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Wednesday, August 30, 2006


TPC Desert

6423 yds, Par 70, Slope 119, by Weiskopf and Morrish


They Say: "The Desert Course has been distinguished as the Valley's "Diamond in the Rough." This uniquely different golfing venue offers impressive course conditions, magnificent views, forgiving fairways and a high standard of maintenance -- all at a great value. The Desert Course also offers golfers the opportunity to walk or ride all year.
As a compliment to the city of Scottsdale, the Desert Course was designed by Tom Weiskopf in 1996 to provide local residents with a great course to play at preferred rates all year. Like its big sister, the Stadium Course, the Desert Course is also recognized among the elite golf clubs of the world by the Audubon Sanctuary Program. That is part of our No. 1 ranking in Arizona for our commitment to preserving the natural environment and conservation."

This course is easier than the TPC Stadium Course, but it's no pushover, from the back tees. We played in a scramble there, from the 2nd tees and it seemed quite tame -- no pin was inaccessible, no carry was too far, no angle seemed impossible, but from the back tees, all of a sudden those sucker pins looked tiny, at least one carry WAS too far for me, anyway, and the angles looked a little sharper.

The thing about this course that makes it really deceiving, even from the shorter tees, is the optical deception, the trompe le turf, caused by the huge greens here . . . on many holes, you can hit what looks to be a good shot, then find it's 50 or 60 feet away, especially on #2 & #3.

By and large, this course is flatter and wider and shorter than the Stadium, but that's not to say that it is flat, wide-open, and short, as absolutes.

#5, par 4, totally befuddled me: I hit 2 balls in the water (usually a big dry hole), balls that ordinarily ought to have been good enough to get over most forced-carries in AZ, but too much hook-spin. Then I pulled another 5 wood approach to the green into the trees on the left, in the same gulch as the water, which the hole doglegs left around to a very elevated green. A tough, memorable hole.

#15, par 4, is the only other hole that comes readily to recollection, a mid-length downhill hole with another very elevated on a late dogleg left -- that is, the last leg is short -- lots of surprises in the forms of odd bounces in the fairway and rough and a 3tier green.

I had been in my mid-round swoon again until #15, which must be my capitulation point, which is why I suddenly start swinging well again, I dunno. I hit a high soft-frisbee of an approach out of the swaled rough on the left inside of the dogleg right over the pin, easy two-putt par.

I had a sandy par on the par 3 #16.
I had a tap-in-bogey on the l-o-n-g par 4 #17, the #1 handicap hole.

On #18, a mid-length straightaway par 4 with water all down the left, both Mr Science & I hit poor pulled drives, we were both 190 yds out still, but he was in the rough. I hit a 5 wood right of the green hoping it would draw into the pin and avoid the water; it stayed right, but the slope of the land around the green coaxed it down into the middle of the green. Mr Science pureed his magic 3 iron over the green into a shallow swale -- still a good shot, two good shots. He's been on fire lately so I wasn't surprised when his gutsy chip perfectly gauged the slope and wound up 3 feet below the hole, 5 feet from the water, from 85 feet away. My knees were shaking as I leaned over my 25 ft putt straight down the fall line, when all I could see was the glare from the water behind the hole. Sure 'nuff, I left it 10 ft short. . . I couldn't believe it would stop like that on that incline. But I did make the par putt.

That gave me a positive finish to a very mediocre 47-48=95. Mr Science "struggled" to a 38-42=80, which must 've felt like 100 after the round he had at Whirlwind Cattail. Mrs Science, The Golfing Queen finished 51-61=112 -- I will say it WAS uncomfortably hot the back 9, swelterin'. Maybe that's why all our back9 scores were higher.

I don't know about their regular fare, but the breakfast sandwich popped out of a plastic shrink wrap and microwaved was all but inedible -- but I did eat it. The english muffin was crumby and soggy, the bacon was totally tasteless, the cheese some sort of homogenized american blandishment, and the egg, stirile, tasteless as thin foamy packing sheets. Not Even Louisiana Hot Sauce could save it.


Whirlwind Cattail

7218 Yds, Par 72, Slope 132, by Gary Panks

A typical Gary Panks, yet finer:

the fairways are just as lush and wide, yet there is just an extra dimension of slopes and moguls and swales and uneven lies;

the greens are "Panksian" in their subtle, unseen, but definite breaks - never actually unfair, but very challenging, while still rolling true and smooth;

the tees and greens are elevated just that much more, to make the subtle difference that separates the great courses from the merely good.

