Sunday, January 29, 2006
Cave Creek is Phoenix's most popular municipal golf course, with about 100,000 rounds played annually. Started in 1983 as a landfill reclamation project, Cave Creek Golf Course is a pioneer of sorts in environmental golf course design. Success stories like Cave Creek prove that these sites can be put to worthwhile and environmentally friendly uses - good news for all concerned.
Note that Snyder has also done the Wailea Blue Course and Mountain Shadows here in the Valley. This is a great walking course, but not for those that define a good walking course as one without any hilly challenges. I would call it a very good desert links layout, tho' so many of the holes run North/South -- it never seems boring. We were told that it is much more "mogully", bumpy, hillocky than it used to be, due to subsidence in parts of the landfill. What is left are some amazingly tortured fairways with knobs and swales that can make a good shot roll offline or take a devastating bounce . . . and the greens! The greens were tiered in the first place, but now, some of them have been twisted and scalloped by "nature" in ways that Heckenkemper nor Von Hagge & Devlin ever dreamt.
Mr. Science & I both liked this course to the point of overrating it, perhaps, as a 3. He showed his standard consistency, 46-45=91; I, 46-48=94. The greens tore us up, tho' Mr Science felt with another round he could overcome his discomfort. I had at least 9 3putts, and I'm not so sure. I don't know when I've had so many 3putt bogeys and double-bogeys. But then, I haven't putted well since the scopion stung my thumb 2 months ago.
On the front 9, Mr. Science had a sandy par (#2) and a sandy bogey he was proud of on #9, a birdie on # 3, and a chip-in par on #8, the #1 handicap hole. He pulled his drive short left WELL off the elevated fairway, then hacked his ball over to the gravelly desert sand short right of the green, then poked a scottish bump-&-run over the green into the mounds on the left side of the green, and THEN, after watching me and one of our playing partners roll putts around the big bowl in the middle of that green, calmly chipped in with a 7iron, I think, from like 35 feet. But "nothing was happening," he reported, "on the back 9".
#8 was my only par on the front 9: I lambasted a tight draw down the middle to just left of the 150 yd. pole, then pureed a knock-down 7-iron towards the Red Flag on the ostensible front of the green over to the fringe on the left side, not that far from where Mr. Scince wound up; I made one of the many great lag putts I made all day and somehow made the 3 foot slider for my Par.
#13, the par 3 shown in the picture up above was my best shot of the day, a 180 yd 4iron pin high in the middle of the green, but what the picture doesn't show is how the right side of that green is sunken 1.5 or 2 feet below the middle, and maybe 4 feet from the far-left side of the green, so a 2-putt par was still fantastic -- I made a great lag put there that almost went in, but trying to make birdie would have just been the first of a 3putt.
I sort of remember the tortured fairways and heinous greens on the front 9, but #8 & #9 are really the only ones I remember clearly. The Back 9, however, especially from #12 on, one has to admit are just beautiful holes.
On # 10 -- while we waited for the fairway to clear, Mr. Science gave us all a sand lesson, since we were all marveling at the buried lie sand shot he'd played so well on #9: he dug it out, got it over the lip, and put plenty of roll on it, then made the putt to save bogey, but it's too long to go into here, maybe we'll post that later --
On # 10, the short par 4, I foozled my drive -- the one resolution I had after the last few weeks was NOT to foozle ANY drives -- oh, well -- but I kept my composure and hit a jaw-dropping perfect little 5wood draw onto the green off a slice lie, but I was still 50 feet and 3 putts away on that huge left-to-right sloping green. Even after watching the others putt, I couldn't make myself borrow enough against the break.
These, BTW, have to be the largest greens and bunkers I have ever seen on a muni. The bunkers are kinda funky looking and filled with that nasty sand that the City apparently gets a bulk deal on, but they were very well maintained. Nobody, even me can use the sand as an excuse for a bad shot.
On # 11, an intimidating looking par 5, 521 yds, fairway elevated from junk on the left and some water on the right, I hit a fantastic drive that left me with only 240 yards to the green, but a down hill lie, so I semi-chunked it. I still only had 110 to the green, but for like the 3rd time that day I left my wedge short of the green, chipped miles past the pin, then three-putted trying to get back down to the cup.
#12 is a sharp dogleg right short par 4, with HUGE Gum trees guarding the dogleg. One has to wonder why, when you can SEE the 150-post right in front of you in the middle of the dogleg fairway, why anyone would ever go into those trees, but three of us did, and none of us could rescue a par from there.
#13 is that gorgeous par 3 illustrated above.
