Thursday, October 26, 2006
They Say: "Experience New Mexico golf in one of the most spectacular golf courses in the country. Nestled among tall pine trees under the majestic Sierra Blanca Peak is the impressive Inn of the Mountain Gods Resort Championship Golf Course. Designed by Ted Robinson, this New Mexico Golf course features an island fairway and fast-breaking greens that are not only beautiful to see but also quite challenging to play."
Only in New Mexico, only a Casino Resort run by The Mescalero Apaches would have the audacity to call itself The Inn of the Mountain Gods. Perhaps Ted Robinson is the only Architect fitting for a golf course in such a setting. Elevation 6911 ft. I have played The Hyatt Bear Creek Courses at DFW Airport and Ocotillo in Phoenix, also by Ted Robinson. I saw Sahalee at the PGA back in '99 on TV, still remember the pros complaining. Like Sahalee and Bear Creek, IotMG has trees, trees, trees in the fairway, to the point that one quite doesn't know where to hit the ball.
Look at the video tour on their website, too.
#1, Par 5 - Drive downhill towards the creek - reachable, but not necessarily get-over-able, if you see what I mean - I was in the patchy rough on the right short of the creek. From that side the whole fairway seems closed off, disappearing into the gloom of the tall conifers w-a-a-y uphill. So a layup seems the smart play, but how far? The pitch up the hill to the unseeable green that seems tiny is no gimme, and these greens were the rolliest I've played, except for maybe Arroyo del Oso's, the kind I tend to 3jack from 8 feet. Double bogey.
#2, Par 4, #1 handicap hole - As you can plainly see this hole borders on the unfair: those pines in the middle of the dogleg look even more intrusive on the tee. In my desperation to avoid them I steer-jobbed my drive into the woods on the left. Punched out into the woods on the other side. Punched out again half-wedge distance from the green, but squibbed it over to right of the green. My chip out of the downhill lie in the rye rough jumped over the green into the trap. 2 to get out and 2 to get down, 9.
#3, Par 4 - broke my resolve formed after the 1st 2 holes: overcome my road-weariness from the drive to Ruidoso; overcome my unfamiliarity with my new irons; overcome my lack of warmup (Lunch!), and play some golf -- but I still couldn't see the fairway, my view was obscured by those two trees in the fairway and the long shadows thrown across the fairway. This ought to be a breather hole, only 343, but it's not. My uncertain drive left me behind the 2nd tree, I laid up too close to the green and bladed my pitch over the green. No up and down. Double Bogey.
#4, Par 4 - finally showed me a glimpse of the fairway, but I didn't like what I saw, which was a tiny sliver out from a chute of pine trees, that seemed closed off at the end because of the sharp dogleg right, really, a jag-right, if you know what I mean . . . I put a smooth swing on it to hit it as straight as I could, and naturally pulled it left . . . another punch out of the woods, a lob onto the green, and another 3putt for a double bogey.
#5, par3 seemed manageable to me, ever the optimist, even tho' the elevated green seemed a little pinched between the water and the trap, up until I plunked two straight 5 woods into water. Bah.
#6, par 4 -- actually did look like a breather after the first 5 holes: the chute of trees around the tee didn't seem toooo claustrophobic, the fairway didn't seem tooo narrow, and the hill up to the green didn't seem tooo steep. With confidence more born of delusion than reality I smacked my drive over and around the tall trees on the right to 9iron distance (with the wind). Somehow the algebra of the second shot revealed itself to me and - tho' I tho't it was over the green - I was dancing, but 35 ft above the hole - 3 putt bogey.
#7, par 4, now conditioned to ignore the trees everywhere in the fairway, I smacked another good drive to the bottom of the hill approaching the green. I bladed an 8iron perfectly up 16 ft below the hole. The birdie putt up onto the back tier was never on line, but finally! a tap-in par.
#8, par 3 - The length of this hole is somewhat mitigated by how far downhill it is, but for a first-timer it is a guessing game what club to use. I did the algebra, then smoothed a 5iron 25 ft left and below the hole. Another putt up onto the top shelf that never came close. Tough to go from the exhiliration of hitting that green to grinding out a par.
