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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.

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