A visit to the bird sanctuary … or the dumps | VailDaily.com

A visit to the bird sanctuary … or the dumps

Dominique Taylor/Vail DailySteve O'Brien, center-right, and Sean Riley, far right, watch as Craig Cahalane tees off from the par-3, eighth hole at Cotton Ranch Wednesday in Gypsum. The eighth at Cotton Ranch is one of the two finest drop shots in public golf in the valley.

They’re either birdie opportunities or round busters.They’re the chance for golf immortality (at least in your own mind) with an ace or they’re the place to lose three or four golf balls.Par-3s.

These holes are particularly special in Eagle County, where elevation change is the name of the game. All four courses which are reasonably available to the public – Vail, Eagle-Vail, Eagle Ranch and Cotton Ranch – have some mind benders, which can produce some of the most memorable shots of your life or send you straight to the beer cart.Stories like these always open a can of worms, but this is one of the reasons we play golf – to argue over the best shot (Gene Sarazen at the 1935 Masters), the best course (St. Andrews), the best golfer (Jack Nicklaus – not yet, Tiger) and so on.So, here are our top-10 par-3s in Eagle County:10. Eagle-Vail No. 5, 158 yards – It really doesn’t play as long as the card says. It’s more like 140 yards. It really shouldn’t be that difficult, except for the fact that you have to cross the Eagle River and avoid two greenside bunkers. Kayakers take their lives into their own hands when they paddle this stretch of the river. If you’re lucky enough to hit the green, you better be below the hole. If you’re above the pin, good luck stopping it. There is a drop area for those in the drink. The author has been there many times.

9. Vail No. 3, 154 yards – How is this No. 17 on the card? No freaking way. Hole Nos. 1, 4, 5, 7 and 10 are definitely easier tasks on the county’s oldest loop. The crux of the issue is the crested green. Good luck sticking it. What seems like an innocent 9-iron more often than not rolls off the back of the green and then you’re in real trouble. It requires the most delicate of touches to the green coming back. This is not a birdie hole.8. Eagle Ranch No. 11, 192 yards – A rare uphill par-3, this hole begins to show the teeth of Arnie Palmer’s back nine. From the tips, this thing is more like 210 yards. Miss this green right, you’re in a whole bunch of junk. You may find a ball, but it’s likely not yours. Miss left or above (especially in that inviting bunker) and you’re likely rolling down into the rough. Take a par or a bogey here and make up for it on the par-5 12th or on the par-4 downhill 13th.7. Cotton Ranch, No. 3, 209 yards – I birdied this hole once, and to this day I don’t know how, and I haven’t come close since. There’s water and a lot of nasty stuff to the left. Right is purgatory. Did we mention the wind? It’s often a crosswind. Please adjust accordingly.

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