Eagle-Vail opens all 18 holes | VailDaily.com

Eagle-Vail opens all 18 holes

Daily file photo/Kristin AndersonJustin Olmsted tees off on the first hole at the Eagle-Vail Golf Club, which opened up all 18 holes Friday for the season.

EAGLE-VAIL ” How do you get to Carnegie Hall?

Practice, practice, practice.

How do you score low at the Eagle-Vail Golf Club?

“I heard someone say, ‘Don’t try to overpower Eagle-Vail. If you do, Eagle-Vail will win,'” Eagle-Vail head pro Ben Welsh said.

After a long winter, Eagle-Vail was able to open its so-called “upper eight” Friday to have all 18 holes open for the summer. And all the water is still there. And all the bunkers are still there. And all the altitude change is still there. And so are the narrow fairways.

Eagle-Vail is the shortest of Eagle County’s golf courses. It’s only 6,590 yards from the tips, but with the challenges listed above, it makes a round fun for golfers of all abilities.

“It makes it playable for everyone,” Welsh said. “The whole trend in golf courses is making them longer. Eagle-Vail’s a shorter course that’s fun for someone who isn’t a longer hitter, but still very challenging for an expert. I still struggle out there.”

The Eagle River and Stone Creek come into play on 12 holes. At various points, the course is carved into the side of the White River National Forest, making for a mountain golf experience, and the accompanying difficulty of finding your golf ball there. And greenside bunkers await on all but one hole.

The front nine

Elevation change comes into play early with the first hole, a 550-yard, par-5. The opening tee shot is 100 feet above the fairway. After the dogleg right second, golfers go through Little Eisenhower Tunnel for four theoretically short holes.

All four greens here slope dramatically toward the Eagle River, so adjust accordingly. No. 5 is a short par-3 over the Eagle, where the drop area comes into play often. The sixth is a risk-reward 276-yard par-4. It’s very drive-able, but left-leaning shots go into the drink and offerings right lead to a nearly impossible wedge onto the sloping green.

The seventh is a brief pause from elevation change, but at 414 yards, this par-4 is a bear. Out of bounds lines the right and Stone Creek waits on the left. The creek closes in on the fairway as golfers near the hole so one has to be very confident with an approach shot.

“It’s one of the more straight-forward holes, but you need a really long accurate tee shot,” Welsh said. “The thing about seven is that it’s a long approach shot, but you’ve got a big green, and a less-severe green than most, to shoot at.”

After the par-5 eighth, which has a fairway which conveniently slides toward the drink, it’s up into the hills. No. 9 is ranked as the toughest hole on the scorecard. The par-4 446-yarder has a blind tee shot through a chute of trees. Longer hitters might want to go with a hybrid or a long iron here because the fairway veers slightly right as it goes down toward the hole.

No. 10 is a drop-shot par-3. Even if you’re playing the standard white tees, it’s fun to take a poke from the blues here. At 197 yards, this plays more like 150 yards from the tips.

Into the woods

Eagle-Vail makes its literal turn back home after 10 holes. The back nine has three par-3s (including the 10th) and three par-5s. The first of the par-5s is 11. Water crosses the fairway at around 300 from the tee box and continues to creep into the fairway on the approach.

No. 14, the second par-5 of the back, starts Eagle-Vail’s spectacular finish through an aspen grove.

“It’s an opportunity to hit the driver,” Welsh said. “I love the way 14 looks against the mountains, too. It’s good par-5.”

Nos. 15 and 16 are the essence of Eagle-Vail. Both have elevated tee shots where a driver is not necessarily a good idea. Both approaches are to elevated greens guarded by water. The green on 15 has two tiers, so pin placement is critical. The putting surface on 16 is just plain fast.

Golfers come out of the woods for the 18th, one final grip-it-and-rip-it downhill par-5.

Chip shots

Like all golf courses in the county, it’s been a difficult winter for Eagle-Vail. The greens, though, while slow by normal standards, came through the snow well, thanks to superintendent Steve Barber and his crew. … All greens fees are on eaglevailgolfclub.com. Season passes are also available. … Ladies and Men’s Leagues are on Tuesdays. The First Tee Program, designed to introduce younger golfers to the sport, is on Thursdays. … Eagle-Vail has a new forward tee box on the 16th hole. The blue tees on 15 have been resodded as have all the boxes on the 18th. … Mulligan’s is under new management and remains a good place to recall the day’s glories over the cold beverage of your choice. … Willow Creek, Eagle-Vail’s accompanying par-3 course, is open this weekend and stays open for the season, starting June 7. … Eagle-Vail has a full driving range and practice area as well.

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

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