#14 is a straightaway long par 4 to a down hill fairway guarded by more huge Gum trees and water. I got behind a tree, hit my safety in the water, bladed my wedge into a trap, took 3 to get out for a 9. Mr Science parred this hole, so I think I just blew a tire. I still think its a very attractive, woodsy hole, but I had to grab a handfull of eucalyptis leaves to revive myself.
#15 is another, shorter par 4 with Gum trees, but no water, but I skulled my way to a 6, anyway.
on # 16, Mr. Science broke out the beers and thus restored, I resolved to par into the house to reclaim my round. I hit a good drive down the right side, and so did Mr. Science. I tried to draw a 5 wood away from the trees on the right into the middle of the fairway, but it went straight into them; Mr. Science tried to fade a ball around the trees on the right but the wind blew it back into the trees anyway. As we walked up, I said, of the ball we could see, "Gee that's a horrible lie, under the tree and behind the water!" all the while thinking it was my ball, but it was Mr. Science's. Mine was sitting in the muddy edge of the water hazard. Mr. Science hit a great shot somehow, that rolled up onto the green, say 30 feet from the pin. I too hit a rather good shot, using a de-lofted PW to pick the ball clean out of the mud that rolled from the front of the green to 18 ft past the pin. I claimed a par there, but Mr Science took a bogey.
on #17, a 208 yd. uphill par 3, I hit a beautiful tight draw 5wood that disappeared over the front lip of the green. Mr. Science was left of the green, pin high. Now this green deserves discussion: it might be that the subsidence has exaggerated the design of this green just a touch too much. The pin was sitting in a swale 8 feet below the front and left side of the front 1/3 of the green. I just made a wave past the ball with my putter to get it rolling and it rolled 5 feet past the pin. Mr. Science just coughed into his hand behind his ball and it rolled down the gully 8 or 10 feet past. I did get my par, but Mr. Science had another bogey.
#18 is an awkward tee shot over the cave creek wash, similar to a hole at the TPC (#5?) where the fairway seems go off at a wierd angle from the t-box. How much to bite off? Our playing partners were trying to get us to aim at the trap on the left, but that would mean flying the ball 280+, we figgered later. So we aimed right of that and I wound up about 10 yds back of the 150 pole, and Mr. Science about 200 yds away. The wind was behind us. Mr. Science hit a choke-down 3wood into the mounds on the right side front of the green. . . the ball kicked hard left, rolled over the front, disappeared from view. . . "Watch it, Watch it!" cried our partners as we stood on tip-toe trying to see. Then his ball slowly rolled back into view, past the pin, 12 ft left.
"I meant to do that!" said Mr. Science.
Flush with confidence in my mission to par-into-the-house, I hit a choke down 5iron off my launching pad mound lie that flew impossibly high, landed on the front of the green, rolled out of sight into a swale, then reappeared rolling past the pin, 18 ft. Oh, just, GREAT, another dang downhill putt, another 3 putt for me, going for the birdie. Mr. Science finished with a flourish, a lip-out birdie, settling for a par.
Mediocre breakfast sandwich. Above average Pro Shop.
Thursday, January 26, 2006
This course shows what Gary Panks can do with a good piece of ground. The routing is economic in acreage, but varied in elevation and clever in spacing so that one hole's play doesn't often interfere with another's. Only on the first hole, when Mr. Science bladed his bunker shot over into the swale behind the green -- then there was some confusion in balls with an errant 4some near the 7th green.
"Only a great back-17 can rescue a 4-rating for this course," he complained, "that trap was full of footprints and a broken rake!" explaining his poor play. Like Miss Haversham's Mouldering Wedding Cake, the sides and shoulders of all the bunkers are caving in, and the dirty sand & gravel composition of the bunker is nasty.
Gary Panks should rush out there and rescue his course, because whether he was paid or gifted his services, his reputation could suffer unfairly from its poor condition. I think it is an excellent design over a great piece of property with fantastic views of South Mountain.
The two short par 4s, # 8 & #17 are diabolically bunkered and have water guarding the green. I guess some guys would call those drivable, but there is a very low risk/reward ratio. Mr. Science & I debated amiably how to play them . . . On #8, I hit 3 wood-PW, and he hit 5 iron-7iron and we wound up a foot from each other on the green. On #17, I hit 4iron-PW and he hit 3iron-7iron and I wound up in a bunker and him over the green. Mr Science had to hit a provisional after a very weak 3 iron, and he hit his driver about 40 yds short of the green, over the water. "THAT's the way to play THAT hole!" he told me.
This design is poetry, tho' not a sonnet like Stone Ridge, rather a sombre Spenserian couplet:
4-5-3, 4-5-4, 3-4-4
5-4-4, 3-4-5, 3-4-4
. . . short par 3 - short par 4 - long par 4.
