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Aspen Golf Club tees up top 50 ranking on GolfWeek list

Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times

Andre Salvail/The Aspen Times

The Aspen Golf Club was ranked the 45th-best municipal course in the United States by GolfWeek magazine last month.

Normally, making the top-50 list of one of golf’s top weekly publications would be considered a big honor. But since the local course was ranked 17th seven years ago, director of golf Steve Aitken seemed a little baffled when told of the rating on Sunday.

“There are people who apply to GolfWeek every year to do the evaluations, and they travel around the country to do this,” Aitken said. “I don’t ever know who they are. We showed up on the list seven years ago, and that was kind of neat. We’ve made the list every year since. But we don’t have any control over who ranks it or what the rankings are.”

In May 2011, GolfWeek rated Aspen’s 18-hole facility as the top municipal course in Colorado and the 33rd-best municipal course in the nation. On this year’s list, Breckenridge’s city course (designed by Jack Nicklaus) moved past Aspen’s, garnering a No. 34 ranking overall.

“I have a feeling there aren’t enough people (from GolfWeek) to rank our golf course,” Aitken said. “I think if there aren’t as many people doing the evaluations, your standing isn’t as high. You know, I’d rather be 17th.”

Aitken is looking forward to improved weather this month that will draw out more golfers. The course got off to a slow start this year because of the wet, chilly spring.

“Weren’t we still skiing last weekend?” Aitken said, referring to Aspen Skiing Co.’s opening of Aspen Mountain during the Memorial Day holiday. “The weather’s been tough.”

Last year was a busy one for the course, which got off to a quick start because of the dry spring.

“We started playing on April 5 last year,” Aitken said.

The Aspen Golf Club was first constructed in the mid-1960s as a nine-hole facility. In the late 1970s, it was completely redesigned and rebuilt under the direction of architect Frank Hummel. A computerized, state-of-the-art irrigation system was installed eight years ago.

Business appears to be on the rise. On Sunday, dozens of players were out on the course or practicing on the recently expanded tee area for the driving range. The new 1-acre practice tee opened Friday.

A new practice chipping green with large sand bunkers is being built on the west side of the property, offering a view of Maroon Creek below. A large berm separates it from the driving range. The irrigation and sod will be laid down in the next week. Aitken expects it to open in early July.

“Now that the weather is nice and warm, people are excited to get out and play,” he said.

Despite the lower ranking and slow start, Aitken said things are still looking up for the Aspen Golf Club.

“We always want to be better,” he said. “And we’re doing a lot of improvements to make ourselves better.”

He added that being named to GolfWeek’s Top 50 list is still positive for the facility and the community. The course’s setting, surrounded by mountains, and conditioning are what make it special, he said.

“The staff takes tremendous pride in the conditioning of the golf course,” Aitken said. “There’s a sense of ownership among all the staff. They really take pride in what they do, and they go the extra mile to make sure everything’s right.”

Aitken said he is giving tours of the new practice areas. He can be reached at 970-920-5719. For more information about daily rates, special passes and tee times, visit http://www.aspengolf.com.

asalvail@aspentimes.com


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