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Wednesday, May 23, 2007


Ochoa # 1

I am making a point by posting these headlines just as they appeared on AZCentral – the juxtaposition says it all – but I am not one to beat a dead horse, if you know what I mean . . .


Vistal Golf Club

7013 Yds, Par 71, Slope 129, by PGA Tour Design Services in consultation with local PGA Tour players Tom Lehman, Billy Mayfair, and Howard Twitty.

They Say: "Nestled at the base of South Mountain, Vistal Golf Club offers eighteen holes of championship golf along with amazing views of downtown Phoenix and the Valley of the Sun. In 2000 the golf course was completely re-designed and built by PGA Tour Design Services in consultation with local PGA Tour players Tom Lehman, Billy Mayfair, and Howard Twitty. The course opened to rave reviews in November, 2001. Four sets of tee boxes let golfers choose to play yardage from 5235 to 7013.
Listen to a Course Review by Greg Leicht, Vistal Director of Golf!
This par-71 course features a variety of challenging holes that test your shot placement with over eighty well-placed bunkers. The course includes desert hazards, water features, and mountain-side elevations. Just as important as the course is the atmosphere, we believe having a good time is most important. Classic rock music is piped throughout the facility and the practice area to set the tone. The Blue Pig Patio is often full of guests enjoying an ice cold beer and a fresh grilled hamburger. At Vistal Golf Club, we hope you enjoy a day of golf with friends in a beautiful setting at a great value while having a really good time!"

Another Review (This Course was originally called the Thunderbirds Golf Course because it was built under the auspices of the Thunderbirds who run the FBR Tournament over at the Scottsdale TPC -- note that it originally included the 1st Tee course that is across the Street. I infer that it was built over the original Vistal club built by Johnny Bullough (Bulla?) in 1958. They had a little economic setback, and so now it's called Vistal, again.)

Sunday, May 20, 2007


Vista Verde

7219 Yds, Par 72, Slope 144, by Ken Cavanaugh

Vista Verde is a 3rd golf course at Tonto Verde -- there is very little information about it on the web, only sketch information at Tonto Verde. It is two miles down Dynamite Rd back towards Cave Creek from Tonto Verde, then you turn onto a dirt road and go a half-mile down to the parking lot. There's no club house, just some kinda open-air caddy shack, some portocans, and a driving range. Apparently, they close Vista Verde for the summer (End of May). When we were there they didn't have any ice, no beverage cart service, no yardage book, and no GPS -- they did have these little hand-held laser thingys that would tell you the distance to the flag . . .

But don't get me wrong: I love this course . . . Cavanaugh has out-jonesed the Robert-Trent-Jones clan. Cavanaugh has also done the Gold Canyon courses, so that plus the slope oughtta tell you all you need to know . . . this is a flatter layout than Gold Canyon, but there are marvelous dynamics (elevation changes) and shot values on every hole.

The opening sequence is very interesting:

#1 seems rather ordinary, but a tough green with some very tough pin positions.

#2 is an optically challenging 200 yd par 3. That green is tough too, multi-tiered and shaped oddly around the heavy bunkering.

#3 is a par 5 reachable in 2, but the elevated (jonesian, if you see what I mean) is tiered, also.

#4 is a tiny downhill par 3, heavily bunkered, very wide and very shallow - but the middle front is a deep bowl that affects every putt. By the time one calculates the algebra considering the wind, the downhill, the distance, and the pin position, par is a very good score.

#5, then, is a very long par 4, with a desert area bisecting the fairway. This green, again, is very elevated, especially behind, with a topography of a giant hand with gnarly knuckles . . . there's a heinous false front here too.

#6, the #1 handicap hole, a very long par 5 is the one that makes you realize this is a course of unrelenting, implacable difficulty -- even after 2 good shots, even with the large green, it takes an exceptional 3rd shot to hold that green, and an even more exceptional up-and-down to par after rolling off the green, down the severe elevations, down into the close-cropped chipping areas . . . I hope to know the satisfaction of that some day on that hole . . . as it was, I hit into a fairway bunker with my drive, cut a great 5 iron out of the trap that nonetheless wound up in the shallow wash 70 or 80 yards in front of the green, then chunked out of the wash, then my knockdown wedge rolled off the side on the short side, then my bump-and-run up the slope stopped short on the green: 2putt for double bogey.

All of these greens were hard, I mean, resilient rather than receptive, and even tho' they seemed very large, we decided as a group that links style was the only way to hold 'em -- flying it to the hole just meant the tricky up-and-down scenario from the fairway level below the elevated greens. We also decided that the greens perversely break TOWARD the mountains, in an intentional obfuscation by the architect. Tough. Very Tough.

#7-8-9 are shorter holes, much less challenging, tho' #8 seems to have some sort of ball magnet on the inside of the dogleg-left, which is just dead, d-e-a-d, with all the brushy trees over there.

