Monday, July 25, 2005
52 Courses Ranked, so far . . .
Kierland Golf Club
Never been over there before. Quite a resort. Makes the Phoenician look kinda grimy & second rate. Everything about the course looks top-shelf, too. Portable canopies that cover the practice tee. Golf carts with air-conditioners. Huge putting & chipping practice areas. They probably do golf schools there. Would be good.
Played there in the "Bunker-to-Bunker" tournament for Cystic Fibrosis. The tournament was extremely well put-on. Got 144 groups launched with a minimum of hassle. Our group was Me, Mr. Science, Clinton, and Jake. We work with Clinton, and picked up Jake at the tournament.
"Clinton hits the ball a l-o-o-o-n-g-g-g-g-g-g way" whispered Mr. Science on the tee -- I'd never played with him. And so he does, and so he did, there on our first hole while the rest of us were still groping for our tools and the B group for our tee chatted and giggled, with a kind of club whoosh that turns heads, the kind of crack-of-the-bat that makes men wince, the kind of tight-draw that makes other golfers lean to the side trying to see around it, and the kind of trajectory that makes jaws sort hang loose and open.
So it would be all day. It's one thing to be long. It's another to be semi straight. Clinton had control of his driver - oh, yeah - and he could hit his irons and he has good short game too. Whew.
Jake, on the other hand, was entertaining, but not much help. If he coulda played like he could talk, we WOULD have been something.
Mr. Science & I played well -- for us -- I'm convinced I would've shot 10 less than my handicap -- very close to even with Mr. Science, and there were times where we contributed. On the first hole, I hit my famous half-9iron closest to the pin, then drained the birdie putt. Clinton gave me a grudging nod. I didn't mind. I KNOW after watching my swing he was convinced it was a wasted afternoon. When I did it again on our 2nd hole, he actually smiled. Both Mr. Science and I were hitting credible shots to go with his INcredible shots and hope of a good showing in the tournament was aborn.
Long story short, we finished 17 under, with 2 pars and an eagle. I bet we didn't have more than 24 putts all day, all told, for ALL FOUR OF US. We had 12 mulligans and still had 11 of 'em on the last hole. We were making the putts so easily we started letting Jake putt first, and he started making them, too.
What was weird was when Clinton seemed to "warm up". He'd been playing great, but on the par 3 #4 on the Mesquite course, playing about 132 yds, if my algebra is right, he came within an eyelash of a hole-in-one.
"Glad you're finally contributing something" said Jake, for about the 5th, and not the last time.
After we let him make the putt, which he comically marked and plumb-bobbed, he reminded us every hole that HE had made that birdie putt. What a card. . . 8^D. . .
"I'm GLAD I didn't make it!" said Clinton, "buying drinks for 144 people could get expensive!"
On the next tee, Clinton was so jacked up he hooked his ball left into the rough, still in play, but we used either Mr. Science's drive or mine, I forget. Clinton calmed down enough to lay his ball about 25 feet from the pin -- I think now he musta hit a PW with his adrenalin. Jake foozled hopelessly, then Mr. Science & I both hit good 6 irons over the green: his low shot landed short and just kept trickling; my high-ball bounced twice on the green and rolled off. Just goes again to show how good Clinton was playing, to stick that ball on a downhill, downwind shot.
After watching Jake leave his birdie putt short, and watching my ball roll by a ways, Clinton drilled it: an amazing double-breaking speed putt. I got cold chills then. That near hole-in-one was cool, but it was short enough that those things happen, but that putt, that was pure-de-skill.
It was a movie: Clinton started dancing with his putter like cossack with a sabre as the ball took the last turn into the hole; Jake had the look of someone surprised on his birthday; Mr. Science broke out of his studious pose (preparing for his putt) with a shout and a fist pump; I pointed at Clinton as he circled the green; he broke toward me with the upraised palm; I gave him a hard high 5.
On Acacia # 8, a downhill 190 yd par 3, both Mr. Science & I hit great shots, and we spent several pleasurable minutes debating which was closest and the easiest putt. Then Jake made the birdie with the first putt, 12.5 feet. Golf had never seemed so easy.