I told Mr Science after 4 holes, "this course is miles better than the Tonto Verde Ranch", but he didn't believe me, he thought it had interesting holes . . . I can't remember a single one, and I bet he can't either.

For sure, he'll remember the par 5 # 12 at the Cattail, tho'. After our first two shots, he was laying in the rough on the right 35 yards behind me, in the fairway, but he managed to hole out his 6iron, while my wind-blown 8iron rolled over the green into the rough, from where I failed to get up and down: he gets a 3 and I get a 6. Phewey. We were virtually even on the front 9, but he was 12 shots better on the back 9. He had 44-35=79, with 11 pars and The Eagle, while I stumbled in with a 45-47=92, with 4 pars and a birdie on the short par 5 #17.

I had a good start and a good finish, but somehow the middle of the round is killing me lately, with double, triple, and quadruple bogeys everywhere.

I especially liked:

#2, par 5 - I can't imagine many people can go for this green in 2, but if they could, the mounds and traps guarding the green would give them second tho'ts; but laying up is a trial, too, since there is a mound of bunkers on the left that hide the green AND the lay-up area, with the inclination to push the ball off that hump into trouble off the right side.

#5, par 4 - with the water cum giant sand bunker guarding the whole inside of the dogleg left, even tho' it is a short hole, again, going for it in one needs a second tho't, and the approach the the moundy green is still tough.

#7, par 5 - has perfectly proportioned shot values, because of the heavy bunkering and mounding around the green and the broken fairway.

#12, par 5 -- where Mr Science got his Eagle -- I think has a very tough green for a par 5, sort of rounded up into a turtle's back, at least on the left side where our pin was. Even tho' the fairway is very wide, there are lots of bunkers guarding the landing areas, and mounds, swales, a trap and some water guarding the green.

#14, par 4 - is dangerously close to being target golf: a rare double-dog-leg par 4 with a bunker complex guarding the inside- right of the first and water bordering the left of the 2nd, then, the green hanging out into the water.

#17, par 5 - where I got my birdie -- looks impossibly long on the first 2 shots, but it's a trompe le turf . . . 8^D. . . all my moving swing parts suddenly slammed into place, starting on # 15, but on #17 I hit 4 perfect shots.

Mr Science said, "Shucks, I wanted nuthin' higher than a 4 on my back 9, but now I have to hole out a chip".

After I made my putt, on the way back to the cart, I told him, "I got your 4 on that hole, and I'm going to get your 4 on #18, too!"

"That's ok," he said, "I plan to make 3, anyway!"

"Well, then," I said, "I plan to take that one, then!"

#18, par 4, is almost an unfair hole, for anyone who can't fly the bunkers pinching (absolutely choking off!) the landing area, 280+ from the back tees, so that leaves a second shot around 200 yds to the green, with a big bunker guarding the front, coming from the right side of the fairway where you have to go to avoid the fairway bunkers: an impossible shot. So Mr Science laid his 3iron just over the fat part of the green in the long rough, and I pierced the green with an arrow-like 5wood that didn't fade at all, so rolled off the green into the deep swales left. I had a sidehill/uphill lie on fringe like grass, so I used my old Texas 7iron putting chip stroke. The ball lobbed into a carom off the side of the swale towards the hole, broke right, then left, then rattled the flagstick real good, but didn't go in -- just kick-in distance away.

Mr Science looked at me balefully, "You never do what you say you're going to do." Then he made a semi-miraculous short-side up-and-down for his par, too.

So I thought this was the best Gary Panks course solo design we've played so far -- as good as the collaborations with David Graham.

The club house is very nice. I had my breakfast taco and coffee sitting at the bar, talking to the barmaid while she setup for the day . . . the coffee was very good, from an urn; the taco was very good, too -- pre-made, wrapped in foil, and kept warm, so I don't know how good it would be after a couple hours, but I got mine just after they brought them out. It had little bits of fresh green jalapeno that I tho't was just crazy-good . . . that delicious, exquisite agony of chile-burn with hot coffee was just perfect. I saw other guys on the course eating the tacos, but first picking out the green bits. I bet they use their footwedge a lot, too.

Monday, August 28, 2006


The Queen of All Golf Rules

from Mrs Science, our Golf For Women correspondent:

Yahoo! I made my golfing goals for the summer and before Labor Day too. The goal was to play Sanctuary, WeKoPa, and the three AZ. women friendly coarses listed in Golf for Women magazine (#1-The Boulders in Carefree, #25-Troon North Pinnacle course, #41-TPC of Scottsdale Desert Course). It doesn't sound like much of a goal until you factor in monsoons, excessive heat, and vacation time.

