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Tuesday, July 31, 2007


The Natural Swing

Reverse every natural instinct and do the opposite of what you are inclined
to do, and you will probably come very close to having a perfect golf

Ben Hogan

Mrs Cactus feels this is True -- with a capital T . . .

Friday, July 27, 2007


Antelope Hills

Golfweb: North 6778 Yds, Par 72, Slope 131, by Lawrence Hughes

Golfweb: South 7014 Yds, Par 72, Slope 124, by Gary Panks

They Say: "Antelope Hills was founded in 1956 with the opening of the North Course. Designed by Lawrence Hughes, the course is a traditional layout, which features tree lined fairways, and fast bentgrass greens. In 1992 the City of Prescott opened its second championship course. The South Course designed by Gary Panks, features open fairways, generous mounding, large undulating greens and a very panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and granite rock formations."
The South course is a typical Panks, laid out on a very interesting piece of land -- not outstanding, mind you, but one with great vistas -- so the wide lush Panks fairways have some small altitude changes in them.

It was funny to hear Mrs Cactus complaining about her putting later . . . seems like sometimes the putt would break the wrong way, away from the hole . . . Mr Science laughed at that and tried to comfort her: it's Panks; those are Panksian greens, even tho' they were bent grass, instead of the bermuda tif we usually get in PHX.

Actually, I felt very comfortable on the course: I've played enough Panks courses that I'm looking for his putting obfuscations, the greens rolled like the ones I like in Albuquerque, very spongy & yet fast, and the rough -- which may have been extra long for the Amateur Tour event they were hosting that weekend -- reminded me of the long bermuda rough in Texas (in which I've had a lifetime of experience) even tho we reckoned it was rye . . . the ball didn't set up in it at all, but just dove straight down to the bottom . . .
I was even par after 6 holes, with a birdie on #2, then 5 over the next 3, then even-bogey-golf on the back for a 41-45=86. Mr Science struggled to an 86, with no birdies, but 9 missed birdie putts, mostly because he had to integrate re-inflating one of the tires of his hand-cart into his routine: visualise-the-shot, make-the-shot, pump-pump-pump-pump, then hustle to the next shot, plus help the other three of us find our balls in the ankle deep rough . . . I love to play after tournaments, there's always balls left everywhere and in this rough on this weekend, you were likely to find an extra ball looking for your ball.

I remember the short par 4 #4: You could have thrown a beach towel over our 2 balls in front of the green, and we both hit reasonable flop-wedges over the bunker in front to the pin, Mr Science 8 ft, and me 12, but neither could make that birdie on that uber-Panksian green.
Most of the holes were not that memorable, even with the altitude changes: fun to play and challenging in spots, but not dramatic, for the most part, even with the mountainous backdrop. Towards the end of the round we were getting sprinkles and could see lightning off in the distance, so we were all hurrying along a little bit, plus keeping one eye on the sky, so the back 9 seems vague to me . . . that is, I remember individual shots, but nothing really bloggable.

I always feel like I should just tear up Panks courses, but some subtle genious of his for preying on the insecurities of golfers gets me every time. My weakness these days is skulled irons; over-and-over again, I hit good drives that I wasted with foozled approaches, but my shortgame covered up those faults. Mr Science did not show his normal driving control, but the wide greenbelts, especially where holes parallel each other mitigated that inconsistency, so he was able to scramble very effectively, except for his balky putting.
I foozled my drive, on the par 4 #18, but I still was confident of a 1putt par. My second shot, a 3wood worm-burner hit one of the little Cart-> signs they put across the fairway. "That's a moveable obstruction!" I cried, "Do-Over!"

"Where did you get that?" queried Mr Science.
"I've gotten a ruling on that before," I declared.
"Who from," he asked sarcastically, "Jean de Velde?"
"No!" I rejected, "from Scotty, my partner in Houston!"
"Harrumph", growled Mr Science, which he did wait until I'd hit again (A Proper 3wood high-hook) to vocalize . . . it didn't make any difference, it still took me 4 shots to hole out.
The North course is a very Old-Style Park course with large trees lining every fairway. From the first tee one realizes this is a different style of golf: you must work the ball left-to-right or you will be in ankle deep rough behind trees . . . Did I mention the rough before? . . . 8^D. . .