Those par 3s may be the shortest set in the valley, but those greens are the most heavily bunkered on the course -- deep, amoeba-shaped traps that would be tough enough in good shape.
I had a 41-52=93, while Mr. Science carded his usual consistent - if higher than usual - 46-45=91 . . . he was grumbling on the front 9, but grunted in satisfaction at the final score, "At least the equilibrium in the Universe has been Restored."
I certainly felt like the Cosmos conspired against me on the back 9. I was playing almost great, with a birdie and 2 pars on the last 4 holes of the front 9, and stood 115 yds short of the green on #10 with my sure-fire half-9 third shot, but the next thing I knew, I had 2 balls in the water then a 2 putt to save a 9; then the same thing happened to me on #18.
A good course in need of some TLC.
Saturday, January 21, 2006
Mrs Science Makes 2 Birdies
There was supposed to be a foursome in front of us, but only two teed off. We got to the first green, and they were still waiting on the 2nd tee so I was practicing putting and one if them asked if we wanted to join them, so we did.
2 is 118 yards from the ladies tee. Mrs Science hit a 3-wood that hit the cart path, bounced on the bridge which spans the ditch, and ran up onto the green, about 15 feet from the hole. She made the putt for a birdie. It was her second birdie ever.
Oliver was an experienced golfer, and was giving Tim tips about how to move his shoulders and things during the swing. Tim was all over the golf course, long enough but not straight at all.
I birdied 3, and was thinking of asking the two guys "So, you wanna play a little 4-ball? Maybe $50 a side?" But I thought better of it.
On 14, 188 yards, I hit a 3-iron that went left, hit the cart path about 20 feet short of pin high, and bounced to the top of the ridge, a foot from going over the retaining wall and into the street behind the hole. I was 20 yards beyond the green, 20 feet above the level of the green, which sloped away from me, and short-sided. I chipped a 7-iron down the hill, one bounce in the rough, 2nd bounce on the cart path, and onto the green. My 12-foot downhill putt broke 2 feet and went in for par.
17 is 135 from the ladies tee, and Mrs Science hit a driver that landed short of the canal, bounced in the concrete bottom of the canal, and up onto the green, ending up 3 feet behind the hole. She missed the pin by less than a foot as it went by. She made that one, too, for her second birdie of the day.
As we left the green, she said "concrete is my friend".
Wednesday, January 18, 2006
William F. Bell, creator of San Diego's fabled Torrey Pines, was the architect for Maryvale. A championship-length course, it is suitable for all skill levels. Maryvale has become well known for its excellent practice facilities and its popular junior golf school, which instructed many of Arizona's golf professionals.
6646 Yds, Par 72, Slope 119
A little bit more interesting, a little more challenging than En Canto, which Bill Bell also designed. Same sort of Park-Style ambience with old growth trees and wall-to-wall grassing. Maybe a little better shape, a little better watered, the fairways were green -- not to say lush -- and surrounded by the dormant yellow bermuda rough. It seemed to me that the tees & greens were microscopically more elevated than En Canto.
I had a pathetic 45-52= 97; Mr. Science, 41-41=82. The course ought to be too easy for me to shoot a 96, but my short game was sinfully bad: duffed sand shots, bladed pitches, offline chipping, and my putting -- that I like to say covers up the sins of my other clubs -- hasn't come back around since I got stung on my left thumb by a scorpion: I'm putting off-line everytime and my speed is heinously in error. Mr. Science OTOH said, "I'm in Golf Hell".
Mr. Science's definition of Golf Heaven & Golf Hell:
- In Golf Heaven, the Golf is exactly like it is here, and you play exactly like you do now, always seeming to improve, and you get to play every day.
- In Golf Hell, every drive is down-the-middle, every approach is in the middle of the green, and every green is a 2-putt par.
I felt like I was in my own golf hell, too. I had 3 pars, 3 bogeys, and 3 doublebogeys on the front 9 for a 45, because of my short game, so I resolved to grind out at least a 44 and break 90, but I double bogeyed the Par 5s #10 & # 12, both with 4 putts, due to the shocking difference in the slope of the greens from the rest of the course. On the other holes, the roll won't break as much as it looks like, and so, lulled to sleep, my first putts just raced away downhill unexpectedly (and I'm not putting that well lately anyway).
So I arrived at the 16th tee needing 3 pars to get my 45, but what I got instead was double, triple, double bogeys. Those last 3 holes are 438, 206, & 410 yds . . . I think I got greenside in regulation, but floundered from there on in. The 4 long par 4s, #s 3, 4, 16, & 18 are tough. Combined with the 2 Par 5s with the steep greens, a very interesting back 9.