So we figgered to be in the chase, if not outright winners. But when we got to the Fox Grill, the scoring was a sort of modified Callaway system or something.I think we finished up 2nd net. Mr. Science conducted a lengthy review with the tournament folks about the deficiencies of their math, but they were unmoved. Worse: 1st place got some weird looking tommy bahama shirts or such like, and we got bupkus.
Played our asses off, and got diddly-squat for it.
Raised $3200 for CF. Fine. Played the Kierland for $52. Fine. Played great, had fun. Fine. Competed against a bunch of club-pros and semi-pros and finished 3rd, more or less. Fine. Came away empty handed. What -the- hey? I don't think we'll join the Anthem Bunker to Bunker tourney, unless we just want to play the course. We will see.
So the course itself, as part of the Kierland Resort is like an Oasis in the Arizona desert, lush and green. There are some washes and well-groomed desert areas, but not a single saguaro or jumping cactus, chollo, ocotillo, agave, or prickly pear. Kinda odd when you think about it. The dang thing is so forgiving and wide and wide-open that it plays a little easier than it actually is, if you see what I mean.
So, by Mr. Science's rating system. Kierland gets a two.
By mine, a two must have the potential to be the one-and-only # 1, and as fine as a course it is, a beautifully maintained excellent layout, the challenge really is not as great as so many other courses here in the valley.
Mr. Science says we may have to play that one again, too, just to be sure. It may have been our judgement was skewed by having Clinton's drives to work with all day. . . 8^D. . .
Troon North Pinnacle Course
Another fantastic course. Fabulous Locker Room. Very friendly & helpful staff. Overpriced at the chuck-stand, of course, but they are so cheerful about it all it hurts less. The starters have to guide you out to the first tees on both courses, but especially for the Pinnacle: it is a ways away. More than that, they managed to greet us at the turn and guide us to the 10th tee, which was lucky cuz we never woulda found it.
Kind of a lopsided design, harder and longer on the front than the back, but to tell the truth we didn't notice the disparity because the design quality and the high shot values mask it so completely. The 3 par 5s on the front and the bevy of 4s on the back seem perfectly natural.
There's a par 3 on the back, Carefree, I think they call it, # 14, Handicap # 18, that greatly resembles a hole on the Monument Course, intentionally, I should imagine. . . 200 yds long, uphill, with the approach pinched by huge boulders & cacti and surrounded by desert. The hardest easiest-hole-on-the-golf-course(s) I've ever played. The eye-appeal is fantastic, but I find the view from the tee terribly intimidating. . . on both of these par 3s on each course I have muscled up on a 5 wood when I didn't need to -- probably -- from the performance anxiety, and hooked the ball up into the giant boulders on the left that hang menacingly over the green. Great psychological obstacles on great golf holes.
It must have been the afternoon July heat, but the only other hole I can remember anything about is 18, where I hit a 210 yard 5 iron from a downhill, fading just right between the traps to the hole, to just over the green behind the pin. Two putted for a double bogey. Ah, well! I remember # 2, too, because I birdied it, a tough up-hill par 5 that day against the wind. Go figger.
Mr. Science says we'll have to find an excuse to replay this course soon, despite our mission. It's a good'un.
