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Thursday, September 28, 2006


Sedona Golf Resort

6646 yds, Par 71, Slope 128, by Gary Panks


They Say: "No other Sedona golf course provides a better combination of jaw-dropping splendor and exceptional challenge than the acclaimed Sedona Golf Resort. Located in the heart of one of the most captivating regions of the Southwest, the thrilling 6,646-yard, par - 71 course is widely considered among the world's most unforgettable golf experiences. Winding around the famed red rocks of Sedona, each hole provides a unique adventure. No wonder this championship Sedona golf course receives a continuous four-star rating from Golf Digest. "

I have marked Panks down on his seemingly ubiquitous solo designs for being unimaginative and repetitive -- Mr Science gives even those high marks, tho', because the conditions at those courses are all so excellent -- so when he lays down one of his lush designs over the rocky & mountainous terrain up in Sedona, the results are extraordinary . . . he does so well with such ordinary land, such as Corte Bella, that one could easily believe he prefers such a layout, but I think at Sedona he shows that he has extraordinary talent and imagination.

It would be debatable, of course, but I would rank it 3rd, behind Rancho Manana and Stoneridge (Prescott Valley), for the architectural achievment of putting a golf course "where one would not naturally occur", a very admirable and amazing achievement, if you know what I mean.

We -- me, Mr Science, and the boys from Connectitcut --were all a little disappointed tho, this trip: the greens had just been aerated and sanded, so they rolled very uncertainly . . . on a casual round you'd never bother about it, but we were playing another 2-foursome tourney, which makes those greens kinda noxious when points are on the line, if you know what I mean. All the subtle trickery of Panksian greens was overwhelmed with just brutal putting conditions . . . if "brutal putting" isn't too much of an oxymoron . . . 8^D. . .

I'd never played this game before, for each 4some, for each hole either 1,2, or 3 players scores counted, so par on a par 4 on # 3, e.g., would be 12 -- plus handicap, too, of course, so we'd just mark down many net below par or above par the 4some was on each hole. Neither 4some was more than 3 or 4 below par on the front 9, but the other 4some, Mr Science's team finished up 14 under, after being as low as 17 under to win.

I didn't even understand the game until the 6th hole, but there was when I realized that for some reason, every third hole was harder than the others. If we only needed 1 score, we sometimes had 4 pars to work with, but when we needed 3 scores, we always had at least 1 net-bogie to add in. Mr. Science said, "We had the same problem. I think it is just a coincidence that on this course, every third hole is really hard!" . . . 8^D. . .

On # 3, a shortish par 5, my drive went in a trap for the 3rd straight hole -- I was spraying the ball solidly . . 8^D. . . foozled the next but hit a sweet 6iron that curled up 6 feet behind the hole. I missed the birdie, because of the bumps and sand, but my partners seemed very pleased with my net birdie -- like I said, I didn't understand the game, yet.

On #6, after I shanked my first 1iron into the weeds on the right, I finally understood the game: we needed 3 pars on this hole, net pars, at-least! I didn't give up. Found my ball and 2 other good 'uns where I could get a club on it and I chopped it out short of a big trap, about 145 short of the green. That trap marked the right edge of an arroyo that cuts across the fairway. There are trees in the arroyo -- I couldn't see the green, which was elevated at least 30 ft from my ball. I hit a great shot - I tho't - but it ballooned up in the wind and came up short. Took 4 to get up and down, triple bogey, no help.

I don't remember #9, the #3 handicap par 5, as well as #5, the #3 handicap par 5, but I remember hashing it up really badly with s topped drive, a shanked 1iron, and 3 putts. There is nothing so useless as a shanked 1iron . . . a shanked wedge may seem more aggravating at the time, but you oughta be able to find it, at least.

#12, the #4 handicap par 5, took a lost ball drive and a drop and 2 4irons to get on the green. The par 5s can only rank so high in the handicapping if they have dynamic elevation changes. 3 putts for a double-bogey . . . no help . . . I wasn't hopeless or helpless all day, I hit some great shots and made some pars, but I cost the team more strokes than I made, for sure. Very Galling. Dang Greens. Missed both my birdie chances.

