Vail G.C. opens today |

Vail G.C. opens today

Chris Freud

The Vail Golf Club does, starting today. The oldest course – opened in 1966 – and the highest public 18 in the county at 8,150 feet, Vail offers scenic views of the Gore Range, a kaleidoscope of colors as the seasons change and a lot of golf – 27,000 rounds is the goal for 2002 – for locals and tourists alike.

“The course is very golfer-friendly to the juniors, to the ladies. That’s what we really stress,” head golf professional Sean Riley said. “For anybody who’s beginning golf, this is the place to come because you don’t have any dead areas you really have to carry over. We have a creek here and there that you have to hit the ball over. But really, it’s very friendly, wide open.”

That is not to say that Vail is a push-over by any means. Playing from 7,024 yards from the black-diamond tees, there are plenty of challenges for the golfer. And with four other sets of tees ranging from 6,282 to 5,291 yards, there’s something for golfers of every ability.

The course starts west with two sets of par-4’s bookending the par-3, 154-yard third hole. Then comes the sixth.

A par-4, 452-yarder from the blacks, the sixth is handicapped as the course’s toughest hole, a reputation that is indeed earned. Even with a good drive, golfers are usually faced with a long-iron shot into a well-guarded green. Par here is an excellent score.

Support Local Journalism

“One of the highlights for me is No. 6. No. 6 is a great hole,” Riley said. “Then No. 7 is a beautiful hole, an elevated tee box down to a green, a par-3. Then you get to eight and you start to see the Gore Range.”

Golfers hit toward the scenic Gore Range from Nos. 8. through 13, a stretch that includes two-reachable par-5’s for longer hitters. Turning west again, No. 14 (par-4, 415 yards) is likely the course’s signature hole.

The hole requires a long tee shot to reach the green, which is guarded by bunkers and Gore Creek.

“Get it out there as far as you can and then go for it,” Riley advised. “If you don’t think you can make it, lay up. Hit one more shot instead of taking a penalty. It’s a great hole.”

On the way home, No. 15 offers the best chance for a hole-in-one. From elevated tee boxes, golfers hit to a small green nestled against Gore Creek.

Vail finishes with the tough par-3 17th – 232 yards from the back – followed by the par-5, 18th, where birdie is a possibility to end the day on a nice note.

With spring coming later to the east end of the county, Vail is offering shoulder-season rates until mid-June. For Vail Recreation District taxpayers, 18 holes with a cart is $45. New for 2002 is an Eagle County resident rate. In the shoulder season, greens fees with cart is $55.

“The Eagle County resident rate is new. That was voted on in the fall,” Riley said. “We feel that will bring a lot more downvalley residents up to Vail at a very reasonable price. The shoulder season is a great time of year because we offer the low season rates.”

Season passes are also available to VRD residents.

Vail offers a variety of forms of instruction, including one-on-one instruction with the course’s PGA professionals and apprentices. Vail’s Adult Golf Clinics are back for another year for beginner and intermediate golfers. These are four-day sessions with a maximum of 10 students in each class. For more advanced golfers, the club is introducing the Vail Golf Club Golf Schools, which includes 12 hours of golf instruction with each session having no more than six students.

The club’s junior program remains a popular draw. Youngsters 17 and under will receive instruction from the staff and be able to play after 3 p.m. during the summer.

Men’s, women’s and senior’s league will be starting up soon. There is an introductory meeting May 24 for those interested.

Riley also offers an invitation to newcomers to the sport.

“We really encourage beginners to come out in the evenings,” he said. “This winter, I’ve been getting a lot of questions about whether people are ready to play. They’re afraid to play because of what other people might say. Really, they need to come out in the evening when it’s slow, when nobody’s pushing them.”

For more information on the Vail Golf Club, call (970) 479-2260.

Support Local Journalism