Golf Tips From the 18th Hole: Red Sky Ranch and Golf Club, Vail
A Vail golf expert shares his tips for this signature Greg Norman-designed hole. What’s the key? Don’t let the stunning natural surroundings distract you.
Signature Hole: 18, par 5
Why It Is Unique: Both courses at the private Red Sky Ranch and Golf Club, the Tom Fazio and the Greg Norman designs, have been rated in the nation’s Top 100 by Golf Magazine, and this is simply the finest mountain or ski resort golf facility in the world. Both feature sweeping vistas of the Rockies, snowcapped even in summer and lush with tall native grasses and aspen trees. The private courses welcome guests of Four Seasons Resort and Residences Vail on alternating days, and while either is a treat to play, the Norman Course has the edge for visual drama and the challenge of more extreme topography. Eighteen is a great finale to a great round, a perfect risk/reward par-5, with four sets of tees measuring 466–590 yards. Norman tempts players to go for the green and the possibility of a rare eagle in two, but punishes those who fail in this audacious undertaking. Eighteen is the culmination of a wonderful test of golf.
Tip: The hole challenges immediately, as “the tee shot must miss a 100-yard fairway bunker on the left side of the landing area and also avoid the thick native grasses and trees along the right side of the fairway,” says Director of Golf Jeff Hanson. “If you succeed in keeping it down the middle, upon reaching your drive, Norman will tempt the long hitter to go for the green in two, a risk/reward play. The green is surrounded in front by a meandering creek and is heavily bunkered in front and behind. In addition, missing the green long will test your short game skill with a closely mown area from where I have witnessed many skulled shots back into the creek.” While the eagle is tempting, Hanson suggests going for birdie instead, since missing the green here is so penal. “The smart player will hit a second shot short of the creek with anywhere from a fairway wood to a mid-iron, favouring the left side of the fairway to create a level lie from which to attack the pin on the third shot. The green is large, but keeping your ball below the pin is crucial on our fast bent grass greens.” With just a wedge in your hand from the other side of the creek, you have a good chance to get it close and leave a makeable birdie putt.
Don’t Be Distracted By: Both the start and finish of this hole are fraught with distractions. Standing on the tee, you can clearly see the trails at two world-class ski resorts, the legendary Game Creek Bowl on Vail Mountain and the Birds of Prey course in Beaver Creek, home to the only annual World Cup downhill ski race in the United States. Behind the green, the clubhouse is visible, and as Hanson notes, “The hole is a crowd favourite, as the members eating lunch on the deck witness your every move, and you will hear the ovations when you make that birdie putt!”
Previous Signature Hole: Tips From the 12th Hole: Lana‘i at Manele Bay