Vail Golf Club opens all 18 |

Vail Golf Club opens all 18

Daily file photo/Preston UtleyThe Vail Golf Club opened all 18 holes Friday for the 2008 season., including the difficult and scenic par-4 11th.

VAIL ” One of the most prominent features of the Vail Golf Club has always been the views of the Gore Range.

And it is safe to say that the panorama will stay snow-capped for most of the golf season this year.

“It has been a long winter,” Vail head pro Jeanne Sutherland. “But it’s nice to be open with all 18 holes. The other day we actually had a nice sunny day and people were coming out to buy their (season) passes and play.”

It’s been a tough winter for all golf courses around the county, but this is nothing that Vail, the area’s oldest loop, hasn’t seen before.

“The greens are good and the fairways need some sun,” Sutherland said. The good news is that says the sun is coming starting Sunday.

The Vail Golf Club opened in 1966 and the course has held the test of time. With its signature black-diamond (7,024 yards), blue-square (6,282) and green-circle (5,291) tees, it’s not overly long by modern golf standards, and that doesn’t matter. The Gore Creek comes into play on 10 holes as do well-positioned deep bunkers.

The course features traditional-sloping greeens which get very tricky as the summer progresses and in a nice change for public links in the High Country, is eminently walkable.

The front

The first challenge Vail offers is on the par-4 second. From whatever set of tees you’re playing, your tee shot must be precise to clear a chute of trees and Gore Creek. Bunkers to the right await an errant approach shot.

The fifth (a par-4, 381-yarder) is a hidden gem on the front nine. It’s a fader’s delight with a slight dogleg right down a sloping fairway.

“I happen to cut the ball, so the hole sets up perfectly for me,” Sutherland said. “I’m a little old-school. I like some blind tee shots. It’s sort of an old course-designer thing. You want to hit it out to the left. If you get greedy (trying to cut the corner), you end up in Jurassic Park.”

That would be the trees and rocks separating the fifth from No. 6, the toughest hole on the course, according to the scorecard. No. 6 is 452 yards from the tips and actually plays as a par-5 for the women. The ideal shot here is a drive slightly right of the center of the fairway which gives you a nice roll as the hole turns left. Even then, it’s still a long-iron approach to a bunker-guarded green. Par is a good score here.

After sixth, the next seven holes play directly toward the Gore.

The course’s first par-5 for everyone comes on eight. A good tee shot makes this reachable in two, but remember that Gore Creek splits the fairway. A very narrow and long 462-yard, par-4 finishes the front.

Coming home

Being below the hole is considered a maxim on most golf courses, but the adage really holds sway on hole Nos. 10-13. You’ve been warned.

The 11th, a 441-yard, par-4, combines a lot of the elements of Vail. It has the risk-reward factor with Gore Creek lining the right side. The views from the tee are postcard-worthy and the green ” once you get there ” is very tricky.

“It’s a beautiful hole,” Sutherland said. “You’ve got Gore Creek and the Gore Range in the background. If you hit it out left, you’ve got a good angle to the green, and the green is the toughest one on the course. I think this is (a hole) you talk about afterward.”

No. 12 is a pretty straight-forward par-5, but it is long (585 yards) even at an altitude of 8,150 feet. Turning west on 14 requires a decision. A good drive puts you in position for an approach to a two-tiered green guarded by the creek and a bunker. Taking your medicine and laying up is often the wise play, but your mileage may vary.

After a knee-knocking par-3 on 15 ” a drop shot back over the creek, Vail finishes with a difficult par-3 on 17, one of the county’s more-underated holes, and a definite birdie opportunity on the par-5 18th.

Extra shots:

The Vail Golf Club has a Vertex machine, which records a golfer’s swing for video analysis … In case your game is a bit rusty after the winter, the club has private and group lessons available. That includes Coors Coaching Hours on Fridays. It’s $25 for two beers, all the balls you can hit at the range and golf instruction from the course’s staff. … There is also a free women’s clinic Friday at 5:15 p.m. … League play is under way. Seniors (50 and older) play on Mondays. The men and women go on Wednesdays. … Season passes for Vail Recreation District residents, and those from Eagle and Summit counties are on sale. Check out all the rates at … To book a tee time, call 970-479-2260.

Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 748-2934 or

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