Unlike my fast start the day before, I just settled into a bogey rhythm I could not shake: I was always in the rough, off the green, missing the putts I made the day before. I finally made some pars on the back 9 to keep my score acceptable (to Me), but it was tough . . . this course is much more on the hill-side than the South course, and the elevation changes are that much more extreme. We labored under the threat of thunderstorms the whole round, there was a lot of wind, too, so with those conditions, the ankle deep rough, the old-growth trees on the fairway, and the bent grass greens, it was a trial.

It feels like giving short shrift to the course not to describe every hole, lots of interesting, memorable challenge here that brought out shots I just never have to hit on most courses in PHX.

on # 1 I had to hit a knockdown 7iron from the firstcut rough, under a tree, to an elevated green.
#2 is the first of the holes that climb straight up Antelope Hill (?) towards the old clubhouse.
#3 comes back down the hill, but it is a very long par 4. This was the first of my many lobs to the green that I tho't were very successful . . . from my days at Walden, I would count them successful if I didn't chunk the pitch or blade it over the green out of the deep-rough uneven lies -- I just couldn't make the putts.

#5 is a very awkward driving hole that really wants a hook, for there is out-of-bounds on the right, where the course borders the South course, but there is also water on the left and trees everywhere. It wound up both Mr Science & I were playing 2 balls, what with provisionals and confusion when we both used the same brand and the same identifying mark: I tho't I'd gone out of bounds and hit a 2nd into the fairway; Mr Science dropped a ball cuz he couldn't find his drive, then he did find it as he walked down the fairway, and hit that one, too (remember that ankle deep rough -- one HAS to make some allowances, mustn't one?), but then he confused my second ball with his first while I foozled a couple of safety shots with my first ball, and all the while the girls were rolling their peanuts down the fairway with toothpicks -- we finally had to stop and take stock.

"No," I corrected Mr Science (a rarity to be treasured!), THIS is your ball with the thin line; THAT is my ball with the THICK line (we both mark our balls with the Check-Go Pro that torques the ball till the balance point is found. Mr Science scientifically marks his ball with one thin line ("You can see it's still black while it's spinning if you do it right.") while I have several elliptoids artistically circumscribed so that some of mine look like cricket balls), if you see what I mean.
"Is this a redan hole" asked Mr Science as we tramped up the par 3 #6 . . . "I don't think so," I wheezed, "redans should be steeper and more heavily bunkered." 8^D

#7 looks straight on the card, and on the hole map at the tee, but really, it curls around the base of one of the Antelope Hills, fairway bordered by trees, with a kind of downhill swoosh to the right that is not quite a dogleg. All day long, Mr science shaped his shots correctly, including here, while I overcooked my left-to-right-smash, which caught a tree and fell straight down. Mr Science had no trouble putting his next shot 8 ft below the pin on the front of the green, just away from the bunker there. Meanwhile I had to hit a trick-shot 6iron out from underneath the tree from where the ball had settled between two clumps of sod in a hook lie: the ball wound up just off the green, a semi-straight uphill Texas wedge, I tho't, but I missed it, by a foot and a half to the right. Mrs Cactus then putted from just on the green on the same line, and missed to the right. But Mr Science still couldn't make his little 8 footer. It's really steep and subtly rightish.

#8 is a nothing little par 3, but I toed my iron into the big willow by the fetid water hazard, pitched up with one hand holding my nose, and 2 putted for a 5. Mr Science on the other hand softpeddled an 8 iron to the bottom of the steeply trapezoidal green. It was a shock to us all when he hold the 45 foot putt -- it must have broken 4 ft as it travelled up and across the green. Dead Center.

#9 is a long hard slog back up the hill. I had to have help twice to find my ball in the right rough. God I hate being so helpless and hapless . . . still almost parred it with a good lob out of the rough over the trap.

We had a long layover here at the turn due to the weather . . . after some dithering we trundled 4-to-the-cart back to the New clubhouse, had a drink, watched the weather, then went back out . . . it had taken 3 hours for the first 9 . . . so with the delay I didn't think we'd finish 18, but the back went much faster . . . I think the tournament cancelled . . . for sure there was nobody in front or in back of us . . .

