After a robust day of skiing the steep and deep, challenging those double-black diamonds in powder up to your waist, it’s time to relax and savor a much deserved cocktail in the crisp mountain air–it’s après ski time! Oops–no, wait a minute–wrong season.
OK, let’s begin again. It’s summer: birds are chirping, the grass is green and golfers are gleeful. And those golfers seem to have taken a cue from their winter sports-loving counterparts because now, when the actual playing of golf concludes, those outings are being followed by après golf time.
In the past, short of getting drinks on the 19 th hole or grabbing a pre-packaged snack off a cart as it rolled around the greens, this experience didn’t quite have the rich tradition that skiers have enjoyed for years. But golfers refused to be denied just because there’s no snow on the ground.
Today most golf courses are offering dining–so not only are the fairways and greens a draw, the ‘courses’ in the culinary arena are also playing a big role in the day’s total experience.
And now, with so many of the Valley’s courses open to the public, more golfers are hitting the links with the enthusiasm that skiers hit the slopes, but no one has to wait in a lift line.
The Sonnenalp Golf Club in Edwards has a Vardon grip (a golf term for an overlapping grip) on the importance of the full-experience. Its restaurant, Harvest, tempts an after-golf foursome like no other environment. The casual American menu features Colorado foods using ingredients from local farms. The ceviche mix or pork tacos with grilled pineapple salsa is the perfect compliment to your after-the-round cocktails. And if you don’t have time to sit down and take a breather, you can always find something at the club’s new Harvest food truck–before, during or after your game. The panoramic views that sweep from Vail’s Game Creek Bowl to Arrowhead make Harvest’s deck the most alluring in the valley. The semi-private club welcomes all golfers daily after 1:30 p.m., and dining is always open to the public.
Between tournaments, leagues, grassroots programs to bring young golfers into the game and simple 18-hole play, the Gypsum Creek Golf Course is a hoppin’ place. The Creekside Grill makes going from ‘course’ to ‘course’ a must. The food and libations, presented by Owner/Cook Scott Berry (he’s too down-home to accept the designation of chef), will have golfers scurrying to finish their rounds so they can head for the food–golfers, don’t roll your eyes, it’s editorial exaggeration, everyone knows even Angelina Jolie couldn’t drag you off the links (well, not sure that’s true). But a beer or cocktail on an expansive deck with some blackened-fish tacos while watching the sunset is a pretty great enticement and après golf at its best.
Another course that will tempt everyone with the total experience is the Vail Golf Club. Hitting the wee-ball under the Colorado blue skies and the embracing arms of the Gore Mountain Range is always an adventure on this Ben Krueger-designed course. Adjacent to the scenic Gore Creek, it’s a wildlife exploit as golfers brave the beaver-laden ponds hoping to survive these ferocious beasts as well as the treacherous sand traps waiting to swallow you whole.
Golfers finally reach the clubhouse and The Grill on the Gore for life-saving sustenance shrimp cocktails and booze. Okay–that’s a bit of dramatic license but this après golf thing is very exciting. Once in the safety of the newly remodeled clubhouse the Grill’s creative take on American comfort food is only surpassed by the glorious views.
Not to be outdone, the EagleVail Golf Club presents to the public not only the 18 hole course, but a Par 3 course upon which a new form of golf is being played by families around the Valley: footgolf. This exciting game is bringing families and friends out to the courses to play together, even if they’re not a Tiger or a Fuzzy. Would that make the post-game fun après pied (foot) golf? The Whisky Hill Grill is open for après-ing, pied or otherwise, and breakfast, lunch, and dinner is yours for the asking. The grill’s pub food–from a Philly Cheesesteak to Jersey-style pork roll to mozzarella sticks–can take you to the East Coast without even leaving the valley.
Heading west again, the Eagle Ranch Golf Course is also in the mix of delightful public courses. Enjoying the milder climate due to the lower altitude of the area, the season for outdoor play seems to go on forever. The course is certified as an Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary – one of 773 courses in the world with that designation. So need we say more about the view? At the casual Eagle grill, you order at the counter then and take a seat, or head to the patio.
Don’t want to leave the course? There’s a GPS system on the golf carts so you can order your food from anywhere on the course and your food will be ready at the turn! A number of stunning courses that are closed to the public dot the entire Valley, but, while your putters may be denied, your taste buds are not.
Many private golf courses have some of the most incredible restaurants in the Valley and your après golfing group is always welcome: continue the comradery at one of these eateries that are just a chip-shot down the road from anywhere you’re playing.
The Vista at Arrowhead has been a major draw for years and boasts one of the most luscious outdoor patios in the area. Laden with flowers and striking views, if you continue into the evening you might challenge Micky Poage, Vail’s “Piano Man,” to tickle the ivories with such golf parody’s as Love the One You Whiff or John Daly’s melodious Hit it Hard.
Located along Cordillera’s fairways are the TimberHearth at The Ranch and the Chaparral at the Valley Club. Gorgeous patios create a delightful ambiance to savor some truffle potato wedges or carry on past the hors d’oervures to the main events, like yellowfin tuna or berkshire pork. It’s OK, you’ve worked up an appetite so dig in–a skier would! Frost Creek offers another great après deck upon which to toast that hole-in-one (in which case you’re picking up the tab) or merely celebrating another glorious day of golfing in the mountains. This is the land where the balls fly farther and the putts all sink (well, you’re on your own with the putting but the balls really do fly farther). Southwest of Eagle, this is a perfect spot to appreciate the spectacular valley views while reviewing the day.
The Fazio course clubhouse at Red Sky Ranch hosts SummerThyme restaurant with an elegant western atmosphere and large deck for soaking up some sun to go with your lunch. You can then move on to the members’ clubhouse on the Norman course for a delectable dinner in the dining room at the Silver Sage restaurant. Both places will make your taste buds happy.
Our valley golf courses are award winners and crowd pleasers with many opportunities for all to play and enjoy good eats from from Vail to Gypsum. Heed the call of the golf gods. And keep in mind–your 18-hole outing isn’t over until you’ve discussed your game and infinitum at après-golf. Right? That’s par for any course.