Thursday, July 21, 2005
44 Courses Ranked by Mr. Science & Cactus Dave, so far
|Phoenix Golf Courses -- So Far|
|Name||Yards||Par||Slope||Cactus Dave Rating||Mr. Science Ranking|
|Gold Canyon Dinosaur Mountain||6653||70||143||1||1||More challenging, Ken Cavanaugh|
|Las Sendas||6874||71||145||2||1||Hardest public course in Phoenix|
|The Boulders South Course||6726||71||139||2||1||Jay Morrish|
|Troon North Monument||7028||72||139||2||1|
|We-Ko-Pa||7225||72||136||2||1||Very scenic, desert, challenging|
|Del Lago||7206||72||142||2||2||Vail, AZ (E of Tucson) very nice|
|Eagle Mountain||6802||72||139||2||2||Beautiful course, beautiful views|
|Gold Canyon Sidewinder||6509||71||130||2||2||Scenic, challenging Ken Cavanaugh design|
|Grayhawk Raptor Course||7135||72||143||2||2||Tom Fazio design|
|Grayhawk Talon Course||7000||72||140||2||2|
|Legend Trail||6815||72||135||2||2||Rees Jones|
|Rancho Manana||6016||70||128||2||2||Very scenic, interesting, somewhat mountainous|
|Raven at South Mountain||7078||72||130||2||2||David Graham & Gary Panks|
|Sedona Golf Resort||6646||71||128||2||2||Very scenic, mountainous|
|Talking Stick South Course||6833||71||125||2||2||Ben Crenshaw|
|The Boulders North Course||6811||72||137||2||2||Jay Morrish|
|The Pointe at Lookout Mtn.||6535||71||135||2||2||Fabulous views, Marble Rest Rooms!||72|
|TPC of Scottsdale Stadium Course||7216||71||138||2||2||PGA Tour venue, pricey, difficult; Weiskopf/Morrish|
|Wildfire Faldo Course||6846||71||127||2||3||somewhat linksy, good|
|Coyote Lakes||6213||71||120||3||3||Short but entertaining|
|Kokopelli||6700||72||135||3||3||Nice course, good price|
|Legacy||6816||71||128||3||3||nice timeshare resort, classy|
|Oakwood Golf Club Palms / Sonoran||6567||72||129||3||3|
|Orange Tree||6775||72||121||3||3||Resort, nice|
|Sun City Grand Cimmaron||3||3||Newest of 4|
|The Foothills||6968||72||132||3||3||Lopsided design, best Breakfast Burrito in the Valley|
|The Phoenician Desert / Canyon||6068||70||131||3||3||Best views in Phoenix; course has poor layout & ugly landscaping; Maintenance lacking|
|TPC of Scottsdale Desert Course||3||3||Much easier, nice little track|
|Wildfire Palmer Course||7145||72||135||3||3||more American style, desert course|
|Raven at Verrado||7258||72||132||3|
|Trilogy at Vistancia||7269||72||134||3||Gary Panks|
|Camelback Golf Club Club Course||7014||72||122||4||3||Flat, Old Fashioned, non-desert course|
|Coldwater||6758||72||121||4||4||short front, long back "best course to play on a budget"|
|Painted Mountain||6021||70||114||4||4||Mesa, short, OK|
|Estrella Mountain Golf Course||6866||71||118||4||5||hidden values; best fried egg sandwich in Phoenix; raggedy, NOT Estrella Mountain Ranch|
|Starfire King-Hawk||6000||70||120||5||4||Nice course, good price|
|Western Skies||6744||72||123||5||4||We both birdied 8, a short par 4|
|Legend at Arrowhead||6969||72||131||5||5||Interminably slow, maintenance lacking|
|Phantom Horse||6336||71||125||5||5||poor shape, excellent vistas|
|Silverado||6313||70||116||5||5||Interesting track, no range, no frills|
|Viewpoint||6324||71||116||5||5||Easy, short, good for walking|
|Apache Wells||6038||71||114||5||Flat, short, & ugly|
|Scottsdale Country Club Starfire||6073||70||123||5|
|Camelback Golf Club Resort Course||6903||72||131|
|Cactus Dave's Ratings|
|1: The one and only best course in Phoenix|
|2: These could be # 1 . . .|
|3: These are good, but could never be # 1|
|4: Just not as good as a '3'|
|5: Dog Tracks|
|Mr. Science's Ratings|
|1: Outstanding in every way. Pristine condition, fast and true greens, interesting and challenging design, courteous and attentive staff|
|2: Excellent condition, well-run, nice course|
|3: Very good course, playable, but lack something to be #2|
|4: OK, but not as good as a '3'|
|5: Too short, too easy, too flat, too slow, poorly maintained, or something else that makes it less enjoyable than it should be. Won't go back.|
Thursday, July 14, 2005
My Bona Fides, so to speak
Monday, July 11, 2005
The Foothills (at South Mountain)
(Weiskopf and Moorish, slope 132)
This was the second time we had played here. There are very few places we want to play twice, even if they ARE nice, because we are on a Paganican Mission: to play all 237 (increased count) Golf Courses in the Phoenix area, so no matter how much we like a course, time does not permit.
