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C H A P T E R

T H I R T E E N

COUNTRY CLUB OF THE ROCKIES Edwards, Colorado


A Golden Eighteen

Skiing in the Morning and Golf in the Afternoon

T

HERE ARE NOT MANY PLACES in the world where you can ski in the morning and play golf in the afternoon, but

the Country Club of the Rockies, near Vail, Colorado, is one of them. With skis in tow and boots at the ready, you can leave your car in the clubhouse parking lot, or walk over from your house or condo if you live within the adjoining Arrowhead Community, and in minutes be whisked up the high-speed chairlift to the world-famous and luxurious Beaver Creek ski slopes. Then after a morning cutting trails in fresh powder or wearing yourself out on the mogul runs or sticking to the well-groomed, more moderate slopes, you can return to the clubhouse, have a bite of lunch on the deck of the club’s Vista Restaurant, then tee it up for an afternoon 18. Sound too good to be true? Well, that lifestyle is a re-

it gets.” Sterett’s opinions are credible. A scratch golfer, he

ality, at least at certain times of the year and under ideal

played on the varsity team for the University of San Diego

weather, but only if your legs can hold up.

in La Jolla—their home course was Torrey Pines—before

Long-time member Dr. Bill Sterett, a specialist in

graduating from medical school at the University of Cali-

complex knee and shoulder surgery at VailSummit Orthopaedics, has enjoyed this routine a number of times. He joined the Country Club of the Rockies in 1996 and built a home in the Arrowhead development, where he raised two boys, now twenty-one and seventeen. “You’re at the base of one of the best ski slopes in the world,” Sterett says.

fornia-Davis. Over the years, some of Sterett’s PREVIOUS PAGES:

The par-4 ninth green; the Eagle River runs alongside the picturesque 12th green. ABOVE: The entry sign to Country Club of the Rockies. OPPOSITE:

Putting on the 12th green.

“And to be able to combine that with one of

more prominent patients have included Kobe Bryant, Greg Norman, and Vail resident and Olympic gold medalist Lindsey Vonn. “One of the things I like best about the golf course is that it’s relatively flat,” Sterett says. “It’s not built on the side of a hill, like so many mountain courses. It’s probably the best piece of golf course property in all of Col-

the best golf courses in the country [he neglected to say a

orado. Nicklaus gives you room to drive the ball—it’s fun

Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course] is about as good as

off the tee. But the closer you get to the green, the harder

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A Golden Eighteen

the course gets.” Nicklaus, by the way, agrees with this gen-

professional who played varsity golf for Penn State, first

eral assessment. “The course is really built in a valley, with

came to the Vail Valley in the early 1970s as an assistant pro-

beautiful mountain backdrops,” Jack says. “It’s pretty much

fessional at the public Vail Golf Club. He is an institution in

a flat site with the Eagle River providing

Vail golfing circles. He fell in love with

a lot of interest to the holes. I tried to

the area when he first arrived and never

let the river just meander through the

left. He’s so in tune with the game in the

design, especially in the early part of

Rockies that he even wrote his Masters

the back nine.”

thesis on high-altitude golf. He knows exactly how different elevations increase

First, a little Vail Valley history

the yardage of each shot depending on

BEFORE WE CAN truly understand what

your club and swing speed. Hint: the

the golf experience is like at the Country

slower your speed, the less affected your

Club of the Rockies and what it’s like to

shots will be. Apple and Tofferi have

be a member here, we need to learn how

seen golf grow exponentially in the area.

golf first came to the area and what it

“When I first came, there was only

means to the Vail Valley. For this, we

one 18-hole golf course between Vail

turn to two highly knowledgeable peo-

and Las Vegas,” Apple says. “Think of

ple: the club’s long-time Director of Golf

that. There were a few nine-hole courses

Tom Apple and Pentti Tofferi, a PGA professional who is the

dispersed in the mountains, but that was it. Then Eagle Vail

club’s general manager and COO and has been an expert

opened up [Apple became the head professional there],

ski instructor in the area for forty years. Apple, a PGA master

then Sonnenalp, Beaver Creek, then three full 18s and a

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Country Club of the Rockies

nine-holer at Cordillera, then Eagle

OPPOSITE:

Springs, and Eagle Ranch.” Adds Tofferi:

The approach to the par-5 penultimate hole; members Sherry Smith and Cindy Parker.