#9 Par5 - The landing area is almost 300 yds from the back tee, but at least 100 feet below the tee and at 6911 ft, I felt like I oughta be able to reach it -- nuthin but rye rough swales short. I clobbered my drive, as well hit as on #6, #7, & #8, but it still came up short. I pulled out my balky 5wood, but instead of the hook I wanted, I got a toe-hit-push up into the rough on the side of the mountain there. I tried to smooth a 4iron above the green and let it bounce down, but I caught a tree and it fell back into the rough, short. After some study, I punched a 9iron knockdown out-under-and-around some trees and let the slope take it down to the front of the green. 2putt bogey, feeling pleased with myself for no particular reason.
#10, par 4 - this is one quirky hole. I guess it might tempt some long-hitting flat-bellies to go for the green, cuz the layup shot is almost as tough. That fairway is elevated, and the rough shorter than elsewhere, so missing the fairway could wind up wet, easily. As it was, I just had an uneven lie and the uncomfortable feeling that it wasn't as far (with the wind and altitude) as the yardage, so naturally, I came up short. Chipped long and 3 putted for double bogey.
#11, par 4 is mercifully open and relatively free of fairway trees, but in compensation, dreadfully long. After a good drive and a layup long iron, I still had a full wedge to the green. Missed the very make-able one-putt par.
#12, par 3 has an intimidating visage to it, there's a pond in front of the peninsula green, and Lake Mescalero behind. The tees are elevated just enough that you can see all that water. My first 4iron shot turned over into a draw when if anything, I wanted to miss it right, I heard it hit the bulkhead, but I didn't see it. My second 4iron turned over too, but cleared the bulkhead and hook-rolled almost into the trap. A 3 putt double bogey from there, BUT, as we drove around the back of the green to the next hole I found my first ball in the rough, not 20 ft from the pin. No doubt in my mind I could have gotten up-and-down for par there, none at all. . . 8^D. . .
#13, par 4 I hardly remember at all -- I think I foozled my drive, disoriented by the wide-open-ness of it. 3 to get on, 3 to get down, double bogey.
#14, Par 5 is another criminally difficult hole: a diabolical double dog-leg with very narrow fairways bordered on both sides by tall pine trees that obscure the view past each leg. A sort of creek runs down the whole left side. The rye rough must really love it there, it's ankle deep. The whole hole kinda grinds uphill. I steer-jobbed my drive into that ankle deep rough next to the creek behind the trees in the first dogleg. Trying to hit a full shot to the other side meant a foozle, twice. I hit a 5iron from the fairway just to help me gather my wits again, but that last big tree in the fairway interfered with my approach. Triple Bogey.
#15, par 4 didn't seem too bad, and may not be, but I toe-pushed my drive out to the right into the trees. I tho't I still had a chance, but 2 foozles out of the rough off the steep sidehill lie from behind the trees, two sandshots, and 2 putts disabused me of that notion.
#16, par 4 looked like as much a breather as one could expect on this course, with shorter yardage and fewer trees than normal, but the green is severely elevated. I hit a reasonable drive, but when I did the math it looked like a 6iron 2nd to me, still. It wasn't. It was a 7iron shot, but I got lucky that my trajectory out of the long rough on the left was low; my ball took a HUGE bounce off the front bank of the green and stopped 6 ft from the hole. Missed the birdie.
#17, par 4 - I think I was just wore out by now -- lacking my lunch as it were, and beat down by the course: the unrelenting hostility of the trees, the treachery of the greens, and the unforgiving rough. Tho' the tee is elevated, so is the green. 3 to get on, 2 to get down, bogey.
#18, par 3 - a little unusual to finish with, but not entirely unheard of, but this is an unusual par 3, way up hill tee shot, way over water. My 5wood betrayed me once again as I popped up, into the water. When I reloaded I still didn't reach the green, from fear-of-releasing-the-club-into-another-pull-hook. Triple bogey, to be honest.
A fabulous course. A fabulous experience.
Thursday, October 05, 2006
They Say: "Nestled within the serene setting of the San Tan Mountains, Lone Tree Golf Club is an Arizona golf course that offers one of the East Valley`s finest golf experiences—at an affordable price.
