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Wednesday, September 07, 2005


Estrella Mountain Ranch

7139 yards, Par 72, Slope 135, according to the score card.

golfweb: http://www.golfweb.com/courseguide/ocdata?st=detail&gwid=31279

Not to be confused with Estrella Ranch -- which I liked quite a lot -- it does not begin to compare, except that the fried egg sandwich for brekky is better.

I made a mistake. Our wine-tasting event Saturday night got cancelled, so I said to Mr. Science, "Just come over to our house: the wine will be better, the food will blow you away, and the price is right." . . . 8^D . . .

We started off with an amusing bottle of Imperial Kir (white wine methode champaignois tinged with kir (raspberry liqueur))

We had white vin ordinare with it (Kendall Jackson & Toasted Head), but it seemed good enough, in a bacchanalia sort-of-way. . .8^). . . For desert we had Pecan Chocolate Torte with B&J Cherry Garcia Ice Cream, flambe'd with Jack Daniels, natch.

Then nothing would do but what we stay up late playing poker with Mr. Science's new poker set -- and finishing off several bottles of red and white wine in addition to putting a small dent in the Jack Daniels.


So I am confessing that, on the first tee, despite liberal application of ibuprofen, juice, coffee, and fried-egg-bagel, I did not have my A-game for a course that demands it. The low-grade headache was not so deleterious -- indeed, my old pal, the Jaybird (as in nekkid-as-a-jaybird) always claimed a hangover was beneficial to his golf, by limiting his backswing and keeping his head still -- but my balance seemed out of kilter. Tho' most of the front 9 is a blur, I do remember losing 4 balls on the first two holes, easy short par 4s.

I did notice -- and perhaps it IS an unfair comparison -- but the mounding, hazards, and bunkers were very strategic in placement and artful in shape, much more than at The 500 club. The design is first-rate and the condition is unblemished.

Mr. Science did not seem similarly handicapped, perhaps he was not as afflicted as I had been, as host, or perhaps he has inner-resources I lack, but he registered his usual consistent round 43-42=85, despite the challenges & bad-bounces such a quality course offers. But even Mr. Science was compelled to admit my round was one of the most bizarre he'd ever seen. An unremarkable 51 on the front 9, then a 48 on the back with 3 birdies, no pars, no bogies:

on #10 I had a good drive, then a nice knock-down 7 iron that stuck 12 feet below the hole, leaving a straight putt up the hill for birdie.

on #14 I almost holed out for an ace on that 215 yard Par 3 -- hit the prettiest little 5-wood high-draw that just trickled by the hole. It wasn't a tap-in, I had to use both hands, but it was real close

on #18 I somehow conquerred the mental obstacles of bunkers in the middle of the fairway -- it's really a divided fairway -- without going thru the fairway into the bunker at the elbow of the dogleg, then I lobbed an 8 iron with the wind right at the pin, and it almost went in, but left me another two-handed tap-in.

#15 is the one that sticks in my mind tho', a very pinehurst # 2 kind of hole, short enough that almost everyone will get a shot at the green, but no chance of getting close to the pin. . . I hit a good drive, surmounting the PBFU syndrome, but when I hit my famous sure-thing, totally-reliable half-a-9-iron into the green it caught up on the slope to the upper tier and rolled back to 60 feet from the pin, on the bottom tier of the green. If it gets a yard further, it would've been inside 20 feet.

Mr. Science hit his second over the green (Clue #1). One of our playing partners chipped over the green (Clue #2). The other playing partner putted from 80 or 90 feet, from the bottom of the green to the back pin, off the green (Clue # 3). Hmmm. The green slopes away from the tee in the back! So natcherly, I putt off the green too. Wind up with a 4-putt double bogey. Good hole. Tough Course.