#15, the #2 handicap par 4 hole epitomized my round . . . not typically, but rather essentially. I'd been hitting my shots real solid -- when I did hit them -- but without knowing where they were going, but this one was the way I like 'em, down the left side with a hard fade on it that gets me as much roll as draw. It IS downhill, but that ball took two huge bounces back towards the center of the fairway, then rolled on into the edge of the arroyo that interrupts the fairway. A bonafide 300 yd drive, but the ball was kinda sitting down in a patchy downhill lie. So natcherly, instead of bolstering the team with the birdie I had already booked in the scorecard in my head, I had to chunk the next two shots into the trash in front of me. A little 3/4 nine iron, and I chunked it twice. "That's enough, Cactus," said my genial cart partner, "I won't give you another ball here, 'cuz I can see the steam coming out ofyour ears!" Great hole.

I was pretty frazzled by that experience -- totally made a dog's breakfast out of 16, had to pick up. But I rallied for a par on #17, the very short par 3 -- we had 4 pars, no birdies, of course.

So, I managed to put a good swing on the ball on #14 handicap par 4 #18 . . . I don't think it's truly drivable, tho' the yardage is short, since the green is so elevated . . . my drive was high and straight at the green, but still came up 50 - 60 yds short, even from the very elevated tees. I guess that was too close, since I had to finish with a chunk, a chip, and a very good putt to par, never mind birdie.

I hate to slight the other holes, especially #11 and #13 . . . I might not be so enthusiastic about the par 3s here, but OTOH I was very grateful for the break on #17. Very. They're not gimme holes: they play easily, but you may not score well, after all.

Even if the course is not built on top of 18 vortices, it is a magical experience with great golf and great scenery.

This seems like one of those $12 burger places, tho', rather than a spot for golfers to linger and replay their rounds over a convivial beer or two, much less a convenient grab-and-go dispensary . . . both times I've played there there has been a wedding that afternoon in the clubhouse, which is very nice for the intendeds, but dashed inconvenient for the golfers, if you know what I mean.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


Raven at South Mountain

7078 Yds, Slope 130, Par 72, by Graham & Panks


They Say: "Welcome to the Raven... the Highest Rated Golf Course in Phoenix, AZ, Host of The Arizona Stroke Play Championship since 1996 and the Official Home Golf Course of the Arizona Diamondbacks. We hope you choose to join us soon.
The only 4.5 star golf course south of the airport and closest to Downtown Phoenix, the Raven Golf Club at South Mountain has been rated as having the “#1 guest service in North America,” and this commitment to excellence is evident throughout the facility. Ideally located in Phoenix only five miles south of Sky Harbor Airport and a short drive from most valley Resorts or Hotels, The Raven is a "Must Play" in the Scottsdale/Phoenix region. "

It irritates me how poor the data quality is in the Golfweb database . . . it ought to be the best resource on the web, but . . . . where else could one find out all the golf courses designed by a partnership? Well, not here either . . . Graham & Panks have done several great golf courses in The Valley: Grayhawk Talon, Tonto Verde Peaks, and Raven South Mountain. I'm tempted to add the Whirlwind Cattail course, which bears the mark of that association, too.

We played a team tournament with The Boys From Connecticut, Best 2-ball, you might call it at the Raven. Mr Science & I had played here before -- probably in the heat of summer -- I hope so, cuz I didn't remember a single feature of the course, which has many distinguishing features. We had both rated it a 2, but I still didn't remember a thing. Very Humbling.

I was feeling a little diffident watching the 7 others hit off the first tee -- well, it IS, when you're playing with a group of strangers, and they ALL hit very usable drives. I felt like I was back at Walden on Lake Conroe, where my tournament flight was always full of guys pushing 70 that could kick my ass. Golf-wise.

Or maybe it was just that -- now that I'm attuned to remember specific details, more than the general impression, since I'm blogging now -- I was more receptive to the intrigue of the first hole.

