Golfing Arizona's finest courses, 2011
PHOENIX -- This 2011 golf review features courses for all types of budgets, from the extravagant end of the spectrum to more frugally priced adventures. If you are a muni or semi private course player in the Milwaukee area like I am, you can get sticker shock pretty easily -- we have it pretty good here with a great and varied selection of cheap golf experiences.
Things are a bit different in the valley of the sun, with multitudes of snowbirds flocking in and driving up the demand/price for golf, but some savvy research and sleuthing can result in finding great deals.
If you are considering a stay longer than a few days, many of the clubs offer seasonal passes that will pay for themselves after about 10 rounds. Of course, you are then forsaking the amazing variety of golf that awaits you at almost every turn in the greater Phoenix area.
Wigwam Golf Club
300 Wigwam Blvd., Litchfield Park
Wigwam Golf Club is an old-line resort that has been an Arizona landmark since the 1930s. It was a great pleasure just driving down the street to the entrance of Wigwam amidst the boulevard guarded on both sides by huge swaying palm trees.
Located in Litchfield Park in the West Valley, this resort boasts an incredible 54 holes, 36 of which were designed by Robert Trent Jones, Sr. If there was a Mount Rushmore of golf course designers, his face would be among the greats.
We played the Patriot Course, designed and formerly known as the Blue Course by Jones, and it is a great jumping-off point for any golfers that are looking for a tune up after an off season of atrophying golf muscles and winter blues.
The Patriot plays like an executive course on steroids, at the very longest tees (the Jones Tees, of course) it measures out at a cool 6,000 yards. It is a parkland style track with generous landing areas and not a whole lot to punish you on the front nine other than some troublesome bunkers.
Its layout is rather unusual in that it starts off with three par 5's sandwiching two par 3's then only one more par 5 for the rest of the round. At the turn, however, the course becomes a whole other beast. There are no par 4's measuring any longer than 354 yards, but the back nine feature plenty of water hazards. This course will eat your lunch if you are not sharp with the short game.
The greens are very small, quick and very hard to hold with long to medium irons. Time and time again, members of our foursome were incredulous that shots landing on the dance floor were often kicked out of the party when we got closer, finding the ball in the rough, or worse, in the plentiful bunkers. The signature hole on this course is the very short 16th which is a small island green with a devious left back to front right slope.
I highly recommend this course as the place to knock the rust off; it's very cheap by Phoenix standards, so you can afford to work back your feel. You will be able to muscle some pars along the way, but this course won't let you off the hook without bloodying your nose either. I also really enjoyed the fact that management pipes music in to the driving range. Hitting balls I felt a slight sense of serendipity when I realized that I was listening to the Shins -- which was pretty progressive for such an old-line club. The clubhouse and bar are staffed with helpful and engaging people.
Longbow Golf Club
5601 E. Longbow Parkway, Mesa
The Longbow Golf Club is about 40 minutes southwest of downtown Phoenix in Mesa. I was first struck by the postmodern design of the clubhouse. It's very interesting, low slung and subdued, all rock and rusted metal in deep reds and orange, possibly in homage to the towering Red Mountain which is present in every vista the course has to offer. All throughout the course are reoccurring winged metal and fabric shapes that suggest a primitive canopy (or pterodactyl) and eco friendly fences and barriers which are made by placing two rows of rebar parallel and then filling them with native rocks. Very smart and smart looking.
The course itself is a beefy 7,000+ yards from its black tees, but for a desert course, it's got very generous fairways. I hit more than one errant shot and expected it to be lost amidst the cacti only to find that that course's grass extended further into the sand than it appeared from the tee.
Longbow is a relatively flat course without a great deal of elevation changes. There are several holes that reminded me of each other, though particularly holes 1 and 10. I had to go back to check my yardage book to make sure that I didn't accidentally double back at the turn. Each is a risk/reward dog leg left that makes you choose how much of the desert you are willing to carry to shorten the hole. It is a very fair course and not at all as intimidating as many desert courses can be to one accustomed to playing park style tracks.
I have to say, though, there are a couple of things that left me cold. When you are paying $130 a round you should not have to pay for range balls. More troubling than that was the constant and uninterrupted flow of single-engine plane traffic. I'm not one to complain, but the sheer volume of planes and accompanying noise was ridiculous. My partner that day made a very humorous and sadly true statement that the golfers had paid a dollar for each plane they saw that day.
As we were driving in I saw a sign for Falcon Field, which I thought was a pretty cool name for a regional airport. Little did I know that it was the small airport version of O'Hare. The course is evidently very close, and I don't know if it is a teaching facility but planes were literally doing touch and go landings and take-offs from the time we teed it up at 8:48 until about noon. Sometimes two planes at a time. On hole #7 a 168 yard par 3, I had to step off my ball because it sounded like we were about to get strafed. I looked up and was very excited to see a P-51 Mustang flying over my head, but it doesn't make for a very serene day on the links. I also saw an F4-U Corsair and a P-47 Thunderbolt which I was really stoked about, but again, not necessarily while I'm trying to play a game that rewards concentration.
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I think it would help to have more than 3 courses. There are so many good courses in the Phoenix area, not just Scottsdale. Branch out alittle bit.
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