Golf season moves to Eagle Ranch
EAGLE, Colorado ” Just judging by the parking lot and the driving range Saturday, locals were ready for the Eagle Ranch Golf Club to open.
The Arnold Palmer-designed course, still the new kid on the block when it comes to public 18s, started up for its eighth season Wednesday after a long winter.
“It’s been super-busy. Everybody’s just excited to get out,” said Jeff Boyer, the course’s director of golf operations. “It’s a nice day finally. They’re hitting the range. There a lot of locals on the course.
“The best thing about Eagle Ranch’s early season is that our rates are low and the native grass is low too. It hasn’t grown up yet. You can get around the golf course, and even if you hit it sideways, you can still find your ball and play it out.”
Eagle Ranch has matured beautifully since The King himself christened it in 2001, gathering a strong local following in the west end of the county as well as attracting golfers from the east end of the county.
There’s good reason. The course plays as long as 7,530 yards from the tips ” but has five sets of tees for golfers of all abilities ” and has all sorts of challenges from Palmer’s signature bunkers to water to the aforementioned native grasses.
Par is your friend
After a comfortable starting par-4, Eagle Ranch starts to show its teeth with the par-5 second (589 yards from the back) and par-4 third (474 yards). The fourth is a short par-4 ” 327 yards from the blues ” but a huge bunker to the left swallows good tee shots and turns them into big numbers.
The fifth is the first of the course’s two dropping par-3s. Golfers have to carry a pond and watch the wind. Do check the flag stick here because it gives a better indication of what the wind is doing rather than how it feels at the tee.
The sixth can be a reachable par-5 or a trip to Scotland. The 539-yarder is the shortest par-5 on the course, but the wind (or lack thereof on a good day) goes a long way toward telling your score.
After a birdie chance on seven and a long par-3 on eight, it’s time to meet the first of Eagle Ranch’s two signature par-4s. Nos. 9 and 18 lie side-by-side separated by inviting water. They are narrow and long ” as in 498 yards from the tips on nine and 478 for the 18th. On both of these holes, par is your friend.
The back nine starts in earnest on 11, theoretically a simple 161-yard. par-3. This is Boyer’s favorite par-3 on the course.
“I guess that’s masochistic,” he said. “It’s tough and that hole’s got a lot of character.”
The character manifests itself in the hole being uphill to a green guarded on the right by native grasses, which can be interpreted as a lost ball. There is bail-out room to the left, but getting your chip shot to stop on the green is a tall order, and there’s a whole bunch of sand above the hole.
A big drive from the elevated tees on 12 is key. This par-5, 569 yarder is all the way uphill after the first shot. The good news is that golfers get to hit all the way downhill on the par-4 13th.
If you’re hitting the big dog well, by all means, go for it on 14. This is a driveable par-4 for the long hitter.
“My sneaky favorite hole is 14,” Boyer said. “It’s always a hole that you can make birdie on before the closing stretch. I just love the backdrop. I love how the green is up on a hill. You have the sage and juniper foothills and then New York Range in the background. It’s a pretty hole and the short par-4 comes in during the perfect time in the round.”
That is true because Eagle Ranch finishes with some of the hardest holes the loop. No. 16 is the last par-5 of the day, and it usually plays into the wind making it longer. The approach to the green narrows and has a pond which is likely full of Titleists.
The 17th, simply put, is tight. There are bunkers to the left and water to the right. If the previous two haven’t got you, odds are 18 will, but it’s a beautiful finishing hole.
Eagle Ranch is selling season passes for Eagle and Eagle County residents with no restrictions on weekend or high-season play. Pass holders may make tee times within 72 yours of play. The club also has 10- and 20-round passes for Eagle residents and a Birdie Book (10 rounds) for Eagle County golfers. … Men’s and Ladies Leagues are open, and the club is also home to the First Tee Program for juniors. … Group and individual lessons are available on the off chance that your game needs a tuneup after the winter. … Early-season tournaments: The Screaming Eagle is May 9; the Colorado Golf Association Two-Man Team Championship is May 28-29 and the Ernie Bender is June 6.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 748-2934 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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