Red Sky Golf Club in Wolcott, Colorado: Fazio, Norman team up in the Vail Valley
WOLCOTT, Colo. -- George Jouflas, a 78-year-old cell-phone carrying Colorado pioneer-rancher, sat among a former president and the PGA Tour Commissioner at the grand opening of Red Sky Golf Club last summer.
No doubt when he was toiling as a young ranch hand he never dreamed this rugged, beautiful land west of Vail would be used for anything other than sheep grazing. That's what his dad Peter had in mind when he bought more than 11,000 acres in 1926 for $10 an acre.
Today, after nearly 90 years in the area, the Jouflas family still runs the Lazy J Ranch, a haven for outdoorsmen, where 20,000 sheep once roamed next to another million acres of national forest land the family leased for grazing.
Now golfers are enjoying the views along Bellyache Ridge, vistas off to Castle Peak and the Back Bowls of Vail. Golfers walk the gently sloping fairways and rolling ridges that frame shots through purple sage, junipers, evergreens, aspen groves and sandstone-rock outcroppings. And they are tested by devilish, slick putting surfaces.
Red Sky Golf Club's Tom Fazio Course is the first of two to open on 700 acres formerly owned by the Jouflas family. It's a 7,113-yard, par-72 stunner that will be joined this summer by its neighbor the Greg Norman Course, a par-72 routing that measures 7,437 yards. The courses are separated by a rocky ridge that serves as a corridor for migrating deer and elk.
Red Sky Ranch, developed by Vail Resorts Development Company, is 15 minutes from the slopes of Beaver Creek, 25 minutes from Vail and 20 minutes from the Vail-Eagle County airport. Only 87 home sites will be available for building.
The Fazio Course is a delight for the senses. It's as scenic as they come and very playable tee-to-green. That's when the extreme challenge comes -- you are going to three-putt some of these slick surfaces.
"Our members are thrilled because they love the diversity and the views," said Chris Lai, Red Sky's golf pro. "They think it is very manageable from tee-to-green, but this course is defined by the difficult greens. I've seen plenty of good players exit No. 18 mumbling to themselves about three putts."
It's interesting that one can drive the I-70 corridor and see golf course after golf course, left and right, as you rubberneck down the Vail Valley. But if you look up left at Wolcott you would never dream the land would be that spectacular for two new golf courses -- the Vail Valley's 12th and 13th courses.
PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem, a frequent Vail visitor for skiing, was so impressed by the Red Sky Ranch area he called Fazio to quiz him about the golf. At the grand-opening festivities Finchem said it took him about "18 minutes" to decide he wanted a retirement home at Red Sky Ranch.
Finchem, who was joined on the podium by long-time Vail resident Gerald Ford, said his children, ages 9, 12 and 14, also are avid skiers.
The 425 memberships for Red Sky Ranch go for $175,000 plus annual dues. But when the Norman Course opens on June 30, 2003, members will alternate courses and Vail Resorts guests will play on the other course. Eagle County residents will have limited tee times available at a discounted rate.
Red Sky Golf Club also is proud of its service. Valet parking greets you and on the practice range attendants keep your clubs clean.
The guest clubhouse, located at the Fazio Course, features a log exterior and architectural detail designed to present a Rocky Mountain atmosphere. The clubhouse includes a restaurant with both indoor and outdoor dining, a full service pro-shop, and men's and women's locker rooms. A separate member clubhouse is also under construction at the Norman Course and will open this summer.
Fazio has designed two other Colorado courses -- Cordillera's Valley Course and Aspen's private Maroon Creek. He has more top 100 Golf Digest courses to his credit than any other golf course architect.
Red Sky Golf Club will also be the home to a Chuck Cook Golf Academy, the Austin, Texas-based teaching professional who once tutored Payne Stewart and currently guides senior Tom Kite.
April 15, 2003