Lush desert landscaping, southwestern mountain vistas and sparkling water features create the perfect backdrop for your golf outing and make Lone Tree Golf Club one of the finest Arizona golf courses.
Lone Tree Golf Club, designed by architect Darryl Wilson of the CMX Group, opened in January of 2001. This semi-private, traditional style course makes the perfect setting for Arizona golf vacations and features five holes with water, one with an island green. Lone Tree Golf Club`s beautiful landscaping and natural surroundings rival that of many Phoenix golf courses and has four sets of tees and tiff dwarf grass overseeded with rye."
Engineering, golf course design married at CMX
The Business Journal of
Phoenix - September 25, 1998
Special To The Business Journal
Darrell Wilson used to play golf every day, but he doesn't have time to putt around anymore. He's busy designing golf courses for CMX Sports, a division of CMX
Group Inc. of Phoenix. Wilson in 1992 joined CMX Group, a top civil engineering and construction management firm, as a partner. A civil engineer himself, he heads up the golf course design, master-planned community and project management arm of the business, which has quickly become a major growth element for the company.
"We provide both engineering and golf course design in-house for public and private sector clients," Wilson said. "I'm not aware of another company anywhere that has married the two together. That makes us unique in the eyes of our customers and also allows us to meet their needs successfully."
We teed off around 1pm . . . I got a very rare hamburger (yech) and Mr Science got to hit some balls in semi-temperate climes, this time, y'know, around 100 . . . even tho' the whole place seemed shell-shocked from some tournament just wrapping up . . . I don't know who it was but they left plastic-tipped cigars all over the place and seemed to have never fixed a divot nor a ball-mark.
But if he's warm enough, nothing bothers Mr Science, he shot a 40-39=79, with 14 pars; I had a 50-41=91, with 6 pars. We were playing with a couple of old fellers a little battle-fatigued, themselves, even on the first tee, from the hubbub around the club house. . . "We play here all the time. It's never like this," they said, "not at any of the courses here along the main drag."
Like fabled characters from Wodehouse, they foozled, lost balls, became confused, wasted time. One took more time to hoist himself out of the cart, catch his breath, then return to his cart than he did hitting the ball each time. The other would pick up his ball -- when they found it -- and examine it like a Hassidic Jeweler, a very odd pre-shot routine. So they were slow.
By the 6th hole we were two holes behind. That IS a tough hole: very long with an extremely elevated green. The old boys had spent several lifetimes over in the left rough, fairway bunkers, and desert area, and finally wound up on the left backside of that green, trying to pitch up on top and hold it on the top tier, too.
I had a 6 on that hole, partially because of the hole, but also because of the heinous exhibition of golf we were forced to watch. Shrudd-dd-dd-dd-dder. They were both in double digits.
As we were driving over to #7, the Marshal showed up -- rather some kid from the pro shop, urging us to hurry it up.
"Tell it to our partners" I said out of the corner of my mouth. They were just now driving around the backside of the green back to the cart path.
When this Enforcer saw that, he shrieked in his little girl voice, "You tell them to pick up the pace, and, AND, not to drive within 30 yards of any tees, traps, or greens. If I see them out there again, I'll take away their cart keys and they can walk the back 9 . . . and I don't think they'd like that very much!" Then the little pissant wheeled a 180 and drove off.
Well, these guys had gotten inside my head, but I tho't that was a little out-a-line. But I just jumped up and teed off without looking out at #7 too much, l-o-n-g, flat, straightaway par 4 with water and sand all the way down the right side -- plenty of room on the left, but 3 of us wound up in a giant trap right next to the water, and the 4th over just short of that trap by the water. Mr Science & I waited somewhat impatiently while the old boys cut donuts out in the fairway, doing god-knows-what, till suddenly they raced up to where we were and said "Is that my ball?"
"Yep" Mr Science managed to gargle. He managed to hit a good 3iron out of the trap just short-left of the green, but I caught the lip coming out, then overclubbed to the back of the green which left me a 3putt. I blame that double-bogey on our dilatory companions and the rude pencilneck from the proshop. Mr science hit what we all tho't was a pro shot, but he said later he didn't take it high enough. It curled about 8 feet below the pin, and he missed the par putt.