But we make exceptions:
- sometimes we get free coupons for a course we've already played;
- sometimes we just want to play at the Sanctuary, here near our homes under the McDowell Mountains;
- sometimes we have slow-play-checks (we have GOT to go back to Arrowhead sometime, we still have 9 holes there. . .)
- and then there are "rain-checks" -- something I tho't would be totally unknown in Arizona.
So one day last summer we were there at The Foothills, and on the twelfth tee, I said to Mr. Science, "We were right to come out today, despite the threat of thunderstorms, for look: it's a beautiful day and not too hot!"
"Is that lightning over there?" asked Mr. Science.
Two holes later, on the 15th tee, the rain came in buckets, without preamble. The temperature dropped 30 degrees. By the time we got past the 15th green, having abandoned our game, the hail started. Whatever the size is between pea-sized and marble sized, that's what we got . . . so fast-and-thick you couldn't see the grass on the fairway.
The hail flew into our faces blown sideways by the howling gales. The cunning drainage architecture on the last 3 holes meant the cart hit high-water-crossings that splashed bowwaves over the transome into our faces. I was blinded by the rain, pained by the stinging hail, and near-hysterical with manic amusement at our predicament, but Mr. Science put on his bulldog face and a white-knuckle grip on the steering wheel as he plowed thru every obstacle.
When we got back to the Bedlam taking place in front of the proshop, Mr. Science naturally went in to see about a rain-check, while I brought the car around. I started the heater on high, threw the clubs into the trunk, and unclipped my golf towels to try to soak up some of the chill-water I'd brought in with me. When Mr. Science returned, rain-check-less, we just tore out of the parking lot to go home.
On the way, I realized I'd left his Umbrella and his head covers on the cart. . .8^0. . .
So we came back to The Foothills. They had a good summer deal and it didn't look like rain at all.
We were hot off our good games at Talking Stick, well, Mr. Science was, I was a little disgruntled. . . even a 91, on a Slope-120 course, feels like 111 when you're playing with Mr. Science with his 78. But it was relatively cool at 7:20 in the morning, say 90, we felt great & confident, and while Mr. Science took his warmup, I got a breakfast burrito from the snack stand.
I feel I play better with a full tummy than I do with a bucket of balls, so I always eat rather than practice. I hate trying to hit a golf ball while I have that light-headed, shakey feeling from hunger. But I must be brutally honest here: the quality of most Arizona golf course brekkies is far inferior to most of my experience.
And tho' I remember the acriomonious exchange between Barry Goldwater & Lyndon Johnson, where in Goldwater claimed that "Texans wouldn't know the difference between good chili and the leavings in a corrall", I have been disappointed in the quality of mexican food in general in Arizona -- not in ALL of it -- geez -- but in New Mexico, or even Texas, you can't turn around with out tripping over a good Mexican restaurant, whereas in Arizona I wanna put up a copper placque ever time I even find a half-decent salsa.
I do want to say I did have a really fine, first-rate, fried egg-and-bacon -and-cheese sandwich at Estrella one morning, so fine I think that's one of the few games where I've scored better than Mr. Science -- I KNOW he HATES THAT -- who can blame him -- but the breakfast taco at The Foothills I can recommend without any reservations at all.
It was reheated in the microwave, but it was still great:
- it was only 2.75
- it wan't much bigger than the palm of my hand
- it was hot
- the salsa was EXCELLENT.
It set me up in fine fettle for my round. We both parred the 1st hole. . . not unusual for Mr. Science, and not entirely unknown for me, just not common.
We played a couple of young fellows, sturdy fellows with soft handshakes. One never did get untracked -- doesn't play a lot -- suffered terribly all day, manfully, with no demonstrations, classy. The other could scrape it around a little bit. Built like a large fire hydrant. The kind you think are just going to CRUSH the ball, but he was a little erratic, didn't hit the ball solid often, but he was magic around the greens. Said he had seen a lesson on the golf channel on the flop shot and 3, 4, 5 times at least, he flopped the ball successfully over a trap, onto the green, stiff to the pin. Nice guys.
