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Mile-High Clubs

The Short course also happens to be located just a pitch and a putt away from the Lodge and Spa at Cordillera, one of the most luxurious resort facilities in the Rocky Mountains or anywhere else. The fifty-six rooms at the lodge feature vaulted ceilings, balconies, fireplaces and fine European furnishings accented by maple. You can swim laps in an indoor pool, relax in a whirlpool or rejuvenate with hydrotherapy, watsu therapy or aromatherapy treatments. After playing golf and visiting the spa, you can treat yourself to a continental meal at the Restaurant Picasso, which displays original works by the artist.

Although decidedly partial to Cordillera, I came across two other Vail valley resorts with accommodations and golf close to the same standards. Beaver Creek Resort juxtaposes its ski runs with chalet-style hotels and condominium complexes and a 6,784-yard par-seventy mountainside course designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr. The signature hole is the 457-yard par-four eighteenth, which ascends to an elevated green bordered front and left by Beaver Creek.

Sonnenalp Resort of Vail boasts two hotels in the heart of Vail Village, as well as a 7,059-yard par-seventy-one Jay Morrish-Robert Cupp layout. Located on the southern face near Cordillera's Valley course, Sonnenalp Golf Club consists of a lower nine with relatively level fairways and strategically positioned fairway bunkers that create a parkland feel, and an upper nine that utilizes elevation changes more deftly and less vertiginously than any course in the area.

My growing appetite for golf in the Rockies was further whetted by the news that up to four more designer courses may be built in Vail in the months ahead. The Club at Cordillera will be adding a fourth course, called Summit, to be designed by Jack Nicklaus and located above the Mountain course at an elevation of 9,300 feet. Arnold Palmer has designed a new resort course at Eagle Ranch that will open in July of 2001, a few miles west of Vail. The owners of the Beaver Creek Resort are planning a Tom Fazio resort course and possibly a Greg Norman private course as well.

In the meantime, visiting golfers who still have the thirst for a battle royal can fully satiate it with brief excursions to a pair of punitive playgrounds that lie in opposite directions. The town of Gypsum, located thirty-eight miles west of Vail, is home to Cotton Ranch Club, a 7,052-yard semi-private course designed by Pete Dye. The town of Breckenridge, located about the same distance east of Vail, hosts the municipally owned Breckenridge Golf Club, a 7,276-yard Jack Nicklaus layout with an elevation of 9,324 feet, a course rating of 73.3 and a slope of 149, which attests to its reputation as one of the toughest tracks in the state.

But after spending half a week in Vail valley, I was no longer in the mood for waging battles against par, the elements or myself. My old war lust had given way to a whimsical wanderlust. I had a hankering to journey onward across the Continental Divide.


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