On the par 3 #8, impatient and frustrated, we didn't suss-out the distance correctly, misguided by the scorecard and the lack of a yardage marker on that tee, so we all came up short in the swale in front of the green. I bladed my wedge over the green for a double-bogey, but Mr Science calmly lobbed up a yard from the hole and tapped in.
I couldn't see anything but a red haze by this time . . . I like to play fast as slow as I can, if you see what I mean, but this chinese torture was exactly that opposite: play slow as fast as you can. So I topped my drive about 75 yds, then hit a massive recovery shot 3 wood with a bit o'hook on it . . . would a been better with a bit o'slice on it . . . wound up on a gravelly hill that partially hides the water hazard from you on the second shot. I was brimming still with aggro confidence, just needed a half 5-iron off the gravel, over the water, onto the little tongue of green sticking out into the lake there, nothing but cup . . . never did find that ball, tho' I could swear I saw it bounce . . . there's water on the other side of the spit of land on the other side of the water left of the green. I think that's where it went.
Mr Science meanwhile had split the fairway with his drive, then confidently stroked his 3wood to the neck of the dogleg around the lake . . . he meant to fade it away from the water, but it took a tidy little draw instead then followed the contour of the fairway on around the corner. . . he couldn't have had more than 50 yards to the green, but he had to play to the middle-back of the green away from the bunkers and water, and he had 25 ft for his birdie. So we have to realize what a good score par is on that hole, especially with the pin where it was. Tough hole.
I managed to slow my swing down enough on #10 to clout a good drive, then almost hit a good second shot that rolled back off the front of the green into a swale. Mr Science was 12 ft away in two, so we lolled on our putters and watched the old boys ride around the fairway for a while, foozle a shot, the ride around some more. I finally got tired of waiting and chipped up and backhanded my par putt.
We both parred the next two holes, including the island green # 12. Would be a hairy hole in a crosswind, but with a little breeze behind us (I'll bet that's why that approach on # 10 came up short!), all we had to do was lob the ball up in the air at the green.
Here the old boys called it quits. We shook hands and said farewell, and I think everyone was glad. They said they were tired, but they mighta just run out of balls on the island green. Dunno.
I bogeyed the l-o-n-g par 4 #13. After a pop-up drive, I hit a sparkling 5wood that turned out too long, windblown over the green into the huge mounds in back, not for the first nor the last time that day. The only thing about it, was how many sprinkler heads/valve covers there were around the green . . . not just one here and there, but in clusters of 3 or 4 around the green, in the fringe. . . I always seemed to be chipping over them or around them from the mounds behind the green.
"You can tell this course was designed by a civil engineer," said Mr Science, not without some appreciation.
"You know God is a civil engineer, don't you?" I asked Mr Science.
"Who else," I explained, "would put a sewage line through a recreation area?"
The other holes were all entertaining, in a sort of over-planned-with-glitches way, over-engineered, I mean, to complement the neighborhood, with golf as a secondary concern . . . we liked the course, but . . .
we especially liked #17, another l-o-n-g par 4 with an elevated green and trouble all down the right side.
I'm not sure that #18 is the equal of #9, but that might just be because the pin wasn't all the way over on the left. As it was, I foozled my first 3 shots till my stance for 4th shot was as close the water as you could still hit a ball from. I totally pureed my 7iron from about 155, I tho't it might be over the green, even against the wind, it had such a pro trajectory, but it landed just on the green, right AT the pin, and spun back almost into the water. I had to hit my chip with one foot on the concrete slip a foot below the ball, up a foot from the hole for a tapin bogey. Mr Science had a drive down the middle, a second shot up into the throat of the dogleg again, a pitch to the green, and an easy two-putt par . . . . I don't know how he stays awake, sometimes . . . 8^D. . .
6700 Yds, Slope 122, Par 72
Imagine a Sun City Course transplanted to Chandler, to the glee of aged golfers all over South Phoenix; imagine that it is Cimarron, also by Greg Nash. I don't think you'd be far wrong. That wouldn't be a bad thing, for it is very like but also different. I've wound up rating it a 3, while Mr Science gives it a 4, because of disorganized operations, no warm up balls, and architectural issues with the course, especially #18.
