Vail Valley golf: Eagle Ranch Golf Club tees it up today
EAGLE – It’s Masters weekend, so it’s time to golf.
Eagle Ranch becomes the second loop to open in the county today as the Arnold Palmer starts its 10th season. And the season begins with a nice honor for the county’s youngest public course.
Eagle Ranch won Colorado Avid Golfer Magazine’s “Best Golf Course for under $100” recently. While awards in the golf industry can be a touchy subject because of their subjective nature, this acclaim is an acknowledgment that Eagle Ranch is an established loop on the Colorado scene.
“When we came on the scene, we were sort of under the radar,” said Jeff Boyer, the course’s director of golf operations. “It think it’s a result of the improvements we’ve made the course, making it more playable, and improving the conditions. I think as the course has aged, it got the recognition it deserves.”
And now a brief word-association game with the local public golf courses. Gypsum Creek? The mesa. Eagle-Vail? Elevation changes. Vail? Views of the Gore Range.
With Eagle Ranch, it’s the back nine and the twin par-4s of Nos. 9 and 18. While very little about Eagle Ranch is a cakewalk – and there are five sets of tees here, ranging from 7,530-5,497 yards to accommodate a golfer’s ability – what one really remembers from a day at the course starts at No. 9.
Rated No. 2 on the card, the ninth can play as long as 498 yards from the tips – as a par 4 – and is a healthy 443 from the regular blue tees. With water to the left separating the hole from the closing 18th and out of bounds right, this requires a long an precise tee shot. There is still plenty of work left as water and bunkers guard your approach to a two-tiered green.
The back nine works its way up in elevation with the fiendish par-3 11th, which locals call, “the shortest par-5 in the county.” It’s theoretically just 161 yards from the blues, but there is little room for error. Water and a natural waste area are short and right. Bunkers are to the left and behind the green. None is a fun option.
The 12th is an actual par-5 with an elevated tee shot, but it’s uphill the rest of the way to a green guarded by bunkers to the right. The 13th is a fun driving hole – all 442 yards of it with gravity on your side.
The 14th is a drivable par-4, especially with the wind is at your back, followed by the 15th, one of two drop-shot par-3s (No. 5) on the course.
“Overall, I think the course works well as a layout,” Boyer said. “There is a short par-4 in the middle of each nine (No. 4 on the front). It’s like, ‘Oh, thank goodness, I get a breather here.'”
It is a much-needed respite, as the final three holes at Eagle Ranch are a serious test. The 16th is 569-yard, par-5, where water splits the fairway around 140 yards from the green. With an all-too-inviting pond guarding the green, this is usually a three-shot par-5, unless a golfer finds him or herself at their happy distance for the approach shot.
Holes have acquired names at Eagle Ranch as locals have played there regularly. No. 17, in the author’s opinion, is Railroad Tracks. This par-4 is tight with water right for those who slice, and O.B. and bunkers left for the errant shot in that direction.
“I walk the course a lot of times, and by the time I get to those finals holes, I tell myself that I have to concentrate 100 percent harder than I have during the rest of the round,” Boyer said. “You’re tired and you’re bound to make a mistake. Sometimes it’s a matter of taking a few extra seconds to pick out a target to get where you want to go.”
Prayer is an excellent option on the 18th with water right most of the way and an extremely narrow green. Take a par, if possible, and head to the clubhouse.
Today only, come into Eagle Ranch’s clubhouse and pick the Masters’ winner and you’re eligible to win a free round of golf at Eagle Ranch. Boyer has Anthony Kim. … Season passes with or without cart are available for town of Eagle as well as Eagle County residents. Eagle Ranch has punch cards for Eagle denizens and a birdie book good for 10 rounds for anyone who lives outside the county seat. Eagle Ranch is again offering a weekday season membership pass as well as a value pass. The latter pass is unlimited play (without cart) from now until May 28 and then after Sept. 27 through closing. This is especially useful for those golfers who want to play now whose home courses are on the eastern side of the county. … Men’s and Ladies Leagues have become increasingly popular at Eagle Ranch and will be starting up again in May. … To book a tee time or check out eagleranchgolf.com, cal 970-328-2882.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or firstname.lastname@example.org.