#12 was another that flat overwhelmed me that day. Good drive, then got too cute with my formerly-reliable half-9-iron, which trickled off into the bunker on the right. No problem, I told myself, but in the bunker, with the surface of the green above my head, I realized that it might be. My first shot rolled back into the trap; my second hit the lip and fell back; my third went over the mounds behind the green. Good hole. Tough Course.

An impeccable golf course.

Sunday, September 04, 2005


The 500 Club

6976 yds, Par 72, Slope 120.

The comments on GolfWeb all express a degree of pleasant surprise. This is due I believe to the large difference between the flat and unimaginative front 9 and the dynamic & scenic back 9. After our layoff of 2 or 3 weeks, I expected to be rusty on the front 9 at least -- at least until I parred the first hole -- but I was, after all. Mr. Science ground out his usual consistent 41 - 39, while I had a 50-39, with a birdie on the last hole, that left me crowing about breaking 90 while Mr. Science grumbled about not breaking 80.

#10 is an attractive par 5, with a little bit of strategy involved, but I think the cross-hazard is misplaced. We both hit good drives then laid up with an 8 or 9, then hit 9 irons to the elevated green, and two putted for par. With the elevated green it just doesn't seem advantageous enough risk-reward-ise to go-for-it, even tho' there's plenty of room over the hazard.

#11 is a bodacious version of the redan-style, not quite as forbidding as #12 at Superstition Springs, but testy none-the-less: a two-tiered green with a false front that slopes hard away. Mis-placed tee-shots long or short leave impossible chips or putts.

#12 has a semi-breath-taking view of a long downhill landing area that goes flatly off to a green backing up to a lake. Looks like they chickened out on using the island right behind the green as as the island green, but that would have made it a VERY tough hole, indeed.

#13 is a par 3 slightly uphill. easy par.

#14 is a friendly little par 4. easy par, with an apparently irresistable pull to the left: both of us were in the "arizona woods" over there. Somehow we both managed pars.

#15 rivals # 12 for a scenic, testy par 4 -- apparently recently lengthened from what would have been a kind of non-descript short par 4 into a respectable distance with a flat landing area separated from an uphill green by the rock-rimmed cart-path / arroyo. The left side of the 2nd half of the fairway is a huge, deep grass-bunker and the right side is a huge unwieldy grass mound; in between is a tiny ribbon of fairway. Driving over the cart-path might be possible but there is trouble all around the other side. Laid up with a 3 wood, hit my seven iron to the green. Mr. Science laid up too short with an iron, confused by the conflicting information on the score-card and the marker at the hole, but then hit his 3 wood closer than my 7 iron, but off the green. That green has a small plateau in the middle from which the rest of the bean-shaped green slopes away which makes for impossible putting. We both got fives there.

#16 is a short straightaway par 4 with shaggy rough on the left.

#17 runs uphill again, which makes the distance seem less manageable -- don't know why but we both had trouble getting to the green in good shape -- both got 5s and left scratching our heads.

#18 is not much of a challenge as a par 5. For me, big hook into the church pews for a drive, chunk a seven iron layup short of the single ugliest hazard I have ever seen on a golf course -- pathetic little concrete gutter with tiny fan shaped fountains on either side of the fairway, then blade a PW 15 ft left of the pin where I made the only putt I made all day for a finishing birdie.

In short, despite the semi-amazing back 9, rating of 4, it's just not a 3:

- too close to the race track with revving engines and squealing tires
- too bland front 9
- slow play
- the most awkward and unnatural mounding I've ever seen on a golf course, especially around the greens
- indifferent cart-path routing
- unfair nuisance cross-hazard sandy arroyos lined with rock-walls. . . only a foot deep but not visible from the tee -- ugly too
- no gps, no 150 yd stakes, and a lot of the sprinkler heads are missing yardages, too

But on the plus side,
- very friendly staff
- 2nd best breakfast tacos in the valley
- semi-amazing back 9
- good price

Worth playing, and worth playing again, just not likely unless my sister comes to town and wants to play somewhere not-too-hard. I wish I had pictures of the back 9.

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