“We evolved from one course to seventeen total in less than twenty years. So this whole valley really took to golf. People started coming to these public and resort courses to play golf and experience all the valley has to offer, but they said we would love a private club experience.” The original developer, Jen Wright, wanted to offer that. The site he settled on in the early ’80s

Also involved in the early days was tain Division, which trained during World War II at nearby Camp Hale in

ABOVE:

(Clockwise from upper left) Elk herds have been known to appear as the snow melts and also can be found in the form of napkin rings in the dining room; tee markers bear the club’s insignia; the outdoor patio of the Fitzhugh Scott-designed clubhouse overlooks the ninth hole; “Scotch on the Rockies” uniform.

was originally a lettuce ranch. “He said,

Pete Seibert, a member of the 10th Moun-

Leadville. Says Tofferi: “He always wanted to start a ski resort in the area, and he knew the snow was great. He and another member of the 10th Mountain Division, Earl Eaton, basically founded Vail. When Seibert saw the back bowls around here, he knew this was it.” Wright and his group later sold the

‘we’re going to build the best course you can build,’ and

CC of the Rockies/Arrowhead project to the Houston-

then he contacted Nicklaus,” Apple says.

based Wedge Group, owned by Issam Fares, who later be-

275


A Golden Eighteen

came the deputy prime minister of Lebanon from 2000-

private dining area and a special room for members only.

’05. There were half a dozen individuals involved, includ-

The restaurant features nightly piano music by local icon

ing skiing great Pepi Gramshammer, now eighty-one and

Micky Poage. He played at the Lodge in Vail for thirty-five

still a member, and his wife Sheika. They

years, and when they had a change of

own the Hotel-Gasthof Gramshammer in

management and Poage was told his serv-

the middle of the village. “He’s a legend

ices were no longer needed, CC of the

in Austria; people bow down to him over

Rockies grabbed him. “It was a huge coup

there when they hear his name,” Apple

for us,” Tofferi says. Nothing beats sitting

says. Seibert was also an avid golfer and a

out on the massive deck and gazing at the

good player and became the general man-

spectacular views while enjoying a drink

ager of CC of the Rockies. He and his son

or meal prepared by Vista Executive Chef

designed most of the runs at Arrowhead,

and Owner Mike Glennon, and listening

which eventually became connected to

to Poage’s soft piano, seven nights a week.

Beaver Creek. The club was sold to Vail

Glennon, in keeping with the Colorado

Resorts in the late ’80s, which owned it

Rockies theme, says he likes to keep his

until it was turned over to the members completely debt-

preparations local and basic. “That’s my cooking philoso-

free in 1992. It’s been member-owned ever since, and 100

phy,” he says. “All of the meats and fish are seasoned with

percent of the memberships are equity.

Kosher salt and black pepper. We use fresh fish and produce that is in season, and, if possible, locally grown.”

The CC of the Rockies experience

Glennon notes that many of his dishes are prepared with

FROM THE BEGINNING, the plan called for the restaurant

only five to eight ingredients to keep things simple. The

to be open to the public to greatly reduce the club’s food

Yellowfin Tuna is just one of his many signature dishes. He

and beverage costs, but The Vista Restaurant reserves a

starts with seared rare yellowfin tuna and adorns it with

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Country Club of the Rockies

Napa cabbage slaw, edamame, and pan-seared gnocchi,

“It had an unbelievable run,” Apple says. “It was the Who’s

then tops it off with a soy-ginger butter sauce. It’s very tasty

Who of Entertainment—top celebrities, politicians, and

as well as healthy.

