Cotton Ranch opens all 18 today |

Cotton Ranch opens all 18 today

Cotton Ranch head golf pro Sean Riley has said the magic words.

“Golf season is finally here,” he said. “We are opening all 18 holes, the range and having carts.”

Today is opening day for golf in Eagle County. Ski in the morning and then bring your sticks down to Cotton Ranch for 18 holes, a time-honored spring tradition in the valley.

Early season rates are $40 to walk and $50 to ride the Pete Dye-designed course in Gypsum.

For a refresher course or for those who haven’t teed it high and let it fly at Cotton Ranch, the basic theme is hang on for dear life on the front nine, and make up for it on the back.

The 7,052-yard loop from the tips begins with 420-yard, par-4 with the fairway split by plenty of trouble in the form of brush, which will hopefully not be a theme for your round. After a birdie opportunity on No. 2, it’s time for a little par-3 fun on No. 3. OK, maybe not so much fun – it’s 209 yards to the pin and a crosswind usually comes into play here.

In the next five holes, Cotton Ranch really shows its teeth. It starts with the 555-yard, par-5 fourth, which plays more like 650 yards since it goes uphill, as you make your ascent toward the course’s mesa holes. The beast of the mesa holes is No. 6 – though five and seven are certainly no cupcakes.

No. 6 is No. 1 on the card and justifiably so. It’s a 568-yard, par-5 with very little room for error. The three landing areas are narrow and have plenty of sagebrush and it takes a precise iron shot to find the green, protected by a gulch and bunkers.

No. 8 takes you down – and we’re not kidding about down – off the mesa with a par-3, 164 yarder shot. It’s one of the county’s premiere drop shots. Do club down here and watch the wind.

The front nine ends with a challenging 455-yard, par-4. Do note pin position here because if you’re on the wrong tier, it’s likely a three-putt.

The back nine is links golf. Welcome to British Open golf on 10 and 11, where you’re often playing into the wind. The par-4, 11th (441 yards) is a challenge, where even with a good tee shot, you have a long approach to the green to make it in regulation.

But, you can make hay on the back’s two par-5s (No. 13 – 563 yards and No. 16 – 514 yards). Here, you have the wind and the bird sanctuary is a distinct possibility.

Sandwiched in between those holes are two really nice side-by-side par-4’s in 14 and 15, though that pit bunker in front of the green on 14 is there for a reason.

No. 17 – a par-3, 196-yarder – is one of the toughest par-3s in the county with an elusive green guarded by water to the left and a wind that tends to put you there. Cotton Ranch closes in style with the 18th. This par-4, 461-yarder makes for decision time. Do you lay up or go for it in two across Gypsum Creek to the final green. Your mileage may vary.

For a tee time, call (970) 524-6200.

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