Eagle-Vail set for Friday opening | VailDaily.com

Eagle-Vail set for Friday opening

Chris Frud

There’s the elation over that chip-in for birdie or that drive which seems to fly forever. Then, there’s the club-grinding and muttering after the three-putt or the skulled approach that whizzes over the green.

The Eagle-Vail Golf Club, which is scheduled to open Friday, is sure to provide these moments as well as ups and downs of another kind.

“It is true mountain golf. It’s huge elevation changes,” Eagle-Vail assistant manager Bill Vancuren said. “It’s spectacular scenery. It’s the huge spruce trees and the Aspen groves and all those things tied into one course.”

And new for 2003 is a $2-million irrigation system, which is designed to conserve water, while keeping the course in good condition all summer.

“What the irrigation system is going to enable us to do is not only conserve water, but put it down more effectively,” course superintendent Chriss Leavitt said. “We’ll have a lot of control because we’ll have a weather station that’s all computer operated.”

That computer will be able to adjust watering levels based on the weather. According to Leavitt, when it’s raining, the watering system shuts down immediately. Too windy? The sprinklers get turned down a notch. And, if there’s a dry spell, the irrigations system responds accordingly.

And that’s good news for golfers, who need all the help they can get at this challenging 18. At 6,819 yards from the tips, Eagle-Vail is not a long course by modern standards, but long-hitters beware.

“The big hitter does not have an advantage on this course,” Vancuren said. “It’s so tight that the accurate hitter is rewarded much more than a long hitter. We get 3-handicappers out here all the time, who shoot 85 or 90 and can’t figure out what happened.”

You can pull out the driver on No. 1 – a par-5, 552-yarder – hitting off a cliff down onto a good-sized fairway. This one is reachable in two, but take note of the inviting bunkers around the green.

After No. 2, golfers head through Little Eisenhower Tunnel for four holes north of Highway 6. A word to the wise here – all the greens on these four holes slope toward the Eagle River.

The highlights here include the par-3, 158-yard fifth, which crosses the Eagle River. For the unfortunate ones who splash down, on the other side there is a drop area, which should be renamed for the author, who has spent many an afternoon there.

No. 6 goes back over the river and, at just 301 yards, this par-4 is driveable.

The course moves east and up for two eye-popping holes on nine and 10. The ninth – handicapped No. 1 on the scorecard – is a blind tee shot, par-4 462-yarder. This hole is a fader’s delight as the hole opens up to the right. Hit the perfect fade and it will roll for days.

Then it’s up – and we mean up – to 10, a par-3, 208-yarder, that drops a good 250 feet onto the green. Hit your 150-yard club from the tips and watch it take its time coming down. You’ll have time to order a pizza during that time.

Water lines both 11 and 12 and after, the tricky par-3 13th, the fun begins on the finish. No. 14 is a long 566-yard, par-5, reachable for only the longest of hitters. At 15, golfers begin the climb into the Eagle-Vail hills with the hidden gem of this course. Just 377 yards from a hidden tee box, 15 narrows toward rocks and a creek. Depending on your tee shot, it’s decision time – whether to lay up or risk a tough approach shot to the elevated green. Take note of the pin position because the 15th green is two-tiered and being on the wrong tier spells three-putt.

Another blind tee shot awaits on 16. You need 200 yards off the tee and then take one club longer than you think for your approach to another elevated green.

After the picturesque par-3, 17th, it’s grip-it-and-rip-it time on the 18th, a par-5 finale off another cliff. With the right drive, this is a good way to end the day by visiting the bird sanctuary.

Shoulder season rates are $60, rising to $99 during peak season. During peak season, the rate drops to $79 at 2 p.m. and twilight is after 4 p.m. and is $59

Eagle-Vail residents can buy a season pass for $650, with a pass, cart fee of $19 per round. There is also a Preferred Golfer Pass for Eagle County residents, which is 10 rounds for $550.

The 18-hole course isn’t the only golfing amenity at Eagle-Vail. The Willow Creek Par-3, a nine-hole course, is a great place for beginners, kids, families and veteran golfers looking to work on their short games. There’s also a big practice facility, which features tee boxes, two 11,000-square feet greens for chipping and putting as well as bunker work.

Lip-outs: New for 2003 also is a new fleet of carts with windshields for those afternoon showers. … Tonight, Willow Creek has its kickoff night for juniors at 7. There will be plenty of junior programs this summer with sessions on Saturdays in May and June. The Willow Creek Open for kids is July 21 and there’s also a parents-kid scramble set for June at the pitch and putt. … Also for juniors, Eagle-Vail has the Early Bird Program, where relatively experienced junior golfers can tee off from the 11th early in the morning and play their way back home … Tournaments galore: Firefighters (May 28), Club Pro-Am (May 30) and Men’s Four-Ball (Mid-September) and the Daisy Ladies Tournament (TBD). Also, we are expecting a return of the Bad Pants Tournament this fall. Be afraid. Very afraid. …

Group outings are also available. Call Eagle-Vail at 949-5267. … May 18 is complementary club fitting. … Leagues? Women’s league is set for Tuesday mornings, while the men play Wednesday afternoon. … Individual instruction is also available from head pro Mark Kizzire and assistant pro Mark Mobley. For more information, call 949-5267.

Chris Freud is the sports editor for the Vail Daily. Contact him at (970) 949-0555, ext. 614 or by e-mail at cfreud@vaildaily.com.

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