fifty-five of the best Tour players. It was scheduled the

The grand but rustic clubhouse has a distinct Alpine

Monday after The INTERNATIONAL, so they would

feel, with high, rough-wood beams and a massive, boul-

come over from Castle Pines and play,

dered fireplace that includes an indoor waterfall to greet

raising well into the millions of dol-

arriving members and guests. Designed by Fitzhugh Scott,

lars for the Vail Valley Charities.”

an original architect in Vail, the clubhouse and its moun-

Apple notes that when people

tain feel is unforgettable. On several walls hang breathtak-

come to Vail they seek outdoor activ-

ing photographs of local wildlife, taken by Tofferi himself.

ities, whether it’s skiing, mountain

One in particular is of a native fox playfully jumping. Oth-

biking, hiking, kayaking, tennis, fly-

ers show mule deer and elk seemingly at peace on the

fishing, or horse-back riding. The CC

course and ignoring the golfers.

of the Rockies seeks to appeal to that

PREVIOUS PAGES:

Arrowhead ski runs dissect the mountains overlooking the ninth and 18th holes. OPPOSITE:

The Eagle River rushes past the 12th green. ABOVE:

The 14th green was completely redesigned in the late 1990s.

President Gerald R. Ford was one of the club’s first

appetite. For example, there is a gold-

and most avid members, and the course played host to his

medal stream that the golf course

Jerry Ford Invitational Golf Tournament until 1996. He

plays over in four places, and the ponds are stocked with

was seen at the club nearly every day when he visited his

thousands of trout. “We have an area where members and

“summer White House” at Beaver Creek. Ford was always

their kids and grandkids can get introduced to skiing,”

extremely supportive of Bob Hope, Andy Williams, and

Apple says, “and another area where they can throw in

Dean Martin and the tournaments they hosted on the

some flies and learn fly-fishing. We have a lot more families

PGA Tour. So when he started his own event in 1977 (the

now—our junior golf program has really, really increased.

first one was won by Jack Nicklaus at the Eagle Vail and

“For the record, there are three-hundred-fifty members,

Vail Golf Clubs), the tournament was an instant success.

fully subscribed. Most will play between 8:30 and 10 a.m.

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A Golden Eighteen

There are tee times, but that is intended to give the staff—and members—flexibility. “It’s the best of both worlds,” Apple says. “You can be assured of getting out, but the first tee is never crowded.” The club doesn’t require members to take a caddie, but they are available on a reservation basis. Many members play in carts, but there are no walking restrictions—you can take a caddie or walk and

PREVIOUS PAGES: Putting on the eighth green; seasonal blooms and local wildlife are spotted on the golf course.

years Nicklaus had a house off of the 13th

ABOVE: Fly-fishing on the Eagle River is one of the many recreational activities at Country Club of the Rockies; walking up the fairway of the third hole.

hosted by a club that did not have thirty-six

hole, and his family spent holidays here.” In 1987, the club entertained the Jack Nicklaus Cup Matches, the last year it was holes. The teams loved it so much they wanted to come back. So the Vail International Pro-Am (VIPA) began in 1988. Now in its twenty-seventh year, it’s played in early September when the leaves are changing

carry your own bag, or push a cart. It’s a very walkable, playable course. “Jack didn’t have to circumvent

and the weather is perfect. The format: One member in-

huge changes in elevation,” Apple says. “For more than ten

vites a pro and two other members of another club that

282


CC of the Rockies’ Legendary Member HIS NAME IS SANFORD TREAT, and he’s indeed a treat to

I love,” he says, “skiing came first because I started at age

be around. At age ninety, after walking a quick nine, Sandy

four in Lake Placid.”

Treat (as he’s known to everyone on the mountain) will

He became fluent in Spanish and French and spent

regale you with tales of his tour of duty during World War

thirty-five years working all over the world, including in

II, where he fought in the Italian Alps as part of the 10th

South America and Europe, getting an MBA in Geneva.

