While the weather Thursday and Friday may not have looked much like summer — or even spring for that matter — eager golfers teed off as if it was for opening days at the Raven Golf Club in Silverthorne and The River Course at Keystone.
“They’re itching to get out and play nine holes,” Keystone director of golf Steve Corneillier told the Daily.
Course pro Philip Tobias echoed the sentiment. “If you’re a golfer you cannot wait for this day to start. The folks that I spoke with this morning were ecstatic to be here. They didn’t think it was at all possible with the weather they’d witnessed since last Sunday. ”
Course officials at Keystone were able to open the driving range and the front nine at The River Course Friday, with the back nine expected to follow sometime next week.
“We had our first chair today,” Tobias said with a smile. “It’s time for golf in the High Country.”
But while golf season got underway Friday at Keystone, the honor of first course open in Summit stayed with their neighbors to the northwest — even if it was only by a day. Raven course pro Mark Nickel said he was able to open the front nine Thursday for a few eager golfers who played through cold and intermittent snow and rain. He said that one of the pairs was visiting from Minnesota and told him they felt right at home in the conditions.
When asked if he was surprised that he had guests that eager to play, Nickel responded, “The way the phones have been ringing all week, I wasn’t. I think a lot of people up here are just dying to get that first swing in.”
After opening the front nine Thursday, grounds crews at the Raven were able to open the full 18-hole course Friday.
Over at Keystone, Summit County resident Steve “Smoke” Wilkins and five of his friends were so anxious to play that they planned to attempt 36 holes Friday.
“I’ve been dreaming about these holes all winter,” Wilkins said.
As to why attempt so many holes, friend Chris Saunders said, “Why not?”
According to course officials, both the Raven and River courses attracted around 25 to 30 golfers Friday. The morning started promising with patches of sun, but as clouds rolled in golfers were no less excited to be out swinging their clubs for the first time this season.
“How can you complain this time of year,” 71-year-old summertime resident Dick Clark said after finishing nine holes. “First day open, you can’t miss it.”
At both courses guests commended grounds crews on the early-season conditions.
Wilkins said Keystone’s front nine were in “awesome shape.”
At the Raven, golfer Charlie Foerester said, “It’s beautiful for being opening day. The greens are in great shape.” Foerester was visiting relatives in Colorado Springs and decided to try his hand at golf in the High Country.
Both Nickel and Corneillier credited the strong winter for helping their courses be ready for the season. They said the consistent snow cover all winter long helped to preserve the greens. By comparison, in milder snow years the lack of snow cover can be more damaging.
Breckenridge Golf Club opened its driving range Friday as scheduled, and officials anticipate opening at least nine holes next Friday, May 30. A recorded message by course pro Erroll Miller said the club was hopeful that it could open 18 of the course’s 27 holes that week.
Copper Creek Golf Course is expected to open June 13.