Course, it was 6am, the Starter just said, "Soon as you can see, you can tee off. . . ". And it was a mite chilly, too, I was glad I had my sleeveless windbreaker with the Papago Logo on it. Mr Science had to air-swing (like air guitar) to warm up (both limber up and keep his blood moving). He probably never really got going to play the way he thinks he ought to play all the time -- too cold, but still he methodically shot his 44-44=88, with only 4 pars. I had a 46-42=88, with 4 pars and a birdie on 18.
Even 'fore we teed off on 18, Mr Science was dissing it as a finishing hole, "Lookatit!" he pointed from the tee, "a straightaway reachable par 4. THAT's going to make for some excitement!" 8^P
And sure enough, he hit 5iron-9iron onto the green and two-putted for par. Woo Hoo.
Oh, wait a minute that gives him a 44-43=87 -- I'm pretty sure he parred there.
I, OTOH, hit a half driver 60 yds short of the green, then a half-wedge 4 ft below the hole, almost a one-hander for birdie.
"I don't know about you," I said to Mr Science, "but I AM excited." . . . 8^D. . .
Monday, October 02, 2006
They Say: "Tall native Arizona grasses. Breathtaking Arizona desert vistas. Arizona blue skies that stretch forever. Trilogy Golf Club at Vistancia is not simply a new Arizona golf course; it's a new golf experience.
Crafted by renowned golf course architect Gary Panks, the championship design at Trilogy golf club draws upon distinctive land features and a backdrop of stunning Arizona scenery to result in a truly extraordinary setting.
With more than 70 pronounced and transitional bunkers that feed gently into the golf course's fairways and native areas, Trilogy Golf Club at Vistancia highly rewards careful planning and precise execution by the golfer. There are five different tee boxes from which to choose on this unique 18-hole, par 72-championship golf course. Tees range from 5,573 yards to 7,259 yards, allowing players of every skill level to enjoy this exceptional test of golf."
We took a day off from work -- comp time, rather than simple hooky, if you know what I mean -- to play Vistancia . . . we had enjoyed the Trilogy at Power Point and the Raven at South Mountain so much that it seemed logical to re-play Vistancia, for it ought to be better than we remembered it, and we didn't remember that much about it . . .
. . . and I think we now think this is a fairly amazing course: the natural lay of the land mitigates some of Panks' tendency towards the mundane, the tall grass rough is unique to Phoenix, and several of the holes are exceptional.
I started out a little tentative, babying my elbow (that I'd hurt last week coming out of a fairway bunker) and experimenting with my long irons (replacing my 3 & 5 woods), meaning I parred the 1st and the 4th holes, with a couple of double-bogeys in between. I double bogeyed the par 5 5th hole, too, the #1 handicap hole, and dangit, this is how I judge the quality of my game: if I concentrate I can play par golf, and the difficult usually makes me rise to the challenge, but if I don't, I can sink into the slough of despond.
Then on #6, a shortish par 4 with a sharp dogleg right, something clicked into place and I confidently shaped a power fade over a target saguaro in the crux of the dogleg into a swale in the rough only 90 yds from the green -- that seems like such a familiar shot it must be one of the favorite looks in Phoenix . . . we think we remember a hole like it at Stoneridge (only much more downhill), and one of the Troon courses, and others -- or maybe just from the last time we played here. From there it was a simple matter to lob a half-wedge on the front of the green and let trickle up to the hole for a kick-in birdie. Meanwhile Mr Science tomahawked is drive into a bunker on the outside of the dogleg, then bladed a 5 iron into a bunker behind the green. From his downhill lie all he could do was chop it out and hope it stayed on the green, but then after a suitable amount of time had passed, while Mr Science & I commented audibly on how long it took him to play he holed a 30 ft putt for a par.
"Well!" I grumbled, "That was lucky!" Mrs Science made the sign of the buttoned lip and went to her cart in silence.