Sanctuary is a little hidden jewel. It is a course surrounded by neighborhood houses and it's a bird sanctuary, hence the name. The course is kept in great shape and it is definitely women friendly. Some arroyos to hit over but makeable. It's a great deal during the summer with $29 for 18 holes including lunch and you can order anything off the lunch menu. Good food, too.

WeKoPa is a beautifully maintained course with fabulous desert views. No houses around the course since it's Indian reservation land. Gorgeous views of the Four Peaks Mountains. It has the potential to be women friendly. There are tee boxes that are not marked or on the score cards that were probably used previously and thought to be too easy and were retired. If they brought them back I would be very happy. The current ladies tees have quiet a few long arroyos to hit over.

The Boulders in Carefree is a great course. It's beautiful and definitely women friendly. No surprises. The ladies room has nice treats from their Golden Door Spa. You can try out their hand lotions and sun screens, etc. The staff at the golf course is exceptionally nice. They are not allowed to take tips and they still go out of their way to help everyone.

Troon North is the most beautiful course. It has picture perfect holes and every time you think you are looking at their signature hole another one comes along that is even more beautiful. Some of the holes are surrounded by HUGE homes that you can only gawk at. However,it should not be on Golf for Womens list at all. It is evil and not women friendly at all. Giant rock formations and loooooooong arroyos to hit over. Ugh!

TPC of Scottsdale desert course is well maintained and women friendly. No unexpected surprises there for golf but you could get scared with all of the planes taking off and landing over the course from Scottsdale airport next door. I would rank this course as #25 and drop Troon North down to #41.

That's all the golf comments for this summer.

Golf For Women

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


Arizona Golf Resort

6574 Yds, Par 71, slope 121, by Jack Snyder


They Say: "At the resort, you can experience your favorite game with an Arizona golf package that's perfect for you! Get golf lessons at one of Arizona's prestigious golf schools, play on one of the best championship courses in the state, or choose from our many packages for the perfect golfing vacation!
The course presents playability and a challenge for players of all levels. See our
scorecard for a preview."

After a somewhat bilious brekky while Mr Science hit his warm-up bucket we waited expectantly on the first tee while the 4some in front played field hocky back and forth across the fairway . . . they fell way behind on the first hole. . . the marshal raced up and chased them along, since it was still in sight of the clubhouse. Still, a good thing.

But the delay had done its damage to Mr Science's equilibrium, as he floundered to a double bogey start: he hit a ball in the water hazard that ordinarily he would blithely skip around. We both parred the second. The deletorious group waved us thru from the green, then left for the 3rd tee. So we hurried. Mr. Science's second shot on #3 lodged in a palm tree. Even with the penalty drop, tho', he parred the hole. On the #4 Par 3 he pulled his t-shot out of bounds -- something he never does, for another double-bogey. On the Par 4 5th he pulled his second shot into the deep rough on the left, then parked the cart on top of the ball hidden in the grass . . . we musta looked for it a full five minutes before we tho't to look there under the cart. I about laughed till my sides ached, but Mr Science was horribly disoriented: he shot a 47-41=88, to my 44-48=92. Then he said, "Oh, shoot, I've lost my Jackalope Headcover!"

I was having my moments this day, unlike my misadventures at Tonto Verde Ranch, like on that #5, where I tailored my power slice into the inside corner of the dogleg, then powered a 6iron up on the back tier for an easy 2-putt par, but I was not consistent, and I still felt like I should score the low 80s on this course, but I didn't.

Mr Science complained about the bumpiness of the greens the whole day, and it is true that they were nothing like Tonto Verde's, but I didn't think they were that bad, and I have a technique for long bermuda rough that I brought with me for Texas; tho' it is a little rusty, it still served me well this day. No pars for me tho' on the back 9, where Mr Science got his game back in gear . . . I kept thinking I was close to turning it around, but I never really did.

This course is very odd in that the par 5s are relatively short as a group: 494, 488, 488, 491, and 491 and the par 3s are relatively long as a group: 217, 226, 173, 205, 175, and 224. I don't know when the last time I hit 4 3woods off the tee was.

So, they may call it a resort . . . it may be a resort of some sort . . but it played like a muni, it's condition was muni-like, and it's layout is muni-like, so it ranks as a 3, all-in-all. Mainly because Mr Science got his jackalope back.


