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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. . .

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