Anyway: look at the layout of the first hole. The picture from the top of the page is very representative, too, of the whole course. The tee-shot is not t-o-o-o testy but there is some uncertainty, due to the mounds and swales intruding into the fairway; but the second shot uphill to the bean-shaped, 2-tier green wrapped around a huge bunker is a little more intimidating. Especially for us, with the pin on the back tier behind the trap. A tough distance to judge, but I jumped a 7iron and pulled it left, but it bounced around the mounds till it fed down the slopes from the back of the green onto the green, 15 ft from the hole. As my very defensive downhill putt slipped past the cup an an invisible sidehill, I thought to myself, "Ah! Panksian Greens!", meaning small but definite invisible breaks in putts of all lengths. A great hole, and an outstanding opening hole.

But stop a moment and ponder that drawing: how voluptious it seems, and imaginatively contoured . . . it is not as fanciful, perhaps, as this hole drawing by Ken Houston of #8 on his course Pa'ako Ridge in Albuquerque, but I still find it very entertaining . . . it does convey an accurate sense of the hole and its challenges, which for the holistic golfer (such as myself) enhances the act of playing golf a great deal.

There's not a bad hole on the Raven course, but describing them individually is like describing every vista in the grand canyon: it's futile, cuz reusing the same superlatives over and over again, reciting the same litany of features and hazards (bumps, knobs, swales, humps, hollows, tiers, bunkers, moguls, trees, changes in elevation, subtle breaks) would be boring -- NOT that the course is boring, not at all.

The course is a full 18 holes of uncertain tee shots, uneven fairway lies, perilous chips and pitches, and heartbreaking lipouts -- worth every penny, if you know what I mean. I shot an 88, fully aware of all my squandered shots but satisfied, anyway. I think Mr Science came away with an 82.

They have only the grill-and-bar, which is mostly more a sit-and-eat place than a takeaway, so they are a little slow for the impatient with looming tee-times. I would steer clear of the Cowboy wrap, and opt instead for a hamburger (that takes a while) or one of the premade cold turkey sandwiches, instead. The beer is cold, the mugs are large, and the staff is as friendly as can be.

Monday, September 25, 2006


Passion Recollected in Tranquility

Just as the late-and-great Secretary of The Lakes Country Golf Club, William Wordsworth, had it, I find that my golf blog (I don't know what you call such a formulazation is called, something like a palinhomonym, perhaps), I mean, the quality of my golf blog benefits, too, from a certain objective distance provided only by time.

Sometimes, my opinions on the course or my play on a course evolve once I have taken the time to savor that particular experience, to ruminate over the shots I recollect as I review the scorecard and yardage book, to reconstruct as best I can in my mind the obstacles a course presents.

Indeed, when I am inflicted with insomnia, I don't count sheep, I replay my last round. I rarely get past three holes, it is such a pleasurable & relaxing exercise.

But, blogging, like journalism discourages indepth introspection, even to such an inveterate introvert such as myself . . . If I play twice a weekend, it is all I can do to catch up on the blog and keep the two courses straight, much less meditate upon subtleties . . . three times is over the limit . . . like the inexorable progress of a round, good or bad, each shot must be made in its turn, and "please keep up the pace!"

In someways tho', like everything else, it is also a blessing: it imposes discipline and conciseness. I concentrate upon the essential (from my own unique perspective) and the rest is just yada yada yada . . . I have the belief -- and the license that belief grants me to write my reviews -- that I can tell a good golf course the way Parker can rate wines, that I have golfing papillae which others lack that send me sensory titilations infallible as laser-measured yardages on sprinkler heads.

I do not believe I can absorb all the subtleties of a course in one playing, indeed, on a great course one could play it every day and make a new discovery every time out, but I do believe that while the course is happening to me during a round, I can get a sense of what was in the architects mind, as long as I am playing reasonably well, of course . . . 8^D . . .

All this is by way of explaining that the following reviews may be a little brief, due in no way to any shortcoming of the courses, but by the simple expediency that after such a golf orgy, 4 rounds in 5 days at 4 different courses, I just can't be bothered. Mr Science's old friends from Connecticut came in for a long weekend of golf . . . they used to make an annual summer trip to The Cape on a similar jaunt, but now, they say, it's just as easy to come out here to Arizona. One of the boys came up lame, and I had to substitute 3 in the rounds, which was all I could manage on short notice, what with work and all. I wished I could have played the other 2 rounds too.