Feeling confident and in-control I smoothed a 6iron 15 ft below the pin on the par 3 #7 while Mr Science made a wierd, off-balance, quick pull into the mogully swale left of the green (in short, the Kokopelli Golf Swing!). The pin was in a devilish position, a very Panksian pin position, on a knob bi-sected by two ridges . . . I tho't there was a chance I might make my double breaker, but I didn't think Mr Science could even get up and down to save bogey. However: he lobbed the ball up to the edge of the green (from at least 8 feet below the dance floor) and let it release the remaining 25 or 30 ft, where mirabele dictu, it went in. When I saw how his ball had broken on the green like Crazy-Legs on a broken field run, my little 15 ft putt looked like 30 ft. I just lagged it up to the hole, and took my par.
Then I barked at the beaming Mr Science, "You Crazy person! You made a par more interesting than my birdie on the last hole, and now you've made an impossible birdie to outshine my regulation par!" He blithely ignored me -- what did he care? He should have been 4-over for those two holes and was 1-under.
With continued solid play we both parred the long par 4 #8, and were licking our chops over a par 5 #9, since Panks courses have such wide fairways, the 5s ought to be a gimme par birdie opportunity -- never mind that I was 13 over on these par 5s this day -- and we both just crushed our drives, so that we had a little more than 200 yds to the green. I looked my shot over, downhill, just a little wind, hook lie, short rough, good angle to the pin from the right side, and took out my 1iron to go for it. I have been hitting a 90% effective tigerwoods stinger-style shot with it for 2 years now, but ordinarily this would have been a 3 wood shot.
The "good" golfers always say you have to have confidence before you can hit good shots, while the duffers scratch their heads and ask how can you have confidence until you hit good shots, and I don't have the answer to that dilemma.
All I know is that instead of the stinger fade I was looking for I got a balloon banana-ball somewhere rightish. I found 3 other keepers in the trash there in front of the green and in the desert area right of the green, but not my ball. Despondent, I dropped there by the cart path and chunked 3 pitches to get on the green then 3 putted for a 9. Mr Science said he came up short, too, into the trash -- I didn't notice -- he was perplexed, but not as poleaxed as I was -- "That should've only been 170 yds to get over the arroyo?"
I zoomed up to the 10th tee, ready to go, but the Sciences did not follow. While I waited I walked down the hill thru the tall grass looking for golf balls, I found about a dozen keepers, some only a few yards from the tee. Probably give 'em to my brother-in-law. . . . I kept thinking they would rejoin me but they were stranded at the turn waiting for gourmet hotdogs to be prepared especiale! We remembered that last time here there had been a kid out on the path up to 10 making hamburgers and hotdogs for us on the run, but this day, a week day, that service was lacking. I let a couple of groups go thru, then went looking for them, and there they were just short of apoplepsy.
This trend towards elegant golf dining -- I don't think it serves golfers well, only the dilettantes and poseurs who pretend to golf in the manner of the chateau reptilians that haunt ski-lodges preying on people with broken legs.
I righted my ship enough to play bogey golf for the next 4 holes, but then took 9-8-6 on #14-15-16, the combination, again, of my dodgy-elbow and my balky 1-2-3 irons.
on the par 3 #17 we suddenly remembered where we were: Last time here we'd both been on the far right side of the large green and both made unbelievable 40 - 50 ft putts for birdie -- if One of us had made such a putt it was amazing, but both of us on the same hole passeth understanding, if you know what I mean. This time tho', we just made ordinary pars.
and we remembered #18, too . . . there was a very deja vu sense about it to me: a weak drive left behind the bunker, a sculled 2 iron out to the right, a 4iron pulled in anger over to the right rough, a mis-hit wedge, a chunked chip and 3 putts. It doesn't have to be that way, but somehow those wide-open Panks fairways don't always look that way from the tee, doubts creep into the mind, poor shots result in trouble.
So I floundered to a 45-52=97, for the reasons I have given. Mr Science monotonously posted another 82 with a 39 on the front (he kept his poise and made par out of the arroyo on #9 -- if HE was tiger woods, he would have said he didn't have his A-game).
We both raised our estimation of this course from the first time we played it, we have a better sense of what is ordinary here in the Valley, and what is extraordinary. This is a special course.