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Saturday, March 04, 2006


Talking Stick North Course

7133 Yds, Par 70, Slope 125, by Crenshaw & Coore


They Say:
“Talking Stick’s North course, with its broad, angular holes rewards thoughtful play through the rise of its many options according to one’s level of skill. Its low-profile, slightly crowned greens and close-cropped approaches encourage running as well as aerial assaults.” - Bill Coore & Ben Crenshaw

We finally used our raincheck from last summer. I didn't think I was going to finish 3 over for 18, but I didn't think I would have a meltdown, either . . . Mr. Science carded a somewhat erratic (for him) 44-38=82; I had a 51-45=96. Mr. Science double bogeyed the first two holes, despite almost an hour on the driving range beforehand, then finished the last 16 holes at 8-over, with 11 pars. I parred the first hole -- something I always regarded as an ill-omen back home at Walden-on-Lake-Conroe -- after my standard training regimen: breakfast -- before the wheels came off.

After weeks of exploring the Phoenix Munis, The Troon Golf Experience had us both smiling ear-to-ear: it's just so much FUN to play golf on velvet fairways, true greens, and fantastic scenery while experiencing courteous, knowledgable service. All "for free" on our summer-rate-rainchecks: S-a-w-e-e-t! My breakfast sandwich with home fries & orange juice was fantastic . . . not better than McCormick Ranch and 3 times as expensive as a the inferior product from a Muni. But I felt great heading out, especially after the first hole par -- probably tooooo good.

My impression last summer, when we were playing 3 times a week, was that the North Course was much easier than the South Course, but that's only if you avoid the trouble, which since my game is not so well tuned, now, I did not. Several times I landed in fairway bunkers I had blithely ignored before, and once in, I discovered the extremely penal nature: trying to get out with a 7 iron was no bueno.

I stepped in a hole, a drain of some sort next to one of those fairway bunkers on the split fairway on #4. My ankle cracked with a load pop that made me sick to my stomach. It turned out to just be a sprain, and I have to admit it really didn't affect my game, but it scared the bejesus out of me for a second.

Like on the North course, too, the greenside bunkers are deep, too. The course seems flat to the casual observer, but not ugly and not uninteresting, especially if you wander off the short grass.

#4 is a great hole, and #12, too: not-too-long Par 4s with divided fairways and multiple strategic choices with very penal opportunities for failure. But the fairways really are very wide and the challenges are mental & visual rather than "real". Very artful design, a la' McKinzie. We had a bit of wind to contend with, too, that made the desert-links-style play challenging -- both Talking Stick 18s play more difficult than their slopes, I think.

The "angular" feature they talk about has something to do with the way the holes dogleg gently, but the fairway grass does not necessarily follow the center-line, which leaves psychologically intimidating shots over desert areas intruding into the golfer's vision. Because of that, and the way that bunkers are placed varying distances from the green, even if the golfer has a yardage in his head -- adjusted for the wind and an uneven lie -- the visual feedback is different: more noise in your head.

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