They scheduled:
Thursday: Raven at South Mountain
Friday: Troon North
Saturday: Sedona Golf Resort
Sunday: Cimmaron at Sun City Grand
Monday: Legacy at South Mountain

As it happened, Mr Science & I had gotten rained out at the Saturday before at Rancho Manana, where we wanted to play so The Queen of Golf could evaluate it for "woman friendliness". They did give us a rain check, of the stingiest sort: not for a "round" but just for the cash equivalent we had paid, due to expire in 6 weeks, including 3 weeks of which they would be closed for overseeding. While checking our combined calendars, we arrived at the conclusion that if we were going to redeem that rain check, we would have to do it before the Boys from the Smallest State got here, so on Wednesday we went back out to Rancho Manana, where we were able to finish our round quite satisfactorily.

The pro shop policy tho', was that we could apply our rain check to the price of a round, which was actually cheaper than the round we had paid for on the weekend, but no accommodation was forthcoming on that difference . . . not cash back nor a sleeve of balls. They did offer a $4 rain check, which of course would expire in 6 weeks: a niggling bagatelle.

Mrs Science says in review:
"Rancho Manana is a woman friendly course. It is an older golf course with railroad ties and lots of undulating hills and changes in elevation. The course is surrounded by many homes and impacts the scenery. No problems with water as the ponds are on the sides of the holes. No water to hit over for the women. They have a nice pro shop with some genuine bargains. The Tonto Bar and Grill has very good food and Tontoritas, which are margaritas made with orange juice added in. Not my favorite course but good."

What I learned this day, on this MY favorite course in the valley:

SO: Still my favorite course, even tho' I didn't play that well: didn't putt well on the fuzzy greens and my driving continues to plague me: 92 to Mr Science's 82 . . . but we both felt tuned up for the weekend with the Gang from Connecticut.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006


Bear Creek

6900 Yds, Par 71, Slope 128, by Jack Nicklaus

They Say: "Bear Creek Golf Course is a 36 hole, daily fee course by Nicklaus Design. It consists of The Bear and The Cub courses.
Nicklaus Design created BearCreek in the Heathland tradition. (A Heathland course is an inland links golf course.) The 18 hole, par 71 championship Bear Course measures more than 6800 yards from the championship tees. Nicklaus Design took great care in the creation of the par 59 Cub Course to give it the same feel as The Bear Course."

Mr Science grumbled: "Yeah, I'll rank it a 4 -- a solid 4." And I was hard pressed to disagree: the whole place as the air of failure around it: temporary buildings, semi-finished desert areas (not pristine, nor groomed), the disheartened gloom of the employees, but -- I kept getting review phrases in my head to blog, like "The Best Desert Links course in the Valley -- The Best I've ever played!"

I think Mr Science would agree, that there was nothing actually wrong with the golf course there, it was more the lack of amenities (drinking water on the course, GPS, Hole maps, or accurate sprinkler heads) -- but if one played there a few times, and came to know the course, one might grow to love the course, and at the low-low price they are charging these day, it is hard to beat. I think we might have to double back there again this winter when rates get high.

Mr & Mrs Science had already played the executive course -- and rated it an Executive 3.

One thing about Mr Nicklaus, he's not afraid to move a little dirt, and the course is much more dynamic than the flat terrain surrounding it. I've criticized him -- under my breath -- for not giving enough back to the game of golf in the form of golf courses ordinary people can get to and play, but this one course would be enough to silence that forever. Is it a great course? probably not. Could it be the best course in the Valley (could it achieve a rating of 1 or 2)? Probably not. Is it challenging and fun? Yes! It's just that, in comparison to courses with more "talented" raw land to work with, or more maintenance budget, or fancier amenities, it seems second-rate.

And, of course, like all true links courses, it is doomed to be underestimated by American Golfers conditioned to expect lush, pristine, extravagantly contoured courses. When we got a little bit of wind, the course really bared its fangs.

There was nothing wrong with the course on the course: the fairways were in good condition and well-mowed; the traps were gorgeously shaped, strategically placed, and full of good sand; the water hazards sizable with clean water in them, even if they did have that Arizona Bathtub look to them; the greens had good grass on them and were subtly contoured in the linksy way (not always sloping back-to-front), almost Panksian in their subtle difficulty.