The course seemed harder than I remembered it, but we started on the back 9 which IS longer than the front nine, and long-ish, besides. I got around with 7 bogeys and 2 pars ( 10 & 18) which is awfully consistent compared to my usual game. So I tho't I would tear up the front 9, being that much shorter, but the treacheries of the slope-132 gave me several double-bogies.
Like at #2 or #3, I forget which: a short par 5, but the green, and the pin, this day, are hidden behind hump 20 yards in front. Made me chunk my sandwedge approach the flounder around the green. I got to # 8 vowing to get 2 pars to get me back to level-bogey 45. I totally crushed my drive and had only 235 to the pin, but I pulled back and smoothed a 4iron down towards the green. "Smart play," said Mr. Science, "better'n last time!"
"Whuh?" I groped, then I looked down by the green and noticed the water hazard, a lake bordering half of the green on the slice side. Last time, in the same place, I had pulled the 3wood and bounced into the water. "Yeah, I meant to do that," I calmly asserted.
I managed to chip on and putt close enough I could claim a gimme ( tho it was a VERY generous concession, I admit). On 18, I managed to roll my double-breaker birdie putt close enough for a knee-knocker that I went ahead and tapped in, just to show I could. 43+45 = 88. Mr Science had an 82. I said, "see, if you average yesterday & today, I'm still just 9 strokes worse than you."
Talking Stick - South Course
There we were at the 18th tee at Talking Stick, 309 yds, give or take, with a water hazard in play on the right side of the fairway & green, when the young flatbellies we’d been paired with, amiable enough fellows, sorta rowdy in the gentile way of fast-trackers feeling their oats, when they see Mr. Science has pulled out his 5 iron.
“Aren’t you going for the green?” they queried in that rising voice that indicates teasing, or flat out ridicule.
“No,” Mr. Science amiably replied, “I *might* have reached the green when *I* was 27, but no way now.”
The assholes smirked, but remained silent while he poked it about 175 yards out in the middle of the fairway.
(One of the young flatbellies was about 20 yds short of the green, the other had two balls in the water. I was about 40 yards short (the wind was behind us, I will say, to stifle your disbelief)).
So, Mr. Science hit first, and stuck it stiff, ah, say 4 ft from the pin.
I hit next, about 20 feet past the pin (I HATE when Mr. Science hits it closer to the pin than me from 3 times as far away).
One flatbelly was in his pocket (the flatbellies had a sidebet going, and he was out of the hole, for sure).
Then Mr. TrashTalk bangs his chip against the pin, and it settles about 8 inches away.
While he preened and strutted around the green, I two-putted for my par and Mr. Science tapped his in for his birdie.
Mr. Science said, as we gathered for our handshakes, “Oh, cool. I got my 78 – tho’t it would be 79, but the birdie makes 78.”
I usually expect rather firm clasps from young flatbellies, but in this case, they seemed somewhat . . . half-hearted. . . 8^D. . .
We quite liked the course. . . I had reviews of the course disappointed with the flatness of the course: a criticism of the Architect. But since it was designed by Ben Crenshaw http://www.golfweb.com/courseguide/ocdata?srchkey=advanced&couky=&pk=&hhk=NON&staky=&cntyky=&citky=&prox=&pdist=5&punit=mi&zipky=&ik=&phoky=&bk=any&lk=Ben+Crenshaw&gk=it
(you all know he did Sand Hills up in Nebraska that is justifiably famous?)
and is maintained by the same company that maintains Troon North, I tho't it might be alright, but we were very pleasantly surprised: I believe those reviewers disappointed in the course missed the subtlety of the design -- then again, sometimes it isn't even that subtle, as on # 13, Eagle's nest, a Redan-ish par 3. I was in one of the deep bunkers greenside -- typical of my day -- from which I could get up, just barely, but not in.
So we liked it. One might say that we were prejudiced by scoring well, Mr. Science's 78 & my own 91, but it's only a slope 120 from the 2nd tees.