#10 goes back down the hill, # 11 back up the hill . . . didn't matter to me, I double bogeyed both of 'em, missing the green, then hashing up the short game.

I would just say that #12 & 13 have more room to them than you can see from the tee . . . the water is imaginary on #13, especially.

#14 was a long downhill, downwind hole this day, from an exposed tee to a sheltered green, meaning protected by tall pines the way the pyranees protect France from Spain. Mr Science inexplicably blocked his 3iron off into the trees -- of all the bets I'd take, the surest one would be Mr Science with his 3iron off the tee. I hit a high 7wood that didn't hook a degree, and wound up pin high in the rough in the trees below the very elevated green. I lobbed up pin high on the green but 15 ft away, and failed to convert . . . Mr Science, meanwhile hit a knockdown pitch from 30 yds away in the trees with so much pace we all gasped until we saw the pro-spin grab hold and stop on the putting surface. I don't think he made his putt either tho' -- we shoulda given it to him after that shot . . .

#15 is reminiscent of #7, a 400 yd par 4 lined with trees curling around the base of the mountain, but the green is elevated up on the hill, rather than down/sidehill from the landing area on #7. Once again, Mr Science tailored his drive shape perfectly to the fairway; I, OTOH, hit my drive 25 yds past his ball, but thru the dogleg into the deep rough, even tho' the shot had had a trace-of-fade on it, just not enough. I complained to Mr Science, and he said, "yeah, that's the trouble with all this new equipment that self-corrects swing flaws, it makes it harder to move the ball!" A kind thing to say, but I noticed he usually doesn't have any trouble, if you know what I mean. So I had to hit another knockdown shot out of the rough and under the trees, but, after the years at Walden, I still have that shot . . . my half-a-5iron was left of the right pin placement, but up on the same back tier. Mr Science had pulled his shot w-a-a-a-a-y left of the pin, but it luckily didn't go in the big greenside bunker on the left. Unluckily, it went in the deep rough atop the bunker-hump next to the green: a terrible lie, but Mr Science placidly chunked it out of there on purpose way above the hole and just let the ball run around the bowl's edge down to the pin: he almost made it. Mr Science putts everything out, but he didn't even take tap-in care, it was that close. I must've not watched his line close enough because my 30 ft putt from the same side of the green wound up 12 ft below the hole, a god-awful putt. Without deliberation I smacked it back up the hill, straight into the hole to rescue my par.

I couldn't believe we didn't have more birdies on this course, and this is our ambition: to make 2 birdies a round, so #16 has birdie-opportunity all over it: a very short par 3. Mr Science hit his ball right over the pin, and it looked like a sure birdie, but my tired old legs didn't help me and I blocked my shot over the right corner of the green. The green looked so steep, I just wanted to flop the ball up onto the surface and let it release, but unlike every other flop shot that day that was at least usuable this ball flew all the way to the pin then rolled off back into the rough. Naturally then I had to chili-dip the comebacker and 2putt for another doublebogey par 3. Gaaaaaagh! Mr Science still had 10 ft of twisty downhill putt, rather than the kick-in it had looked from the tee, and it was all he could do to lag it close to the hole.

Possibly in irritation on #17, then, he pushed his drive over against the boundary wall . . . ordinary miscues like that don't usually bother Mr Science, and maybe HIS legs were getting a little tired, too, after 34 holes of golf and over 5 hours this day. He had a little swing room, but some tree trouble, so he hit a half-shot back into play, then laid up, playing for a one putt par, which he had a shot at, but did not make. My ball was only in the firstcut, but I had tree trouble that prevented me from using my trouble woods, which I do not slice confidently; so I pulled out my 3 iron and put the old medicus swing on it; dug it out pretty good, and hit it with a tidy little fade about 190 down the left side into the firstcut over there. I lobbed a good 3/4 sandwedge over the bunker to the elevated green, right at the hole, and left myself a very makeable uphill putt. Birdie.

I treasure strong finishes highly, almost as much as 2 birdies or breaking 90, and I felt like I should finish birdie-birdie. I see you rolling your eyes and hiding your smirks behind your hands. Ptthththththt. Pththththththth. Pthththththth.