As to the way we played: I'm still not driving well, but my iron play was good enough that I had my share of missed-birdie-putts . . . whether it was the wind, or mismarked distances, or just one of those days, I was long, over the green on at least half the holes, including 3 par 3s. I had a 47-45=92. Mr Science, grumbling all day long, had a 42-41=83, including a near-eagle on #18 when he hit a 3 wood to kick-in distance from 210 yds - - that hole isn't that long, but it was against the wind, kinduva dogleg, some sort of trouble over on the right inside of the dogleg from bend to the green, and an uphill slope in the landing area to kill the roll. I'd hit one of my few good drives there, but I still had 190 left to the hole . . . even then my 7wood went over the green (like I said), but since I had so much practice on 45 foot come-backers, I almost holed it.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


Trilogy at Power Ranch

6740 Yds, Par 71, Slope 128, by Dick Bailey


They Say, "Eighteen holes of spectacular Arizona championship golf meander their way through the cleansed desert of the Queen Creek wash, following with every turn the subtle elevation changes of the area. The par-71 Trilogy Golf Club at Power Ranch located in the southeast Phoenix Valley was designed by golf course architect Dick Bailey and stretches over 6,700 yards.
Natural undulations and strategically placed mounding combine with Trilogy's natural setting to create a golf course that is able to both challenge the accomplished player and accommodate the novice. Trilogy Golf Club at Power Ranch offers a collection of golf shots as full of trepidation as they are drama, and challenges the player to utilize the imagination, in addition to nearly every club in the bag.
Surrounded by breathtaking vistas of the San Tan Range and Superstition Mountains, Trilogy Golf Club at Power Ranch sits among many of Arizona's most notable landmarks. Trilogy Golf Club offers solid golf course design, consistently outstanding conditions including some of Gilbert's truest greens, and animated guest service. The golf course and clubhouse, featuring fine fare at the Lantana Grill, are both complementing components of the recreational amenities of the residential resort golf community developed by Shea Homes."

The Arizona Traditions is the only other Dick Bailey course I have played, that I know of, but dang, his name seems so familiar . . . we liked Power Ranch much more than that other course, especially the back 9, The front9 could be very much like the Arizona Traditions, not a very memorable course.

Suddenly, on #13 we were reminded we were on a Golf course: that Par 5 was laying cross-wind, which made the undulating, narrower-than-usual? fairway seem tiny, with 100 yds of trash obscuring our view of the landing area. So confused, I naturally had to dunk one into the brush, before hammering a heel-pull left of the large mounds on that side of the fairway. Then I gravitated a 5iron off the backside of a mound so sweetly that if I'd known it was going to be so sweet, I'd a hit a 5wood instead and made the green. My half-wedge approach went right over the pin, but ontop on the second tier. It took a cautious 2-putt to salvage my virtual par.

Meanwhile Mr Science scorched his drive up the right side, then laid up short in a typical Mr Science fashion a dozen or two yds short of the green; from there, 'twas but a simple up-and-down (he does it so often) for birdie.

#14 has about an 85 degree dog-leg left -- so severe that from the tee we couldn't imagine what was in front of us. Our playing companions cautioned about water separating the landing area from the green-side fairway, but they weren't sure how far it was, so it was all hit-and-hope. I hit my best drive (my only good drive of the day) down the rightside of the fairway, away from the water, and 160 yds from the middle-of-the-green. Mr Science was in Position A, 130 yds or so. I hit a 6 iron sorta solid, but the toe caught in the turf, the club face stayed open, and I hit a high fade that I lost in the haze. Mr Science hashed up his 8iron and came up a little too short this time, and he couldn't get up and down. My ball had stayed on the green, but wound up 37 ft past the hole on the front of the green, downhill at least 2 feet, on a lower tier of the green. But the line was clear to me, in the odd way it happens sometimes, and it was clear to everybody that my putt was going in for a bird as soon as it made the turn downhill, a break of at least 7 ft.

#15 is a medium-length par 3 -- all I can remember is my relief at making an 8 ft bogey putt. Mr Science, too.

