Eagle Ranch Golf Club makes everyone feel at home.
By Todd Hartley
Photography by Jack Affleck
There are golf courses that claim to be public but really aren’t—unless you sleep with them (as a resort guest, that is)—and there are public courses that seem desperately to wish they were private, with the accompanying level of pretention and pricey green fees. Then there are courses like Eagle Ranch Golf Club: unabashedly public and affordable but also entrenched in their surrounding neighborhoods in ways that private clubs and resort courses can’t hope to match.
Open for play in 2001 and part of the master-planned Eagle Ranch community south of downtown Eagle, Eagle Ranch boasts an Arnold Palmer signature design that rivals many of Arnie’s strongest efforts. It also provides an enviable focal point for its eponymous neighborhood.
The course unfolds across foothills terrain in two nine-hole loops that serve as greenswards between rows of houses, which are set away from the holes and never come into play. Here and there, bike paths and walking trails crisscross the course, making it a de facto park for residents.
“We’re very much the centerpiece of the neighborhood,” says Jeff Boyer, the only general manager Eagle Ranch has had in its 21-year history. “The recreational paths really show how much we’re intertwined; there are so many bikers and walkers with their dogs.” Then he laughs. “From my perspective it’s not always such a great mix, but from the golfers’ and homeowners’ perspective, they think it’s so cool.”
Eagle Ranch’s laid-back, neighborhood vibe is evident the minute you pull into the parking lot and see the understated, farmstyle cart barn and pro shop and the Eagle Ranch Grille, the patio seating of which abuts a small, four-hole pitch ‘n’ putt course for youngsters just getting started in the game.
Designed for plastic-ball play, the little course epitomizes Eagle Ranch’s commitment to youth golf, a strength that comprises clinics, private lessons, far-forward junior tees and one of the largest driving ranges you’ll find anywhere.
“We’ve always had a big junior golf program,” says Boyer. “We’ve been a First Tee facility since 2006, and I believe our junior program was the catalyst for getting a First Tee program going in Eagle County.”
First Tee Colorado Rocky Mountains, which empowers youth across most of the state through the game of golf and its values, now has programming at three other Eagle County courses—EagleVail, Gypsum Creek and Vail Golf Club.
Family-friendliness doesn’t mean this isn’t a serious golf course. Five sets of tees (six, if you include the junior ones) ensure golfers of all abilities can enjoy play; but stretched to its full length of 7,461 yards and chock full of elevation changes and natural hazards, Eagle Ranch can be a beast. Just ask the players who annually attempt to qualify there for the Colorado Open.
Superb course conditions and a “banana belt” setting that ensures golf into November add to why this off-the-radar gem is the preferred course of locals and a growing number of visitors who are finally figuring out what they’ve been missing.
Contributor Todd Hartley is a Basalt-based writer. Visit www.eagleranchgolf.com for info.
This article can also be found in the August/September Issue of Colorado AvidGolfer.