#10 is an excellent example of the gruelling nature of this design. The landing area is pinched by two giant bunkers, the right one closer than the left, so I hit what I tho't was a great drive down the middle favoring the left, leaving about 165 to the green, against the wind (slight), but over a cavernous bunker to a green elevated 10 or 12 feet above the fairway, on a slight rise from the landing area. So I hit a 3/4 5 iron right over the trap, with just a hint of fade, and I tho't it would be perfect, but it took a huge bounce on the huge green and rolled off the backright corner. I mean, I could have taken a 6 instead and played to the front of the green away from the trap, but I doubt it would have held the green either. Another tough up-up-and down for a bogey.

#11 is a very tough, long, par 3 with a multitiered green, heavily bunkered (with the same understatement as if I were to say that Scarlett Johanson is very attractive, if you see what I mean).

#12-13-14 are moderate length holes that ought not cost you any strokes, but I averaged double bogey -- memo to self: Maintain Composure!

#15 is kind of a nuthin hole, except from the back tee which is 80 yds back of the others, over a fence on a track more fit for mountain goat that golf cart.

#16 looks like a layup hole, but I haven't successfully yet in two tries - the trash surrounding the tiny landing area is just too perplexing, and the green has been designed to reject anything but a wedge shot.

#17 is a 600 yard par 5. The green is so far out of site you have to use alternate land marks to guide your way around. The approach is VERY intimidating, with a long iron / fairway wood in your hand, to another elevated, narrow, long green protected by a wash running across the fairway, buttressed by an array of deep, deep bunkers. Even IF you stay out of trouble for your first two shots (NOT a given), snowman is still possible . . .

#18 is a friendly finishing hole, if you can figger where to drive the ball (over the traps -- na-a-a-a-ah!) , then avoid the water-lock on the right.

I've played here twice, I think my score was about the same 46-49=95 - - depressing, when I'm convinced both times, that I could do better next time, because I would avoid the same mistakes -- but then I mostly made NEW mistakes . . . 8^D. . .

Sunday, May 13, 2007



Played at the Sanctuary on Mother's Day with Mrs Science, the Queen of Golf, and Mrs Cactus .

Stumbled around myself to a 46-45=91 without making any putts; Mrs Cactus made an astonishing number of bogies for such a beginner to close with a 104, using a Generous Scoring Method . . . we don't require her to hit out of bunkers, yet; Mr Science grumbled his way to mid-80s, I reckon; the QOG, working on a new swing from a 10 minute lesson on Saturday carded an even 100, despite the damage the lesson did to her confidence, but she seemed happy by the end of the day with her driving . . . . Mr Science told his instructor-for-10-minutes he wanted to hit his drives further. . . after watching him hit, all the guy could say was "Tee it up higher" -- Mr Science's technique is perfect (he said the tape on his driver showed perfect center-hits). His instructor was a Ping Salesman, so he also recommended switching to Pings . . . 8^D. . .

I say I didn't make any putts -- I did make one Texas Wedge, on #11 . . . after mangling #10, again, for like the 4th time in a row, I definitely planned to hit my driver on #11, to bleed off a little red-ass, as we used to call it back in Texas . . . but what surprised me was that Mr Science pulled out his driver, too . . . #11 is just a short little downhill par 4, as you can kinda tell from this screen shot from my Jack Nicklaus Game . . . there's not a green hill in the background -- in real life it would be brown and further back -- Mr Science normally plays a tactically conservative strategy -- scientific, if you see what I mean -- so normally, he would hit a 5 iron, then a wedge, and plan on missing a birdie with a lip-out or burnt edge if he didn't make it, but lately, those 5 irons on #11 have been wandering over onto the mounds that obscure that sandtrap on the right, so encouraged by his 10 minute lesson, I guess he figgered it was worth a try when the pin was on the right front like today.

And he did hit an entirely satisfactory shot about 20 yds short of the green on the right, past the bunker.

I took my semi-new King Cobra Driver and hammered it right down between the traps at the right side of the green, practically up on the frog hair.

Mr Science deftly chipped his ball up on the green with a graceful roll that lipped out softly -- almost an eagle.

I had a great read and it seemed like nothing for me to use my putter from off the green straight up the hill and into the hole.

I'd had an eagle, once before, on a par 5, by myself, in a practice round . . . but this had witnesses . . . very pleasing.

As we left the green, I said, “now, I’m only 7 Eagles behind Mr Science!”

“Still be 8 if I hadn’t lipped out!” Mr Science growled.

“Yep, That WOULD have been debilitatin’, to not gain ground” . . . .8^D. . .

As we studied our birdie putts on the par 3 #12, the QOG remarked to Mrs Cactus, "At least they're not so grumpy anymore!" . . . 8^D . . .