#16, a long par 4, the #2 handicap hole, has a large natural preserve -- that's what they call them these days apparently -- guarding the green, which is very deceiving as to it's size and orientation because of that natural area, which is fortified on the greenside by a short bulkhead. I barely got over the first natural area by the tee, then laid up short of the second, leaving @150 yds. Then I hit a solid 7iron right of the pin, but I scuffed my texas wedge, and left too much to save bogey. Mr Science had hit a good drive again, but his approach lacked trajectory, let us say, and came up short in The Moat, as he dubbed it. Still, with one foot on a concrete step and the bulkhead a yard in front, he still managed to pop up onto the green and 2putt for a bogey.

That's the difference between our handicaps, I hit bad shots, but was never in trouble, and still made double, while Mr Science hit good shots, but wound up in trouble, but still made bogey . . .

#17 is a fairly long par 5 that has a rounded, elevated fairway with sloping shoulders, but the green seemed to be the major obstacle, hard to get on and difficult to putt, being steeply inclined, tiered, and mounded, itself. The fairway bends way around left, tempting one to cut the corner, but there's the rub: bushes, trees, swales, and natural areas intrude all up and down that inside left side. Bogeys for both of us, scratching around without hitting good shots.

#18 is a short enough par 4 that it ought not be too challenging, with a large landing area , but the water hazard intrudes further into the fairway than most here in Arizona. Neither of us got off the tee that well, hitting into the wind onto a landing area that slopes back uphill from below the tee. We both had 200 yds over the water. From his angle, Mr Science had all carry and a sticky lie, so he laid up. I tho't I might sorta layup and gofor it all at the same time by hitting my 1iron rather than my balky 3-or-5-woods and aim left of the green away from the water. So I did but I put such a slice banana on it I was sure it was wet. I didn't see a splash or a abounce, but Mr Science said with a odd kind of peevish amazement "Your on the Green!" I made no pretence of competence, but it was a sweet result, a good miss. Somehow he mangled his up and down and wound up with double-bogey. My 45 ft uphill putt was straight uphill, once I ignored the triple breaks I was reading, but I left it short for a kick-in par.

I had a bunch of missed birdies, at least 4 of them makeable, under 10 ft -- 2 or 3 others wound up being 3putt bogeys -- my favorite thing in the whole world! . . . 8^P. . . but the one that almost ruined my round was on the very first hole. After hitting a shakey toe-hook a respectable distance out in the middle of the fairway, I hit an arrow-like one-liner 7iron to 8ft below the hole . . . even tho' it was going to slide on me some, I felt very confident, but then, one of our playing companions, a sandle-wearing, cigar chomping, senile old beazer stood right on my line making his tap-in bogey -- I mean the big shlub stood on my line contemplating his little knee-knocker, till it looked like Sasquatch had been rutting around the pin. Freaked out - I tried to putt-thru the depressions, but that just meant I missed by 5 ft, and missed the comebacker.

I was so upset, I mangled the next hole too, a short par 4 with no apparent hazards. I guess that's another differennce in our handicaps: somethings bother Mr Science, but it rarely affects his game . . . but it does mine, more often. Still, I managed to keep pace better with him this round, and avoided the big numbers in the middle of my round, even when my driving was wretched. 41-46=87 for me, with 5 pars and a birdie; 40-45 for Mr Science, with 4 pars and a birdie. I loved the greens here, but Mr Science was too unhappy with his putting stats to put a good word in for them.

Not a great course, but a very entertaining back 9 in the same vein as a Brian Whitcombe course.

They gave us coupons for lunch, unexpectedly, and the burger was very good. My brekky sandy was pretty good too, the only criticism I would have made was that it was made with scrambled eggs instead of a fried egg, but, hey! I know some people prefer scrambled . . . Coffee was good, too.

Sunday, September 03, 2006


Whirlwind Devils Claw

7029 Yds, Par 72, Slope 123, by Gary Panks

Somewhere in the middle of the back9, the two athletic young men we were playing with were debating the relative merits of this course, The Devils Claw with the other, the Cattail -- and they were of the opinion that they liked the Devils Claw more. I couldn't help myself: "Oh, I think the Cattail is miles better! I don't even think its debatable!"