The weather was nice, the course was very playable; it was a very nice walk in the park, but it still ranks as a 4 by each of us . . . Even without the scenic advantage of Encanto that has views of Downtown Phoenix, this is a better course than that, in that the layout is slightly more interesting and challenging. We felt in danger the whole day tho', for several times, a stray shot bounced thru our 4some and there always seemed to be extra balls in the fairway.
If only, the fairway edges were mowed in a more amoebic pattern, instead of as straight as cornrows, the visual appeal of the course, especially with the Phoenix-trademark contrast of dormant rough and green fairway, would very much enhanced. This is the common fault of 2nd tier munis, tho', one of those critical differences between really attractive and, uh, not-quite-so-attractive courses. Maryvale is a 60s vintage course, showing its age, but not a bad way to spend a day, at all.
The coffee shop ambience is a little lacking and my egg sandwich, tho' tasty, was probably greasy -- it gave me heartburn.
Tuesday, January 10, 2006
I did not understand why, tho' I immediately comprehended the gravity of the situation.
"What's wrong?" I asked.
Mr. Science could barely speak, "Look at this!" he croaked.
It was this magazine.
"At 60 courses a year, it would take us 16,666.67 years to play them all!"
Monday, January 02, 2006
Golfweb lists a few courses by Bill Bell . . .8^). . . most seem to be low-cost munis, but look at this, he did the Stanford University Golf Course, too:
This is what they say: http://phoenix.gov/SPORTS/encant18.html
"Completed in 1935, Encanto holds the distinction of being the thirdI had a 47-48=95, Mr. Science carded a 45-39=84. We were very pleased being able to walk, and for Mr. Science being able to use his hand-cart, but all-in-all, we had to grade it out at a 4, both of us: Just too flat & uninspired. . . It would be wrong to call the course "ugly" but some of the trees, the Russian Olives and the Salt Cedars, in particular ARE ugly. It just appears that Bell, and later, Panks, just didn't have enough to work with here for a first rate golf course.
oldest golf course in Arizona. Encanto is ideally suited for the average
golfer. Its level fairways are wide and it has a limited number of hazards. It
sports a relaxed atmosphere enhanced by the course's abundance of mature palm and salt cedar trees, plus some truly spectacular views of downtown Phoenix."
Since Corte Bella, also designed by Panks, is fresh on my mind, tho', I can't help but notice that like Corte Bella, "El Enchanto" has a certain mind-numbing similarity to all the holes that tends to lull the golfer, resulting in unnecessary strokes -- like driving on I10 towards El Paso for 5 or 6 hours can cause a driver to fall asleep and crash. I am a fan of the old "classic" courses by the "Old Masters" like Bredemus, McKinzie, Tillinghast, but I'm not sure this is a good example, even tho' there are no forced carries and no desert hazards around, betwixt, or between: the dormant bermuda is yellow all around, not just in the rough; the course is flat and the tees and greens are barely elevated; the greens are so slow and undulate so subtly that there is often much less break than it seems there ought to be; the traps were very shallow and filled with a coarse dirt rather than sand.
Being a muni, tho', they have been short of water, and Phoenix has been without rain for 75 days straight now -- maybe this is the fate of all Phoenix courses, in a couple of years. . . 8^0. . .
For the most part, the houses surrounding the course do not intrude, and the trees are set back so that they don't come into play except on very wayward shots. Like on #6, a par 4: my drive leaked right, windblown into the trees guarding the houses along the fairway, but I visualized a 7-wood hook around the trees and onto the green. What I got instead was a carom off a tree, then off a toolshed tin roof in someone's back yard, then back into the rough on the course.
-- Earlier in the round, the fellas we played with had asked us routine questions about where we lived and where we usually played. Mr Science uses that opening to expound on his vision, and of Our Quest: to play all the golf courses in the valley. People are always interested and sometimes envious. Of course we have to mention the blog, too, and how we are rating the courses we played, but how I don't have reviews of some good courses cuz nothing noteworthy happened --So our playing partners yelled at me "Put THAT in your blog!"
I don't want to rag on Encanto any more, but if you were to objectively compare it to other Munis, in other cities, it really doesn't hold up very favorably:
- Memorial Park Golf Course, Houston, by Bredemus
- Arroyo Del Oso, Albuquerque, by McKinzie (?)
- Grapevine Golf Course, Grapevine Tx, by Byron Nelson
I just feel that, if Phoenix has pretensions to being a golf mecca, much less a Major American City, it ought to take more pride in its Muni courses, and justify that pride with a little more cash.
That being said, the fine fellows we played with loved the course and had played it frequently, apparently from early childhood. On the 7th tee, too, there is a plaque placed in memory of some duffer with the inscription, "He Loved Encanto".
Dang good fried-egg-sandwich, too.