I pulled my drive left into the rough, again, trying to hit it far enough to get down the hill -- that's a perplexing shot the first time around because it is not clear where the green is from the tee, so we were aiming at a gap in the trees -- from the middle of the fairway Mr Science came up short left in rough so deep the Teamsters prob'ly use it as retirement for past presidents. His normal short game failed him, and he wasn't able to get up and down. Meanwhile, I clouted a beeline 5iron straight at the pin, and wound up 24 feet below the hole, but I didn't make the birdie, dangit.
Wound up with another 86, showing shocking consistency for myself . . . Mr Science was much, much happier with his second round than his first, on a much harder course . . .
Saturday: Par 72, course rating 68.7 slope 115: 9 GIR, 86: long hcp 5, short hcp 25

Sunday: Par 71, course rating 70.8, slope 124: 5 GIR, 81: long hcp 14, short hcp 4.6

Tuesday, July 17, 2007



6716 yds, Par 72, Slope 135, by Bill Phillips


They Say: "Bill Phillips designed this 18-hole championship course to challenge the advanced player while still allowing the novice player to experience an enjoyable round of golf. Highlighted by seven serpentine lakes, Kokopelli favors accurate tee shots while the fairways are cut through series of moguls and bunkers that lend a links-style feel to the golf course. From the fairways, players are left with entertaining approaches to small, undulating greens."
I wanted to go back to kokopelli; I tho't it was wrong to not have a review of my namesake course . . . but now I remember why there wasn't a review . . . it's not amazing in anyway that causes a bloggable comment . . . certainly it doesn't look like this photo . . . there's too much water on the course to be an actual Links style course . . . I suppose you could still call it a "desert-style" Links course, for once you are into "desert links", there aren't many rules left to break, if you see what I mean . . .
I should have realized on the par 5 first hole, when I skulled my 5iron 2nd shot -- that's the easiest shot in Golf, IMVHO, the 5iron-par5-layup -- but I hit the next shot 15 ft below the hole, so I passed it off as one-of-those-things.
Then, when I bladed my 5iron tee shot on the par 3 #2, I recriminated with myself about my technique, tempo, and concentration -- that shot had so much top spin on it it skipped over the water hazard and just up short of the trap. Mrs Cactus had never seen that before, so she was agog, but, of course, it happens to me all the time . . . once, at Walden on Lake Conroe, on the double-dogleg par5 signature hole that requires a heroic 3rd shot sometimes, with ALL water carry, I skipped a 3iron off a wave onto the green over a 5ft bulkhead.
So I wasn't worried -- my driver t-shots seemed to be just fine, and I kinda got lucky on #3 when my ball stopped just short of the water up by the green that you can't see from the tee, leaving me my favorite approach, the half-wedge. Inexplicably, I hit it fat -- even tho' it was teed up in the rough -- into the water. I dropped another ball from the same shot but it buried itself inthe tall grass on the steep slope between the green and the bulkhead -- so then I knew.
We were playing with the Markae: two guys both named Mark that worked together. Mark I had a tame hook to work with; Mark II was a big guy that played the Othello ball . . . "Hit Well But Not Wisely" . . . man, he hit the ball a long way . . . we had the fun of counting his birdies, especially on the short par 4s . . . 5, in all . . . 8^0 . . . pretty outstanding! I don't think he broke 85, tho' - he might not have broken 90 . . . 8^P. . . sometimes he hit the ball a long way the wrong way, if you see what I mean . . . 8^D . . .
I had a rather indifferent 46-43=89, with 6 pars and NO birdies . . . mainly because of the iron problem . . . typically, on #18, a par 5, I hit a good drive, then a spanking 7wood, then chunked the half-wedge I had left to the green into the water I had not seen, on the left front of the green -- shouldna been in play, but . . .
Mrs Cactus had her first real Par on a Par4, #16 . . . just 3 solid shots to 15 ft left of the pin, and a good putt, that tractored over all the aeration holes with the singular purpose of going into the hole. She had 11 real scores this round, for something over 120, and periodically she hit a shot that made the Markae jaws drop, not just mine: there was one hole, where we had to fish her ball out of casual water, and she dropped it in the rough . . . the Markae had pulled ahead of us to their balls in the fairway, mindless of her shot, which they regretted as it whistled over their heads, a superbly struck hybrid! They didn't mind -- they were embarassed at their lack of etiquette . . . 8^D . . . what a shot!