Mountain Division. He came to Vail in 1942 to train with

His first wife died of cancer and never saw Vail. He met

the division until he was deployed. The 10th was the only

his second wife, Barbara, in Canada, and virtually every-

Mountain Division to be activated during the war.

one in Vail knew her. (When she passed away, 575 people

“Fighting in the mountains is so different from

came to the services.) Sandy had two children and eight

learning to fight in the

grandchildren.

flatlands,” Treat says. “Our

What does CC of

supporting troops in Italy

the Rockies mean to

once told us, ‘You fellas

Treat? First, the memory

moved so fast, we couldn’t

of Barbara, he says. She

keep up with you.’ So, un-

would

fortunately, they weren’t

work all morning, then

able to take advantage of

come to the club at

what we were doing. We

noon. She started taking

attributed that to the

lessons and became a

fabulous training we had

keen golfer, winning the

here in Vail.” Army plan-

handicap division of the

ners favored recruiting ex-

club championship five

perienced skiers for the

times and making a

do

volunteer

unit instead of trying to train standing troops in moun-

hole-in-one twice, both times on No. 14, which requires a

tain warfare, so the soldiers were recruited from schools,

long carry over water. “I would play a lot with her, then I

universities, and ski clubs for the unit. Treat had starred

started playing with some of the older men members. We’d

on Dartmouth’s ski team, hence his arrival in the Rockies.

have a lot of fun, despite the fact some of them would take

“We were asked to do things that other organizations

it a little too seriously,” he says, chuckling. As an early pres-

couldn’t do because they weren’t trained like we were,” he

ident of the club, he oversaw the club’s renovation of most

says today, his mind crystal clear. The 10th Mountain Di-

of the greens in the 1990s. “We removed most of the

vision was fighting on extremely steep terrain and facing

thatch, and ever since they’ve been marvelous.”

a very experienced German army. “But we helped stop

Recently, Treat was awarded a medal for his continu-

Rommel’s troops that had come up from Africa, and these

ous work on improving Mexican-American relations. “I’m

fellas were tough cookies,” he says.

prouder of that medal than the hundreds I won skiing,” he

When the war was over, Treat returned to this side

says. He also was inducted into the Colorado Ski Hall of

of the Atlantic and held a number of jobs, the most sig-

Fame and raced until he was eighty-five. The altitude ad-

nificant of which was president of Alcan Canadian Prod-

versely affects most people his age, and they have to relocate

ucts, a subsidiary of Alcan Aluminum. Treat’s résumé

to lower elevations. But because of his training with the

goes way beyond that, however. He graduated from Dart-

10th Mountain Division and the fact that he continues to

mouth, majoring in history and languages, and he skied

walk when he plays golf and to accompany his dog through

as much as possible. “With all due respect to golf, which

the area’s hiking trails every day, he’s still going strong.

283


A Golden Eighteen

he belongs to. There is one net and one gross competi-

A links-style course in a mountain environment

tion over three days, played at CC of the Rockies and two

IN PUTTING THE COURSE together and creating a playable

other courses in the Vail Valley. Some of the other clubs

routing, Nicklaus was mindful of creating tees for everyone,

represented each year include Mayacama, Jupiter Hills,

designated by wooden markers branded with the club’s in-

and Preston Trail. You get the idea. This is lofty com-

signia made of three arrows overlaid to look like a

pany. The club doesn’t do outings, like some have re-

snowflake. He was also aware of two factors: the prevailing

sorted to for revenue. But there

wind, and the altitude, which is

are Interclub events with two

about seven-thousand feet. The

other Nicklaus clubs in the

wind, he says, can whip through

area: Aspen Glen and Roaring

the valley, usually from one direc-

Fork Club, both in Aspen.

tion in the morning. “The plan

Women members feel right

was to route the longer holes to

at home here as well, and there

play with the prevailing wind

are several competitions and

[going from west to east] and the

events for them to choose from.

