Nestled near the infamous Vail and Beaver Creek Resort regions in the Rocky Mountains, Red Sky Golf Club offers two scenic mountain courses, the Fazio and the Norman. I come to soak up John Denver’s Rocky Mountain high as a golf enthusiast. I booked a two-night Stay & Play package to play both of these outstanding courses. As an upscale semi-private club, they limit public access to guests of thirty-five Vail and Beaver Creek properties. Play alternates between each course between public guests and the private membership. This sensible approach allows the public to play both courses while providing membership with privacy and access alternate days. In addition, they built two rustic ranch clubhouses, one for exclusive use of members near the Norman course and the public clubhouse near the Fazio course. The same applies to the two top-notch practice ranges.
First-class service and conditioning is a hallmark of Red Sky Ranch. The staff has a fantastic positive attitude. Everyone wants to make your visit a good one. Even the gardeners trimming the beautiful flowers at the clubhouse entrance were engaging when questioned. This is a top rate service organization.
The exquisite playing conditions impressed me while the incredible mountain scenery marveled me. They treat visitors like members starting with the valet service at the bag drop. I would have liked to see GPS on the golf carts though.
Both Red Sky Golf Club courses rank high. Golf Magazine ranking of public access courses puts the Fazio course at #3 and the Norman course at #1 in the state of Colorado.
Fazio course opened in 2002. It plays 200-300 yard shorter from each teeing area and is less challenging than its younger sibling, the Norman course. Fairway topography is rolling as they run it back and forth along the mountainside but you never feel a significant incline/decline during your adventure. The Fazio course is fun, but it doesn’t challenge the golfer like its Norman sister course. I liked the 10% distance boost I got by playing above 7000 feet altitude. But don’t think if you normally play 6300 yards at home, that you should play from the 7000+ yard tips here. Give yourself about 5% when determining the course yardage to play.
Red Sky Ranch History
The Jouflas Family has owned and ranched this land since 1926. Peter Jouflas was a Greek immigrant who arrived in western Colorado in the early 1900s and was grazing sheep. Today, his descendants still live in the area from Wolcott to Grand Junction. They have worked with the Vail Resorts Development Company to manage the growth while launching the upscale golf club and million dollar homes nearby.
Red Sky Golf Club – Fazio Course
Although the layout enjoys serious elevation changes, the Red Sky Golf Club Fazio terrain is not as severe as the Norman course. Great views from elevated tees with downhill holes provide a unique sense of beauty.
I can’t say enough about the superb playing conditions I encountered. Greens were immaculate and tour quality.
Fazio has shaped wide fairways not cut too tight. They were a little spongy when I played allowing easy contact. Frequent undulating mounds makes some fairways look much tighter than the reality. They line Fairways with 3-4 inches of thick rough about ten to twenty feet wide. Beyond that is the desert with natural sand, rock, and brush and long wispy fescue grasses. I found only a few forced carries for tee shots but they are not so intimidating.
The challenge is on the greens. Large, undulating and fast, they will test your touch in every way. They told me the greens were at a Stimpmeter rating of 11. That’s tour level fast. I four putted only once though. Only a narrow two foot collar around the greens prevented the ball from hoping into deep thick grass. It’s easy for approaches and pitch shots to run through green and into this thick rough making for a tricky recovery.
They scatter spectacular mountain chalets made of rich dark wood and rock above the course on large parcels of land.
Water comes into play on three holes at the Red Sky Golf Club Fazio course. Holes fourteen and seventeen have small ponds near the green. Then the 322-yard par 4 third requires a drive over the large expanse of water down the left side of the fairway. The diagonal water feature tempts the longer hitter to challenge the carry to set up a short wedge to the green.
First par 3 is hole seven. Front nine then ends with a par 3 and back nine starts with a par 3. Three par 3’s in four holes shows that the terrain dictates the layout in most cases. But the last one, the 145-yard seventeenth may be the best one. Wrapping left around the water feature protected by a bunker, the downhill tee shot is tricky when the pin is in the upper left. Snow-capped mountains in the distance may distract the player from the required concentration.
Like many Fazio courses there is a drivable par 4, in this case, two of them. The eighth hole at 277 yards (Gold) and the twelfth hole at 276 yards (Gold) are two terrific examples.
With the increased distance in the mountains and the generous fairways, the Red Sky Golf Club Fazio course is not so difficult. The key is htting greens, then handling their undulations and speed. That’s even harder to do with the mountain scenery distraction. A good distraction though.
Explore other Rockies/Great Plains golf course profiles from Quintessential Golf Magazine.