Tonto Verde Ranch

6988 Yds, Par 72, Slope 130, by Gary Panks


They Say: "Tonto Verde has two challenging 18-hole courses with spectacular views. Renowned golf course architects David Graham and Gary Panks chose to keep the natural contours of the land on our first course. The result is a golf experience in harmony with its setting. Our courses respect both the beauty of the desert and the ability of the golfer. Both courses have been honored with national awards for their scenic charm and playability."

I do not like this course so much as the Peaks course, which has the benefit of Graham's 2cents mitigating the lack of imagination Panks shows. Every hole has the same appearance: slightly elevated tees, to a wide, lush, flat fairway, then slightly up to an elevated green -- very pleasing to the eye, but unexciting.

That said, who am I to complain? I am disconsolate over my score there: 55-56=111. Mr Science had a 47-41=88. I felt like I just played bad, hardly getting off the tee, mis-hitting fairway shots, and putting offline. Mr Science says the unusual nature of his score was due to the interesting holes and the subtle-but-definite breaks in the green that are so hard to read. Maybe so.

Maybe I am overswinging because the fairways and greens look so huge. Maybe I am mis-reading these strange greens because they are so difficult -- the whole course, especially the greens, reminded me of Corte Bella, another high-dollar Panks course, luscious but ordinary, but not as ordinary as this one I would say, except that I can't seem to score well on them, if you know what I mean.

I would except #10 and #14, two short par 4s that perplexed me and Mr Science as we stood on the unfamiliar tees for the first time. . . lay up or lay out or lay off? Nothing worked for me as the doubt preyed on my mind: I took a fairway wood and tried to soft-peddle it with disastrous results; I took a mid-iron and tried to kill it.

I think after a couple of rounds here I would be breaking 80, but that maybe just the delusional ranting of a duffer. Mr Science & I disagree on this one: he ranks a 2, since the condition was excellent, the club is excellent, and he feels the course is excellent, too; I, a 3, since it could never be The #1.

Mr Science says I am just crabby because I can't get anything to eat there before the round. That's not precisely right . . . one could get a danish and coffee, but that's not going to settle the nerves over an 8 ft putt, is it? Besides, it didn't make me cranky, even when it caused me to have my worst round in a year.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006


Camelback Resort Course

6903 Yds, Par 72, Slope 132, by Arthur Hills
(Formerly, the Padre)

They Say: "Resort Course From the mind of world-renowned golf course architect Arthur Hills comes a course that promises an enjoyable and unforgettable golf adventure. The Resort Course features towering trees, subtle landforms and impressive bunkering to sharpen your game. This 6,903-yard, par 72 design is known for its strategic layout, challenging water holes, recently having had its 9th hole voted the best water hole in the state by Arizona Golf Magazine."

I was prepared to dismiss this course as a copy of the "Club" course at Camelback, but it was much, much more interesting. If we gave 2.5 rankings this might qualify: the layout is much more entertaining, the shot values require much more calculation, and the challenge is much more heroic.

Mr Science quibbled about the condition of the greens the whole round, but everytime I made a putt, I said, "I don't see any problem with the greens!"

But he has been much taken lately with the PMA theories of Gary Player, who, apparently, never missed a shot in his life, but has been plagued by all sorts of amazing anomalies and incongruencies out of his control.

I tho't one of the Tenets of Calvinistic Paganicanism was to manfully accept one's Golf results as the products of one's efforts, but it seems that, according to St. Player, that such self-scourging is counter-productive.

At any rate, a very enjoyable round, even tho' I started off with a par, then some bogies, then one of those painful intervals where I would be grateful if there was anyone or anything else I could blame for my bad golf, but I sense that this would not wear well with my playing companions.

Suddenly, on our 16th hole, #7 on the front, I pulled a solid hit down the tree line on the left and past the fairway bunkers -- almost to the water. I lobbed a half-wedge up onto the green straight at the pin, but my birdie putt violently popped out of the hole, even tho' I hit it dead center.

On #17 / #8 I hit a solid high 5iron just right of the green -- well away from the water on the left. I didn't realize that it was effectively a grass bunker over there, and it took me 4 to get down from there.

on #18/ #9 I hit a toey drive down the right side, then absolutely macerated a 5iron down the middle of the par 5 fairway, leaving just another half wedge into the green. But the pin was stuck down on the front tongue of the green, so I missed a birdie putt from the fringe and still got my par. . . a good finish, all-in-all, after the breakdown I'd had in the middle of the round . . . 48-47=95. Mr Science had a 47-40=87, which he blamed on the greens . . . looking at the chicken scratches on his scorecard, he only had 1 3 putt, but I guess he had elevated expectations after his 76 at Ken McDonald -- this slope is only 2 points higher than KM, but it seemed much harder.