"Why do you say that?" the youngster asked me a little pugnaciously.

"Cause you can make an eagle on the Cattail!" said Mr Science, to bail me out, but I don't think he sees much difference, either. So we left that and went on around with our golf, but this is the beauty of The Blog: The Last Word is Mine: so here it is:

"Why The Cattail is Superior to the Devils Claw"

Empirically, I would cite these two points:

  1. The slopes: Cattail = 132; Devils Claw = 129
  2. The Nationwide tour uses Cattail; Devils Claw is relegated to a practice facilty and parking lot.

Architecturally, I think it is most obvious that The Cattail has more features / obstacles imbedded into the design. If we compare the 18th holes, and use that as a way to encapsulate the differences between the two, that will make it most clear and definite:

So, the best way to describe Devils Claw is by mentioning the extras found on Cattail. But I don't wanna dis' this course . . . the fairways are lush and wide and the greens are soft and smooth . . . it's not any worse to me than Corte Bella . . . if that's not Praising With Faint Criticism, I don't know what is . . . 8^D. . . .

My resolution for this round was not to swoon in the middle between a good start and a strong finish . . . so started off with 2 bogeys and then went 8 over on the next 4 holes. . . "Looks like the course jumped you early this time," noted Mr Science. Yeah, I had 3 7s on the front9, mainly because my driving sucked so bad . . . even with those huge fairways in front of me, I can't seem to just make solid contact. I still finished strongly with 4 pars and only 2 7s on the back9, 50-45=95. Mr Science polished off the course with a solid 40-39=79, which impressed even the young flatbellies we played with.

Playing this course reminded me how much I admired the par 3s on the Cattail, too. I mentioned all the par 5s on Cattail, I think, as among my faves, but the 3s there seemed to be unique, but uniformly challenging. On Devils Claw only the #12 par 3 registered on my dangermeter.

I liked these holes, especially, tho', at Devils Claw

#1 Par 4, with its uphill drive and downhill approach

#2, Par 4, with its heavily bunkered landing area and uphill approach

#3, Par 5, is very skillfully made to be challenging to long hitters trying to reach in 2 and yet also layup- friendly

#8, Par 4, a short hole that Mr Science both parred, he with 3 iron/8iron; I with driver/9iron, despite lots of fairway and greenside bunkers and a triple tier green. The young fellas both bogied, being unable to recover from the uneven lies in the rough they encountered "going for it"

#9, Par 4, verges on target golf. I was driving so poorly, there was no way I could go for the short route, and hit at the left side on this divided fairway, so sure enough, I hit my first good drive . . . I tho't it would go thru the end of the right fairway, but I was 50 yds short of that, and still 190 yds away from an uphill 2-tiered green guarded by bunkers short-right and long-left. Intimidated & frustrated, I had to foozle a 3wood, fan an 8iron, and chunk a chip for a 7 from there. Mr Science played it pretty well, and still wound up with a bogey -- tough hole.

The back9 greens seemed more elevated to me, in a very natural way, and even if the holes are more minimalist than Cattail, the back9 seemed better than the front.

#12, par 3, is like a redan hole, with water . . . 8^0. . .

#13, par 4, almost belongs on Cattail instead. Challenges the imagination of both the long hitter and the strategic player. Has one of the few greens that is mounded instead of tiered.

#16, par 4, I liked for its uphill approach. It may have seemed like a tougher shot to me because my drive was so poor, but this was one of Mr Sciences few bogies, so that tells me it was tough for everyone.

#17, par 5, has such a wide desert area separating the green complex from the rest of the fairway that it doesn't matter whether the golfer goes for it in 2 (very penal if missed) or tries to lay back with strategy (downhill shot variances)

OF all the 36-hole clubs, this might be the best one to play all 36 in one day . . . they offer a $25 "replay" option that doesn't require any reservation. The restaurant is good enough to make it part of the attraction. I ordered another breakfast burrito, but this time they weren't premade. I had to rush thru it to make our tee time, and didn't practice putting or loosen up at all, but the burrito was just as good as last time, and the sides brought with it on the plate were perfect: muy picquante salsa and delicious seasoned potato cubes.

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