Daniel Brown, of Craig, putts on the eighth-hole green Friday at Yampa Valley Golf Course. Brown, the 2011 Men’s Club champion, said with the course opening two weeks earlier than normal, he is able to keep his game in shape as he prepares to defend his club title.

Photo by Joshua Gordon

Daniel Brown, of Craig, putts on the eighth-hole green Friday at Yampa Valley Golf Course. Brown, the 2011 Men’s Club champion, said with the course opening two weeks earlier than normal, he is able to keep his game in shape as he prepares to defend his club title.

Yampa Valley Golf Course welcomes 1st play of the season Friday

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Yampa Valley Golf Course Opens

Craig residents Daniel Brown, Paul Cruz, Seth Linton and Santiago Herrera play through the eighth hole Friday at Yampa Valley Golf Course.

Craig residents Daniel Brown, Paul Cruz, Seth Linton and Santiago Herrera play through the eighth hole Friday at Yampa Valley Golf Course.

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Barb Simms, of Steamboat Springs, drives out of the eighth-hole tee box Friday at Yampa Valley Golf Course. Simms said Steamboat players come to Craig to play in the early season so they don’t have to travel around the state while the Steamboat courses are still closed.

2012 Yampa Valley Golf Course fees

Residents (Moffat County, Hayden, Baggs, Wyo.)

• Nine holes — $17

• 18 holes — $25

• Seasonal pass — $600

• Membership fee — $950

Seniors

• Nine holes (resident) — $14

• 18 holes (resident) — $20

• Nine holes (non-resident) — $25

• 18 holes (non-resident) — $35

• Seasonal pass (resident) — $450

• Seasonal pass (non-resident) — $475

Students

• Nine holes — $6

• 18 holes — $9

• Season pass (18 and under) — $100

• Season pass (college) — $200

Non-residents

• Nine holes — $30

• 18 holes — $42

• Membership fee — $1,375

In August, Daniel Brown walked onto the Yampa Valley Golf Course for the 2011 Men’s Club Championships and walked off the winner.

Brown, a Craig resident, shot a 151 over the two-day tournament to be crowned club champion.

On Friday, Brown got an early start on his title defense.

A mixture of a mild winter and warm temperatures in March allowed the golf course to open to the public Friday, about two weeks earlier than last year.

Brown wasted no time getting his clubs out, playing a round with his friends Paul Cruz, Santiago Herrera and Seth Linton.

“It is great to be at it early in the year,” Brown said Friday. “Last year I didn’t get out here until mid-April, and I don’t really travel much so it really benefits me to have the course open early.

“It lets me get my game into shape faster because I’m out here earlier and have had less time off, so I can pick up where I left off last year.”

The course was open to members on Monday to give course professional Jason Back an idea of how it would play.

It was walking only on Friday, as Back said golf carts could damage the course this early in the season.

Back said the main factor in deciding when to open the doors is how he and the course’s superintendent, Tim Boyle, feel the fairways and greens would hold up with people on them.

“The course is the most important and it has to be ready to take all the traffic, especially this time of year when greens may be frozen and could endure long-term damage,” he said. “Because the ground is still frozen in spots, it doesn’t absorb all the water and it takes time to get it off.”

Last season, the golf course income was down roughly $40,000 from 2010, about a 10- to 12-percent decrease in profits.

Due to a long winter and flooding from the Yampa River, the golf course was only open 12 days in April and May.

Back said the biggest reason for the decrease in profits was the loss of out-of-town players from Steamboat.

“We had about 210 members last year, but they pay up front and you don’t see anything from them the rest of the season,” he said. “When Steamboat players come, they pay to play each time, so it is a big help to our financials.

“We lost some of our play from Steamboat Springs and we are hoping to see more of those players this year by opening early and make up our losses from last season.”

Steamboat resident Barb Simms played in a group of four players Friday, all Steamboat players.

Simms said being able to play in Craig earlier than Steamboat helps her avoid traveling to get in a round of golf.

“We always come out here in the spring because of the weather,” she said. “It is priceless to have it open earlier, because otherwise I would have to go to Grand Junction. The course is in a great shape and it plays great.

“Jason does a wonderful job and come summer, I will come out here and play in some tournaments.”

During the winter, Back said while Boyle shovels off the greens to avoid damage, he sets up the tournament schedules and sets the season’s fees.

This season, the club house is taking charge of the Rally for the Cure golf tournament, which had been hosted by the Ladies Club in the past to raise money for breast cancer awareness.

Back said by the club house taking over Rally for the Cure, it will bring in more players, including men, who will be allowed to play for the first time this year.

“The Ladies Club and I talked, and we realize breast cancer affects everyone, so we want men who are affected to come play as well,” he said. “The more players we can bring in, the more money we can raise for a great cause.”

A complete tournament schedule can be found at www.yampavalleygolf.com. Dates and times are subject to change.

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