The fact that we both scored higher here than the day before, in proportion to each other according to our handicaps makes it seem that this course IS much harder. This is definitely a course to re-play, since so many shots gave me so much doubt. The fairways of the short par 4s -- the ones less than 400 yds, (#3, #5, #7, #11) -- all are heavily bunkered in such a way that the inclination to lay-up is very strong, but so too is the temptation to thread-the-needle with a longer club. We just felt that on a second round we could do better with our hard-won course knowledge.

But if I was going to blame something for my bad golf, it would have to be the egg sandwich I got beforehand . . . oh, the counterstaff was friendly enough, and it tasted ok, but it had like 4 eggs in it, plain american cheese, canadian bacon and two greasy little pieces of toast -- a sandwich you need a knife and fork to eat.

Saturday, August 12, 2006


Ken McDonald

6743 Yds, Par 72, slope 125, by Jack Snyder


They Say: "Ken McDonald is one of the most active and reasonably priced 18hole par 72 championship golf courses in the metropolitan Phoenix area with a full service restaurant and bar. Location . . . The golf course was built in 1974 and designed by the famous local architect Jack Snyder. Services include professional golf instruction, club fitting, club repairs and special event planning."

It says something that this course is not as interesting as Cave Creek, also designed by Jack Snyder . . . whether this is a reflection on the evolving talents of the architect as he matured, or, that Cave Creek built on a dump still makes a better layout than Ken McDonald, I can't say.

We rated it a solid 3, in relatively good shape and certainly not entirely unimaginative, but the only holes that stuck in my mind were the last two:

#17 downhill par 3, not quite 200 yds, with water looming on the right. I missed my birdie from below the hole about 8 ft, and Mr Science missed his from 3 . . . by that time we were so ground down by the bristly, slow greens we hardly even grimaced.

#18 is a rather amazing hole, a moderately lengthed par 4 dogleg right around a lake. The tee shot is one of those that preys on the mind. On this, our first time on it, we had no idea how far a drive should go, and how much room there was in the landing area between the water on the right and the trash on the left. Mr Science had a shot sort of in the fairway, but on the slope down to the water that kept him from hitting a solid 2nd shot. He was unable to get up and down from the fairway in front of the green, but it was close. I pulled my drive left to the outside of the dogleg in the patchy rough -- almost in trouble, but with a clear, long look at the green. I chunked my 5 iron in a way that I tho't was impossible, and it trickled just over the sand trap in the corner of the dogleg, down a steep, bare slope almost to the reedy creek. I hit an amazing choke down half-a-7iron out of the woods onto the green for a 2-putt bogey.

I had a 46-43=89, which was almost acceptable -- except that I'd started the back 9 with 3 straight pars, and so flush with my success I was looking forward to the par 5 #13 -- but the ol' jamais vu hit me in the middle of my backswing -- it felt like I was holding the wrong end of the club -- and I had to stop in the middle like Tiger when the photogs get crazy.

"Ah, well!" Mr Science felt called upon to interject into this "teaching situation" with young Aaron with whom we shared our round, "You see: in his crouch, Cactus can't get the club upright like this," as he demonstrated his own perfect form. I couldn't help but listen at first, but then I plugged my ears and chanted, "LALALALALALALALALA" till I saw him stop talking. So naturally, nothing would do but that I hack my way down the fairway like I was cutting weeds with a yoyo, finishing with a snowman. But it was just that one hole where I fell apart. Bogies the rest of the way in, except for #17, of course.

I hadn't realized then that Mr Science was on an historic roll of his own at that point: he birdied 10, 12, 13, & 14, which was the best 5 holes he'd ever had and the best start to a 9 he'd ever had. If he'd only made that putt on #17, that would have made the most birdies in a round he'd ever had. Even so, he carded a 42-35=77 -- pretty good for 6700 yds and a slope of 125!

This was the first time I'd played in 2 weeks, so breaking 90 is all I could ask for . . . it must have been the prize winning brekky I scarffed before the round in my normal training regimen. This egg sandwich was so lightly toasted, the egg was so perfectly fried, and the monterey jack cheese lent a unique spicy deliciosity that this sandwich seriously challenges for the Best in the Valley.

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