In the rough or not, these holes are rough
Flip the two nines at Eagle-Vail and Eagle Ranch and look what you have.
That is not a coincidence. When it comes to the county’s most accessible golf courses, these four holes are likely the most devilish. The quartet combines for 1,980 yards – and only one of these holes is a par-5. The fairways are hard to find and, if you miss, you’re in anything from water to bunkers to the forest to desert brush.
These holes produces big numbers. On any of these holes, take your par and run to the next hole:
Cotton Ranch No. 6
Par-5, 568 yards
Cotton Ranch Director of Golf Chris Woolery is blunt when it comes to this Pete-Dye production.
“Skip it,” he laughed. “But if you’re going to play it, be prepared to hit three shots of an average of 200 yards and you’ll be in good shape.”
Sure, easy as 1-2-3. The sixth’s two landing areas are narrow with nasty desert brush to catch the errant shot. That brush tends to produce some funny bounces. So, even if you do find your ball, it’s tough going getting back into the short stuff.
When you finally get to the approach shot there’s a ravine to negotiate. And, oh, by the way did we mention that No. 6 usually plays into the wind?
“I try to get the ball between 250 and 260 (yards) off the tee, which will leave me a lay-up shot of somewhere in the neighborhood of 160 to 170, which will still leave me with another 100, 120 yards to the hole,” Woolery said. “It’s three shots – three different shots to get home.”
Woolery prefers to pull the 3-wood off the tee, but the driver is called for in gusty conditions. Whatever the skill level, when in doubt, keep it straight.
“That hole is going to be set up by the tee shot. If they get 225-plus off the the tee box, they can get to the second landing area,” Woolery said. “If they don’t, they need to swallow their pride and lay up again in the first landing area. Even though it’s a par-5, they need to think of it as a par-6. Of course, if you can’t find your tee shot, the par is going to go up and up and up.”
Honorable mention: No. 9, par-4, 445 yards.
The ninth wraps up Cotton Ranch’s tough front nine with a bang. A long drive is needed to find the fairway. And make sure your approach finds the appropriate tier of the green. If you’re not, a three-putt is in the cards.
“You need to get it far enough off the tee to carry a lot of trajectory into that green,” Woolery said. “That green is relatively flat and somewhat runs away from you. If you have to take a mid- to long-iron, you are not going to hold it. The rough over that green, there’s some people we’ve never seen come out of there.”
Eagle Ranch No. 9
Par-4, 498 yards
It hasn’t taken long for this hole to get a reputation. After all, 498-yards is usually what we call a par-5. Boom a 300-yard drive on the tee and you’re still facing 190 to the green.
Arnold Palmer, who designed the course, hit driver and 4-iron on this hole at the course’s grand opening last August.
“You’ve got to have as much stick as you can take off the tee because you need the distance,” Eagle Ranch’s Jeff Boyer said. “The best place as far as the fairway to play it is to try to play right-center of the fairway. The more you can play toward the center of the fairway, you’re going to have a better angle of approach to the green. But then, of course, you bring into play the water.”
Yes, there’s water to the left and O.B. on the right. And when it comes to the pin placement, there are plenty of tournament-style options on the undulating green.
“If we were trying to kill everybody, we’d put it back right,” Boyer joked. “That’s the toughest spot. It also could be tucked front left, that brings the water into play. Back right is probably the most difficult scoring position, but we’ve got you on both Saturday and Sunday.”
Honorable mention: No. 12, par-5, 614 yards.
This narrow, uphill hole requires course management and is reachable in two by only the longest of hitters. Water comes into play at the end of the first fairway and a layup is definitely the safe play.
The 12th’s green is currently located to the left of the creek, and can be a nightmare if you’re above the pin. Fortunately, a new green is under construction and should be ready for play in August.
“We just felt like that green didn’t turn out the way we’d hoped,” Boyer said. “It’s going to make the hole easier, but it still is going to be a very enjoyable, pretty hole to play. It’s going to continue to be the signature hole. It’s going to be the hole that people leave here remembering.”
Eagle-Vail No. 9
Par-4, 462 yards
A beautiful and dangerous hole. Carved into the side of the Eagle-Vail hills, No. 9 starts with a blind tee shot through a chute of trees. You can only see the tip of the landing area from the tee box, so it’s a leap of faith.
Take that leap, ideally, with a fade off a long iron, though beginners should probably go with a 3-wood. The fairway opens to the right and descends toward the green and a great view of the western end of the county.
“First of all it’s a very beautiful hole,” Eagle-Vail pro Mark Kizzire said. “It’s a very difficult driving hole. It’s very fair around the green side. The smart play is to eliminate the narrow part of the fairway and take a 3-iron, 4-iron off the tee, which leaves you 180 (yards) left downhill so you’re hitting a 7- or 8-iron. That’s the beauty about taking an iron out. You can golf it straight into the center of the fairway.”
But for the gambler, it is awfully tempting to try to bomb one down the left side and try to get that roll. That one swing can determine whether you will birdie the hole our take a double. If you’re off the mark, you’re in the woods, which just get thicker as the summer progresses.
On the second shot, take advantage of the downhill lie and gun for a good-sized green to finish out the front nine.
Honorable mention: No. 15, 377 yards.
From the hidden, picturesque back blue tees, it’s apparent from the start that No. 15 is a challenge. With trees to the right, a slice is pretty much gone. On the left, a well-placed bunker and pond tend to eat up errant shots from the narrow fairway.
If you’re on the short stuff, it’s decision time. The fairway narrows and is cut off by a stream and rocks a little under 100 yards from the center of the green. If you make it to the newly renovated green, you can enter the bird sanctuary. If not, time to pay the piper.
Vail No. 6
Par-4, 452 yards
Truly a grip it and rip it par-4. The idea is to pound driver off the tee on this dogleg-left hole and to catch the downward slope for the roll. That sets up a short iron into a well-protected green.
“If you hit the tee shot just right and hit on the hill, a little right on that slop, it’ll kick down and give you lots of distance,” Vail pro Sean Riley said. “But then if you hit a great drive, you’re also hitting to a difficult green that is hard to hold. Like, I’ll hit a good shot and I’ll be a pitching wedge away and I can’t keep it on the front part of the green. It will roll all the way back to the back.”
If you don’t get the roll, you’re either in the rough between the fifth and sixth fairways or on a sidehill. In either case, pull a club you’re comfortable with and go for the green in three.
“Lay-up with your second shot and then hit your shot onto the green and try to one-putt for par or two-putt for bogey,” Riley said. “Bogey is a good score for the average golfer. Take your bogey and get out of there.”
Honorable mention: No. 17, par-3, 232 yards.
It’s into the wind. The water is in front of you and left and right of the green. How this hole got handicapped as the 12th-hardest hole at Vail, we’ll never know.
“You’ve got to have confidence as you do with any shot,” Riley said. “The main thing is to hit something you know you can hit straight. Because if you land short, it’s in the fairway and you can try to get up and down for par.”