Thursday, May 10, 2007


Dove Valley Ranch

7011 Yds, Par 72, Slope 131, by Robert Trent Jones, Jr


They Say: "Dove Valley Ranch Golf Club opened in 1998 to rave reviews and accolades as Arizona's Best New Public Golf Course, and it continues to grow even more inviting as the challenging and graceful layout by Robert Trent Jones Jr. matures. Just as ancient people who once lived here conjured beauty and function from the harsh surroundings, so did the Jones Jr. team - creating a golf course that respects the natural surrounding while supporting a more comfortable lifestyle. The upscale, daily fee facility opened as the key amenity in the new 850-acre Dove Valley Ranch master planned golf community in North Phoenix, off Cave Creek Road and Rancho Paloma Dr."

Is there anywhere else in the world where you can play courses designed by 3 generations of the same family? Wigwam Blue (Robert Trent Jones, Sr), Las Sendas and Dove Valley Ranch (Robert Trent Jones, Jr), and Legend Trail (Rees Jones) . . . We need to replay Legend Trail so I can complete this thought: the unique similarities are easy to spot; the differences on such a small sample are less important.

I think that Vista Verde, up off Dynamite Rd, next to Tonto Verde must fit into that pantheon somehow, but I can't prove it.

#2 serves as an introduction to this classical design, Par 4 dogleg around a lake, short and sharp enough that the more you shy away from the water, the more likely you are to be off into the desert, looking at a shot to an uphill, elevated green over a cavernous bunker. My 4-iron out of that left rough went to the short-right fringe of the green. My pitch up to the back pin position, then my amazing downhill slider par putt made Mr Science's eyebrows quiver -- far above my normal short game.

I love, LOVE the Lana Turner Ideation of this hole -- see also Paako Ridge and Golf du Macon La Salle

Likewise on the par 3 #3, when Mr Science and I were both left of the green, the up-hill, multi-tiered, severely elevated green. He lobbed a pitch up onto the top shelf- and held it - while I bumped a 7-iron up the slope with a roll towards the pin. He was closer, but I was readin' with my feet with stunning accuracy this day, and I rolled my 12 foot uphill hook right into the hole. When his putt burned the edge again, I could hear him muttering about the greens . . . 8^) . . . but the natural order of the universe eventually re-asserted itself . . .

I don't have our actual scorecard handy, but I think I had a 42-50, falling apart in bad-luck on the back 9 again, even tho' the one thought that crowds out every swing tho't I fought to keep out was that I wanted to have a good back 9, and finish strong. Oh, well. . . 8^/ . . .

Mr Science, I am guessing, had his usual consistent round, slightly elevated by the difficulty of the course, say 41-42=83, but I ain't sure . . . all I know is like on #14, this blind t-shot absolute flummoxed me, I couldn't make myself hit the right shot, so . . . on my 2nd shot I got cactus thorns in my hand trying to pull off a Tiger-esqe heroic shot from the deep woods, while Mr Science placidly laid a mid-iron out in the middle and a short iron on the green, easy-peasy.

The par 5 #15 is a great segue from #14. Once again, the T shot is blind, and looks too close to layup, but too far to fly the gap. A well hit 3 wood might, might still get into trouble. We all hit drivers, into the trash thru the end of the fairway. "I thought you said you'd played this course before!" I griped at Mr Science, "you seemed to have remembered that last one ok!"

"Well," he shrugged, "it was 3 years ago -- I can't be expected to remember every hole!"

As I recall he had a sandy lie, playable, just, but I was off under a tree hitting a backwards wedge to get at it, due to the superior length of my new King Cobra Driver (A little wilder, if that is possible than my old mid-size Cobra clone, but 40 or 50 yards longer when I leverage the stiff shaft (I been playing regular on my driver for years, years))

This is not a good hole to be hitting safety shots out of the desert on . . . three good full shots would get you there -- much better.

While the par 3 #16 seems like a relief, just in the fact that you can see whats out in front of you, you have to have some poise left to make your up-and-down on that green. I guess there's guys that can float in a 200 yd shart over the trap in front and hold that green, but I don't play with very many that can.

SO natcherly, after a faux-breather like that, you must have, You Must Have a long par 5 with a divided fairway and a 85 degree dogleg left!

I think with my new driver I have enough length - sometimes - to get past the pinched fairway over the trap, but would that ever be the smart play? After playing it once, I'd say not, but I haven't tried that second shot layup yet, either, successfully.

The moderate length par 4 # 18 is no gimme, due to the water all down the right side, and in front of the green, but if you hit driver - dangit! Nobody Told Me! -- and steer left, there is some messy desert over there with knee deep grass, if you can believe it. What I couldn't believe is that I found my ball and hacked it out with a half-a-9iron to the front of the green -- still 3 putted, my poise-and-concentration was l-o-n-g gone.

So, great finishing holes on a great course. There were some other good holes on the front too, but I still had my poise-and-composure, then, and I remember hunting for other people's balls in the desert with calm complacence that my own ball was way down the middle of the fairway. I don't think you could argue that Dove Valley Ranch is the best course in the valley, tho' I'd be willing to hear any such argument, so I have to give it a 3, but it sure makes some of the other 3s look mighty 4ish. Mr Science simply gives it a 2 based on quality and condition. . .

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