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Aspen golf course might be ready to reopen

Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado

ASPEN – After a false start in which the course opened on April 13 and closed all of last week because of regular snowstorms, there’s a chance that the Aspen Golf Club will reopen Monday, weather permitting.

It snowed a little Saturday, but high temperatures Sunday appeared to be speeding up the snowmelt process. By late Sunday afternoon, the fairways and greens were a messy patchwork of grass and snow.

“We’ve had some melting going on, no doubt, but we’re still waiting,” Director of Golf Steve Aitken said Friday. “We’re pushing as hard as we can and working with Mother Nature to make that happen. There’s not that much snow out there, but we’ve had some cold nights that are kind of just holding it in.”



This year’s start is similar to 2011’s, when the opening was delayed by a wet April. Last year, the course was able to open in early April because of spring drought conditions.

Though Aitkin was hopeful on Friday that the course would open Monday, a statement on the course’s website, http://www.aspengolf.com, was a little more vague about the potential start.




“The golf course and driving range will remain closed until the weather allows play. The golf shop should open next week to allow patrons to purchase your punch passes. You still have till May 31 to get the early-season discount on punch passes. We are just as anxious as you for the 2013 golf season to begin,” the statement read.

To check on whether the course and driving range are open, players may call the pro shop at 970-429-1949.

“It’s a good thing,” Aitken said of the delay. “The early starts mean that the course is dry, and consequently, that means we’re not getting the moisture that we need up in the high country. Statewide, there was a big shortage of snowpack and water last year.”

He said the weather pattern this year is about average for the course. A mid- to late-April opening is the norm, he said.

From a financial standpoint, though, the earlier-than-usual start at the Aspen Golf Club in 2012 helped to fuel a 28 percent increase in the number of player rounds for the entire season.

Through the first week of October, the number of rounds for nine- and 18-hole play grew by 6,440 to 29,467, well in excess of last year’s total of 23,027. Also in 2012, pro-shop sales of equipment and apparel were about $14,000 more, and sales of the all-inclusive Platinum membership tripled.

The presence of the Carl Rabito golf school also helped to spark increased business. The school, which has had a presence at the Aspen course since 2011, reopens in mid-May.

The 2013 season looks to be a typical year for the municipal course, which in 2010 was rated as the top municipal course in the state and 21st-best municipal course in the United States by GolfWeek magazine.

Once again, the club will host a few events, including the Aspen Junior Golf Association fundraiser in July; the Challenge Aspen fundraiser in August, which features musical artists Vince Gill and Amy Grant; and the Mayor’s Cup scramble in September.

The club’s Match Play Championship will be held in late July, but the competition that leads up to the final event begins in mid-May. The club’s Stroke Play Championship will be held in early August over two days.

A new pumphouse to assist the irrigation system was installed last year near the No. 3 green. The driving range has an improved tee area that was sodded last fall. Though the driving range could open this week, the new tee area won’t be accessible until mid- to late May.

Plans this year call for building a pitching green with sand traps near the practice range. That project could be completed by late May or early June, but it won’t be in use until mid- to late June because of the time needed for the grass to grow.

“We have almost a full acre of driving-range tee right now,” Aitken said.

Other changes this year include a new tee area for No. 2, which will present players with a slightly different direction on the tee shot. It will be playable in mid-May, Aitken said.

“It will bring the hole’s water features more into play,” he said.

More tee areas might receive the same treatment this year. Aitken said as a tee box ages, it becomes uneven, and so the sod must be stripped so that the tee box can be leveled.

The Red Mountain Grill, in the same building as the pro shop, will reopen this week. It is operated by Jamie Ramey and Richard Burbage through an arrangement with the city of Aspen.

Aitken said he was happy with the interest all winter in the Full Swing golf simulator, which was set up in the dining area of the restaurant. The simulator has been dismantled and stored for the golf season.

The simulator is essentially a high-tech cage. Infrared sensors track each shot – the spin, speed and trajectory of a ball in flight – and display the result on a large screen. There’s no special trick involved in playing virtual golf. The ball sits on a carpet, and a player grabs the appropriate club for the distance and conditions and steps up and hits it as if the game were being played outdoors.

Aitken said he plans to bring the simulator back to the grill next winter.

For information on daily rates and special passes, visit http://www.aspengolf.com.

asalvail@aspentimes.com


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