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Eagle Ranch course ready to go

Chris FreudVail correspondentAspen, CO Colorado
A golfer tees off at Hole 14 on Sunday at Eagle Ranch. (Preston Utley/Vail Daily)
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EAGLE At most courses, 498- and 478-yard holes are called par-5s.At Eagle Ranch Golf Course, which is open a week earlier than scheduled, Nos. 9 and 18 are par-4s. Separated by all-too-inviting water, these signature holes sum up the Arnold Palmer design long, difficult and likely a combination of satisfaction and/or mumbling things which cant be said in a family newspaper.Theres not anyone who comes into those holes who wouldnt be happy coming out with par, Eagle Ranch director of golf Jeff Boyer said.Its a neat design to have them play to each other like that, especially up at the green. I think it’s so neat to see a group on nine and a group on 18, separated by the water and that beach bunker. Its a neat way to finish off the course for each nine. And obviously, theyre brutal holes.The good news is that it is not necessary to play Eagle Ranchs signature par-4s or the other 16 holes from the tips. The course features five different sets of tee boxes, so the course can play anywhere from 5,497-7,530 yards, offering varying degrees of challenge to the golfer.You can play the blue tees one day, and its still a challenge, Boyer said. You can back it up and play the gold tees the next day, Its more of a challenge and you have to play the golf course differently.

Ups and downsEagle Ranch is a tough course from the opening tee shot, but what really makes the round is its back nine. It starts innocently enough with a 394-yard, par-4 from the blues on 10. But then its up into the hills.No. 11 is an uphill par-3 with no room for error. If youre short on your tee shot, your Titleist Pro V1 is gone. Theres a little bit of bail-out room to the left of the green, but good luck stopping your shot. The same can be said if you’re in the sand above the green.Next is a par-5 that will have you questioning the Global-Positioning System in your cart. The par-5, 12th is 569 yards. Though you have elevation on your side off the tee, its literally all uphill from there. The approach to the green is guarded by a creek and bunkers that are there for a reason.If 12 roughed you up, you can take it out on 13, a 504-yard, par-4. It’s long, but its downhill all the way. This hole is a big-hitters dream. The 14th is a decision for those long off the tees. From the blues, its only 310 yards and usually reachable with the wind at your back. This is a risk-reward situation as bunkers abound and the green is one of Eagle Ranchs smaller putting surfaces.No. 15 is the second dropping par-3 before Eagle Ranch turns to a difficult finishing run. The final par-5 of the course, the 16th, is long and into the wind. Its two fairways are broken up by a creek. The last stretch of the hole is guarded by a pond to the left of the second fairway and in front of the green.The last two par-4s of the course are narrow, guarded by a lot of water and a combined 955 yards from the tips.The back nine does have a lot of variety, Boyer said. No two holes look alike. The strategy of shots sometimes you want to play a fade, sometimes you want to play a draw. It makes you start thinking that way. Its long, and the last few holes are playing into the wind. You have all those things coming into play.No easy easing inOn the front, No. 2, even with the wind, is tough to reach in two at 554 from the standard blues. The par-4 fourth is simple enough, as long as you avoid a huge bunker on the left. Many impressive drives have turned into triple bogeys on this hole after a trip to this beach.On No. 5, a par-3, be warned that the wind is not as it seems. Though the teeing areas are elevated, they are sheltered from the prevailing wind on the green. Do check the flag and remember that longer is better here as the pond on the fifth considers golf balls as its daily snack.If youre looking for a birdie hole at Eagle Ranch, the par-4 seventh is your chance.Chip shotsUntil May 31, early season rates are in effect, which means greens fees are $52 for Eagle residents, $59 for those in Eagle County and $69 for out-of-towners. Its $17 per person to ride Eagle Ranch, which has a variety of season memberships for Eagle denizens, Summit, Eagle and Garfield County residents and juniors. Punch cards are also available. Complete details are on the course’s newly-designed website, eagleranchgolf.com. For more information on Eagle Ranch, call (970) 328-2882.


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