shorter holes into the wind,” he

The Vail Valley Interclub con-

says. “At least for the majority of

ducts five or six events through-

the time. But sometimes the wind

out the season, for example.

changes direction in the after-

Speaking of women at CC of the

noon, so you can’t always plan for

Rockies, a very important one is

it. But it’s basically a links-style

Tom Apple’s wife, Annie, who is

course in a mountain environ-

the buyer for the golf shop,

ment. Regarding the elevation, I

which is also open to the public.

always figure the ball traveling

Annie Apple takes great pride in

about 10 percent farther at five-

stocking lines of apparel that the women members would

thousand feet. Then I factor in another 2 percent for every

have difficulty finding elsewhere. An avid skier from Ever-

thousand feet.” Allowing for the altitude, the course plays

green, outside of Denver, she was a rep for a Canadian

up to 7,402 yards from the Tournament (green) tees. An-

company that was trying to get into the golf business when

other important design considera-

she met Tom. “The women members have changed a lot,”

tion that was incorporated several

she says. “They’ve gotten younger minded and sportier,

years after the course was opened

and the clothes have reflected that—they’ve gotten more

involved building a long berm to

fun, too.” For example, Apple has exclusives with two

hide Highway 6 that borders the

unique companies in particular: Daily of Sweden, which

lower end of the property. Mound-

is part of Cutler Sports, and LIJA, a Canadian line based

ing as high as twenty-five feet was

in Vancouver, which she points out features the kind of

created, mimicking some of the

clothes you can play golf in and then go right to lunch or

mountains and helping to shield

to another event. There is an active ladies program. On any

the road from view, whether you’re

given day, thirty to forty women participate. And there are

on the course or on the clubhouse

no restrictions by gender on tee times. Kelly Deimund, one

veranda or even in one of the

of five Class-A professionals at CC of the Rockies, teaches

homes looking down over the 140

many of the women. For the most part, they find the club

acres. The Berm Project, as it has

very playable, despite some challenging forced carries over

come to be called, was overseen by Head Superintendent

the Eagle River.

Kevin Ross, who has been on site since 1995. A graduate of

284

ABOVE:

The “Birds of Prey” trophy commemorates the annual Men’s Member Guest tournament. OPPOSITE:

(Clockwise from upper left) The entryway into Vista Restaurant; Director of Golf Tom Apple; President Gerald Ford was an early member of Country Club of the Rockies. The club hosted his Jerry Ford Invitational Golf Tournament until 1996; Course Superintendent Kevin Ross; Cubby and a set of Nicklaus golf clubs; General Manager Pentti Tofferi; the Vail International Pro-Am trophy.


A Golden Eighteen

Penn State Agronomy School and known for his turfgrass

and location of watering. Although maintaining a course

seminars throughout the country, Ross has executed a num-

in the Rocky Mountain climate has its challenges, there are

ber of design changes at the club, as well as small tweaks and

also advantages. Ross notes that cold soil temperatures

adjustments over the years. “It’s not my golf course,” Ross

allow thatch to develop quickly. So in 1996-’97, when the

says. “I just like to do what the members want.” That includes not just maintaining the course at championship standards— the greens are kept at a 12 on the Stimpmeter during the season with a single cut and a roll each morning—but directing major projects as well. For example, in the spring of 2012 the club started a total cart path and irri-

greens resembled giant sponges, the presABOVE:

The lakes around the golf course, like this one on No. 5, are stocked with thousands of trout. OPPOSITE:

(Clockwise from upper left) The clubhouse clock tower; “The Boys;” Head Golf Professional Chad Hansen; Assistant Golf Professional Ed Marzec; Golf Shop Merchandise Manager Annie Apple.

