year's Firecracker Tournament. Fun was had by all!

EAGLE-VAIL – The Eagle-Vail Golf Club is opening up 18 holes on Saturday, and the key here is 18.

As Eagle-Vail continues its makeover, it adds a new par-3, known as new No. 8, but still has hole Nos. 3 and 6 open – those will be turned into one hole, new No. 5 eventually, at the end of the season – technically giving the course 19 holes. This was by design.

“Part of the commitment to the project was to affect golfers as little as possible and leave 18 holes available for play,” Eagle-Vail’s head golf pro Ben Welsh said. “We intentionally built a new hole early in the project so that we would have 19 holes for the time being. That way we can work on one hole on a particular day and still have 18 holes open to our golfers.”

And if you’re wondering, we’ve finally got some sun and 60-degree temperatures forecast for Saturday.

Meet the newbies

The new No. 7 has already seen some action as Eagle-Vail has had its lower 10 holes open for play. While the eventually everyone will get the new numbering down, the new seventh is actually an incarnation of the former par-5 eighth. It’s now a par-4, which was playing around 375 yards from the white tees, or standard men’s boxes at Eagle-Vail, earlier this week.

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As is annual tradition, the author discloses that he is a season-pass holder at this course, but his early experience with this new hole says, “Be left.” This par gets tight toward the green and Stone Creek is very much in play on the right throughout, but particularly so on the approach. There is a bunker right right of the green, but, alas, it was no help to the author on his ill-fated 9-iron.

New No. 8 makes it debut this weekend, and will eventually replace the par-3 third. No. 8 is “only” 110 yards from the blues and the whites, but it’s uphill and has a deep bunker to the left of the green. Also noteworthy is that its putting surface is definitely large by Eagle-Vail standards, so even a well-placed tee shot will not ensure birdie or par.

“In designing a short hole, we figured there had to be significant trouble,” Welsh said. “It has a false front because you wouldn’t be able to see the green from the tee if we didn’t have that feature. That left bunker is very deep, so if the pin is left, I can see it tempting you to go into the bunker.”

Welsh estimates that the eighth will play more like 140-150 yards. Your mileage may vary.

No. 16 is not a new hole, but it has a new green, which was sorely needed. The short dogleg right par-4 used to play to a postage stamp-sized green where every putt was an adventure. Eagle-Vail started moving dirt around last summer and the 16th green is now 4 feet lower for the approach shot over water and roughly 33 percent bigger.

“The (stone) wall makes it look a little daunting, but the actual green surface is 4 feet lower,” Welsh said. “It’s much more manageable, and the green wintered well. I went out there and putted and the ball rolls perfectly.”

No. 13, the longest par-3 from the whites at 181 yards, will open this weekend without its two front bunkers. The idea here is to lets golfers bounce their shots into this green which slopes from right to left.

It’s worth noting that a lot of the scheduled bunker work has already been done – only four holes are left on that front. And most of the tee-box leveling has also been completed.

Hit it straight

And even after these changes, Eagle-Vail is still all about accuracy. Bombing the ball is nice, but with the course playing roughly 6,200 yards from the regular tees, even after renovation, being able to play your next shot is vital.

Elevation change is still a theme with major downhill tee shots on Nos. 1, 9, 10 and 18. Nos. 1 and 18 are bookend par-5s, while Nos. 9 and 10 are usually considered the signature holes. No. 9 is a par-4, 425 yarder. The tee shot is blind here and it’s usually a good idea to go with a hybrid or long iron off the tee. No. 10 is one of the better drop-shot par-3s in the county. While the card says 197 yards from the tips, this hole plays more like 150. Use your 100-yard club from the whites.

Eagle-Vail finishes with holes 15-18 in an Aspen grove. Beware Nos. 15 and 16. They’re both short par-4s, but both play to greens guarded by water. These are the holes that will determine if you break 100, 90 or 80. And if you play Eagle-Vail in the fall, bring your camera for the colors.

Chip shots

Men’s League moves to Sunday afternoons, starting June 5. Ladies League is still on Tuesday mornings. … The Willow Creek Par-3 also opens Saturday. … Lessons are available on site from the course’s PGA teachers. … Season passes are no longer available, but 10-round punch cards are still on sale. … Tournaments: The Three Generation Tournament is July 2 at Willow Creek and the Firecracker is July 3, followed by a view of Avon’s fireworks from the first tee box. … To book a tee time, call 970-949-5267 or got eaglevailgolfclub.com.

Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or cfreud@vaildaily.com.