Hitting the links | AspenTimes.com

Hitting the links

Eben Harrell

Well, the lifts have closed and the snow is melting, but that doesn’t mean outdoor recreation will leave our pages.

Winter-weary ourselves, we at The Aspen Times have decided to gear up for spring by replacing “On the Hill” with the first of many “On the Course” columns, detailing golfing opportunities in and around the Roaring Fork Valley. This space will also feature columns on bicycling, hiking and fishing.

The two mainstays of public-access golf around Aspen – The Aspen Golf Club and River Valley Ranch in Carbondale – are already open to play. But this early in the season, having just emerged from their white-winter facial, the courses are still rough and shaggy and in need of some serious exfoliation. Head out for some practice, but don’t expect manicured conditions.

Life in Aspen provides the unique opportunity of hopping in a car, driving for a few hours and finding a totally different climate. Travel 35 miles east of Glenwood Springs and you leave snow-peaked mountains for the badlands of the high desert.

You also come upon Battlement Mesa Golf Club, a must for any spring golfer.

Having a growing season three months longer than Aspen gives Battlement Mesa a huge advantage in course preparation. Even Aspen’s private county clubs, which throw heaps of money and manpower into maintenance, struggle to keep their greens running smooth, especially early in the season.

Already Battlement Mesa’s greens are running at near tournament conditions.

Good greens are vital this time of year, when players should be working on oiling out their putting strokes. Slow, shaggy greens encourage a jabby, wristy stroke, a sure path to the yips.

The fairways still have some rough patches, so agree on preferred lies if you’re playing a friendly match.

The course wanders pleasantly, if not always challengingly, across rolling, open space – a nice change to the valley’s mountain-trapped tracks. It’s a good time of year to play, too: near empty and not prohibitively cold (although bring a sweater).

The course offers springtime rates through May 1 ($33 for 18, plus $12 per person for a cart). There’s currently a special to stay at the course’s adjoining hotel for $49, for those interested in making a weekend trip.