Cotton Ranch: With blue skies and Dye's magic, you're in high cotton
Editor's Note: The Cotton Ranch Club is now know as Gypsum Creek Golf Club.
GYPSUM, Colo. -- Thunderstorms roll into the Vail Valley, they embrace the mountain tops and spit flames of dangerous lightning everywhere. It's summer in Colorado.
But at Cotton Ranch the golfer might look up and see a circular dome of blue sky above. The Ute Indians called the phenomenon "Hole in the Sky".
The Cotton Ranch Club, located 35 minutes west of Vail, is a Pete Dye Signature course which opened in 1997. The 7,052-yard challenge, par 72, begins on the floor of Cottonwood Valley, then climbs 200 feet atop a rocky sage-covered mesa, lined by pinon and juniper trees, presenting target golf at its best.
A vertical lift is even included for walkers, giving them assistance to the top of the mesa. On the valley floor the golfer has plenty of streams, ponds and native wetlands to negotiate, along with challenging bunkers. The greens are medium-sized with undulating rolls and quick speed.
"This is my favorite course in the entire Vail Valley," said Dave Peters of Denver. "I've played all of them, including the high-priced resorts like Cordillera and the newest course at Eagle Ranch. The mesa holes will make you think before every shot and the par-3 No. 8 (164 yards) with that vertical drop straight down hill is great fun with a stunning view of the surrounding mountains. This is a shot-maker's course and you will use all the clubs in your bag."
"Our signature hole, the sixth, is as a demanding hole as any in the country," said Chris Woolery, director of golf. "It's a true par-5 hole, stretching from 460 yards from the front tees to 568 from the back.
"The fairway is surrounded by native sage, juniper and pinon and the hole also plays into the prevailing wind of the Cottonwood Valley. The first landing area forces players to carry a shot of around 300 yards if they want to reach in two to a green fronted by a deep draw. Players attempting to reach the green in two routinely pay the price, by landing short and in the draw," Woolery said.
No doubt, the safest way to play the hole is by laying up and not attempting the green in two. "The lay-up shot requires not only another accurate shot but players must carry a deep grass bunker while steering clear of a large bunker placed along the right side of the fairway," Woolery said. "Successful players will be left with an approach of 100 to 140 yards to a receptive green."
Actually, the 411-yard No. 5 might be your favorite. It's certainly scenic. The target over a native area on the tee shot looks tiny, but it's larger than it appears. Aim toward the bunker on the right. If you hit a good one you will be facing a great photo opportunity -- a green tucked over a ravine of no recovery is waiting, surrounded by trees and rocks. If you hit the target in two you will feel the reward of a well-played hole.
"Someone once said that No. 11, a 411-yard par-4 is a grown-up hole," Woolery said. "This hole plays into the prevailing wind with both distance and accuracy demanded. Keep a close eye on the wind, because there is a wetlands crossing 190 yards from the green. The approach is lengthy with Gypsum Creek meandering along the right side."
New management recently took over the course. The improvements include new cart paths and buried power lines. Additionally, members and guests of The Cotton Ranch Golf Club will enjoy better service through a remodeling of the 12,000-square-foot clubhouse, which features a white wrap-around deck and a peaked roofline and wood siding that resembles an upstate New York boathouse.
June 1, 2002