Want a challenge? Try this dream 18 | VailDaily.com
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Want a challenge? Try this dream 18

The oldest saying around here is, “You come to Vail for the winters, but you stay for the summers.”

And, now that, knock wood, we’ve finally gotten to spring, it’s kayaking/fishing/running/biking/golf season. Choose your passion.

For golfers, copious choices abound and that brought us to thinking about putting together a fantasy 18 from the four courses in the county, which are most accessible to local golfers, especially with regard to average economic means – Cotton Ranch, Eagle Ranch, Eagle-Vail and Vail.

Of course, we’re opening Pandora’s Box here. Doing something like this is akin to being a kid in New York in the 50s and debating who was the best center fielder of the day – Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays or Duke Snider. (Editor’s note: Our money here says Mays. Others will disagree.)

We’re open to debate on our selections. Lord knows that we sweated over these picks. Whether you’re a pro or an everyday hack at one of these courses, feel free to drop us a line at the number and/or e-mail at the bottom of this story. We’ll be glad to print your responses and continue the debate.

So, let’s tee it high and let it fly on our par-72, 7,465 yard-loop around the county:

No. 1 – Eagle-Vail, par-5, 552 yards – What a way to start any round, and certainly worthy of our fantasy 18. Eagle-Vail starts with a booming tee shot off a cliff, which can intimidate regulars at Eagle-Vail and tourists alike. We are guilty of a more than a few flubs off this box ourselves. But give yourself a mulligan and try to reach this one in two to start your round right.

Runner-up: Cotton Ranch.

No. 2 – Vail, par-4, 392 yards – This is a tricky tee shot through a chute and over water. If you’re ever short on golf balls, one evening, just go out there into that marsh area and take a look. Odds are you’ll be set for golf balls for most of the season.

Runner-up: Eagle Ranch.

No. 3 – Cotton Ranch, par-3, 209 yards – A tough par-3, which usually plays into a crosswind making the tee shot, shall we say, interesting. There’s marsh to the left and junk to the right. Par’s fine here and, quite frankly, on this fantasy course, par’s good anywhere.

Runner-up: Vail.

No. 4 – Cotton Ranch, par-5, 555 yards – OK, 555 yards is long enough to begin with, but when you take into account that this hole plays uphill, it plays more like 650. Ouch.

Runner-up: Eagle Ranch.

No. 5 – Vail, par-4, 381 yards – So you’re a slicer. OK, we’ll put it more tactfully. You have a nice fade. This is your hole. A little left-to-right here off the box gets your ball rolling nicely down the fairway for a wedge into the green.

Runner-up: Cotton Ranch.

No. 6 – Vail, par-4, 452 yards – We’re tough, but not cruel, so we won’t give you Cotton Ranch here, where the sixth is a 568-yard behemoth up on the mesa. But Vail’s sixth is no cakewalk, by any means. You need to pound your tee shot a good 250 yards to get the right lie for an approach to a well-guarded green. Beware, those greenside bunkers are there for a reason.

Runner-up: Cotton Ranch.

No. 7 – Eagle-Vail, par-4, 411 yards – Just a great par-4. Out of bounds to the right and water to the left, which creeps out a lot further than you think as you approach the green. Speaking of that water, this hole inspired me to ask for a ball retriever for Christmas a few years back.

Runner-up: Vail.

No. 8 – Cotton Ranch, par-3, 164 yards – Drop-shot par-3’s are a trademark of local courses and this one’s a beauty. No. 8’s about 200 feet straight down. But watch the wind, which is usually blowing from right to left. Sometimes, you have to aim 45-degrees to the right toward the adjacent cow field to let the wind bring your shot back into play. Oh, by the way, club down.

Runner-up: Eagle-Vail.

No. 9 – Eagle-Vail, par-4, 462 yards – Tough choice here because of Eagle Ranch’s No. 9, but, never fear, we’ll be in Eagle plenty on our back nine. The first reaction at Eagle-Vail No. 9 is, “Where do you hit it?” Answer: “Up in the woods, you’re faced with a blind tee shot to a hole that opens up to the right.” Word to the wise, if you’re a long-hitter, don’t pull the big stick, because the only mammal who will find your ball is a bear.

Runner-up: Eagle Ranch.

No. 10 – Eagle-Vail, par-3, 208 yards – Here, you can tell your friends that you hit an 8-iron 200 yards. The catch, of course, is that you’re hitting 250 feet down to the green. Michael Jordan would envy the hang time on this hole.

Runner-up: Cotton Ranch.

No. 11 – Cotton Ranch, par-4, 441 yards – Welcome to British Open golf. More often than not, the wind’s coming hard straight at you at the turn at Cotton Ranch, which makes this a long par-4. No. 2 on the scorecard, with good reason, golfers have to cope with the marshy Gypsum Creek 250 yards out from the tips.

Runner-up: Eagle-Vail.

No. 12 – Eagle Ranch, par-5, 569 yards – Don’t get us wrong, Eagle Ranch’s front nine is no pushover (See No. 9, for example), but the back nine at the new Arnold Palmer course is something to behold. It begins in earnest with this long, uphill challenge. The setting here is beautiful and the view of the valley from the green is exquisite – once you finally get there.

Runner-up: Vail.

No. 13 – Eagle Ranch, par-4, 510 yards – We like to call this the “aggression-therapy” hole. This long downhiller is where you let the big dog eat. Watch the bunkers on the left and the gully by the green, though. But this is a fun hole to grip it and rip it.

Runner-up: Cotton Ranch.

No. 14 – Vail, par-4, 416 yards – This was the toughest call of all between Eagle-Vail’s long par-5, Cotton Ranch’s links-style par-4, Eagle Ranch’s reachable par-4 and Vail. But it pretty much came down to rock-paper-scissors here and Vail gets the nod. The course’s signature hole plays to the west. A long drive gives you a solid shot on your second over Gore Creek to an elevated green. If you’re short off the box, don’t hesitate to layup.

Runners-up: Cotton Ranch, Eagle-Vail and Eagle Ranch.

No. 15 – Eagle-Vail, par-4, 377 yards – Not a long par-4, but there’s a ton of danger here. Water splits the fairway from an elevated green and there are trees to the right and water and rocks to the left. From the hidden back tee box, you need a good 250 yards straight to give yourself a chance of the green in two. It’s very important here to check the pin placement on this two-tiered green. Wrong tier? Three-putt.

Runner-up: Eagle Ranch.

No. 16 – Eagle Ranch, par-5, 593 yards – Long, long, long. Thus, begins Eagle Ranch’s huge finish. This one plays into the wind, but you still need a big drive off the tee. With a big pond and a narrowing fairway near the green, don’t even think about going for this in two, unless you’re Tiger or having the best day of your life.

Runner-up: Eagle-Vail.

No. 17 – Cotton Ranch, par-3, 196 yards – When you look at this hole, it really doesn’t seem like it should be that hard. Wrong. Water creeps in on the left and that left, greenside bunker, though annoying, can be a lifesaver. Take your par here and run to 18.

Runner-up: Vail.

No. 18 – Eagle Ranch, par-4, 478 yards – Like its counterpart across the water on nine, Eagle Ranch’s 18th is a heck of a par-4, and a fitting finish to this 18. The water is inviting on the right and there’s all sorts of trouble on the left. Trust us, there is a fairway in there somewhere. Bring your camera if you’re playing this one as the sun is setting.

Runner-up: Eagle-Vail.

No. 19 – We’ll leave this to your discretion.

Chris Freud is the sports editor for the Vail Daily. Contact him at (970) 949-0555, ext. 614 or by e-mail at cfreud@vaildaily.com.


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