gation project, at a cost of $6 million dol-

ident of the club at the time, Sandy Treat, suggested that they should be tested and renovated in consultation with the Nicklaus design staff. “There was a general feeling, amongst the older members at least, that the greens were too severe,” Treat says today. (See CC of the Rockies Legendary Member.) “This was true, especially as we were starting to increase the

lars. All of the black asphalt paths were dug up and

green speeds,” Ross says. “So we took care of that at the

replaced with a surface that better blends in with the ter-

same time.” (The 14th and 18th were rebuilt entirely and

rain and environment. The new irrigation system uses

there was a slight contour change on No. 9.) “But basically,

HDPE (high density polyethylene) engineering, which al-

we got rid of a severe Poa annua infestation.”

lows the superintendent to be specific with the amount

It happened by serendipity. “We had taken the sod up

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Country Club of the Rockies

from one of the greens that was being re-contoured and

humidity, mean a lack of insects and turfgrass diseases to

put it over to the side,” Ross remembers. “But I suggested

deal with. Even so, Ross faces potential problems that su-

that instead of putting the same sod back, we re-sod with a

perintendents in other geographic areas don’t have to

different grass [Penn A-4]. The difference was night and

think about. “With such a low relative humidity—7 to 12

day.” Treat asked Ross what it would cost to do the same to

percent—when you take that relative humidity and, say,

all eighteen greens. In consultation with the Nicklaus

an 85-degree day, with solar radiation at our elevation,

group, the club changed the grass on every green, switching

and a little wind coming out of the west, it’s fire trucks by

from Pentcross to Penn A-4. All

4 o’clock,” Ross says. “But even

the new putting surfaces were

so, my philosophy is, if we’re

re-sodded, not planted. Says

not stressing a little bit by the

Treat: “There was a lot of talk

end of the day, then we put too

about the types of grasses at

much water on the golf

this altitude, because we are at

course.

eight-thousand feet, after all.

through the day here, then you

We learned what the Nicklaus

watered too much. I like firm,

organization could do at that

fast, and dry, as long as it stays

moment, which was amazing.”

relatively green.” Ross prides

Adds Ross: “The members were

himself on doing more with

great. They stuck it out with us.

less (less fertilizer, fewer pesti-

It’s been sixteen years now, and

cides, and fungicides), which

we’re doing fine.” Says Tofferi:

is one reason the course is

“They are some of the finest

considered one of the most

putting surfaces you’ll ever see.

environmentally friendly in

There’s no question about it.”

the nation. “We do so many

If

you’re

perfect

“I think that set the CC of

things to promote harmony

the Rockies on a course to-

between the golf course and

ward a great future,” Ross says.

the surrounding vegetation,”

“The combination of the A-4,

Ross says, “which of course in-

the new contours and one other thing…”

OPPOSITE:

cludes the Eagle River.” The water flowing

During the green renovation, Ross gath-

through the course along the river is

Jack stared at him with those famous steely

(Clockwise from upper left) Pan-seared Alaskan halibut is a signature dish at Vista Restaurant; lunch on the deck at Vista Restaurant; the entrance of the clubhouse; a signature dessert; the bar at Vista; Vista Chef and Owner Michael Glennon.

blues, and said, “Kevin, I think that’s an

ABOVE:

ered himself and got up the nerve to suggest to Nicklaus that they also seed the fairways with bent grass, something Ross had some experience with back east.

incredible idea. It’ll grow where it wants to,

son—and we aim to keep it that way.” Ross wants the course playable for all levels of golfers. He maintains the rough at 1-3/4 inches. And he notes that to maintain good bentgrass fairways, you

Member Bill Sterett.

the other grass will stay where it is.”

pristine—you can catch trout there in sea-

have to cut them low; he mows them at

3/8 of an inch. But they’re not too tight because there is

“So we started seeding bent grass right away, and it’s

a bit of thatch underneath for a little cushion, just the

been a great playing surface,” Ross says. “Especially at the

way Nicklaus wants it. In fact, pretty much everything at

cooler temperatures we experience. It was a good move.”

the Country Club of the Rockies is the way Nicklaus

While the cooler soil temperatures can cause prob-

wants it. The entire staff—and membership—plan to

lems, those 50-degree evenings, along with the low relative

keep it that way.

289

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