Gold Canyon Sidewinder

6584 Yds, Par 72, Slope 140, by Greg Nash and Ken Cavanaugh

They Say: "Sidewinder snakes around the base of Dinosaur Mountain, through natural arroyos and dry creek beds. Native cholla and prickly pear cacti, mesquite and palo verde trees line the challenging twists and turns that will keep you on top of your game. And like the Dinosaur course, it’s a scenic adventure that will bring you back again and again."

Well! This is certainly another candidate for Best in the Valley . . . doesn't get my vote, but I feel a little sheepish about it . . . top-notch views of the Superstition Mountains that are so close they seem to frame some of the holes as part of the Architects' design . . . totally lush course, too, ordinarily, I'd say . . . Mrs Cactus complained about the greens, demonstrating that her knowledge of the Game is growing by leaps-and-bounds . . . they were w-a-a-a-y faster than even We-Ko-Pa, but they did not roll true: putts would "wiggle" unpredictably if you hit them a pace to keep within tap-in distance on the comebacker -- man, how that does wear on a body . . . I had a 49-51=100, mainly because of the greens, but also because of my balky iron play, which was also because the greens put so much pressure on the golfer to get close, if you see what I mean.

The par 4 #3 is a case in point -- it's true I may have still been a little groggy for our 6:30 t-time from sleep-deprivation, but the 3-putts on #1 & #2 had disorienting effects too, certainly -- the cart boys had put our bags on the cart backwards, mine on the passenger side and vice versa, if you see what I mean, and I grabbed Mrs Cactus' driver by mistake. The grip felt wrong, but I just said to myself "I never noticed that before", and it felt awkward when I swang it, but I just said to myself "I need more coffee", and when I hit it, I got the ugliest little one-liner-slice I've hit since I got my new driver, and I said "Wonder if we can start drinking yet?" I rehit when I realized my mistake -- much better results, tho' I was still in the right rough -- and then switched the bags. I only had a 8iron left to the green, but trying to get close meant I had to hit it heavy and short of the green, chunk a chip, and 3putt.

The par 3 #4 restored my confidence in theory, since I almost aced it when Mr Science & I played here before, landing a high shot on top of the bunkered hump on the right front of the green so that it trickled excruciatingly within inches of the hole. This time tho', I smooth-jerked the ball left of the green pin high, chunked another chip, 3jacked another green.

The shortish par 4 #5 remains my favorite hole, even tho' I've only ever made a snowman . . . cannot even hit a ball in the fairway . . . this picture doesn't fairly represent the left inside of the dogleg, which is chockablock of desert plants and palo verdes . . . thats where I wind up . . . I'm sure Mr Science prob'ly hits a 7iron/9iron for an easy par.

The dogleg on the par 4 #9 is really deceptive. . . looks like you can clear it, but you'd be much better off left of center, if for no other reason that you'd be out of the driving range line of fire . . . I of course cut the corner, which seemed familiar to the other time I'd played here, too, but with my new distance, I was able to find my ball around the corner, just not quite off the gravel . . . I hit a sweet little half-a-9, but the steep slope of the elevated green rejected me -- sorta small green, front pin position. I tried an amazing 7iron chip up the slope that just missed the pin, and rolled 8 ft past, but I made the only putt I made all day . . . might've been the only comebacker I made all day, too, due to the aforementioned condition of the greens.
This course is an interesting amalgamation of Greg Nash, who has done so many courses out in Sun City which are subtle to the point of . . . um . . . how shall I say . . . uninteresting is not correct, neither is boring, nor simple . . . they're just not very dynamic, if you see what I mean, tho' they are undeniably very nice golf courses with challenges, and Ken Cavanaugh, who has a tendency towards the penal, so that, even more than a solo-Nash effort, the course has a deceptively easy look at times, due to the lush, wide greenbelts and the spectacular scenery, but errant shots, even marginal shots are punished by the artful sand bunkers and elevated greens.

Sidewinder-like, if you see what I mean . . . 8^D . . .

The par 5 #18, the number 2 handicap hole, fooled me entirely, or should I say, played to my weaknesses and vanities . . . I ripped a good drive and had only 225 to the green, but the green is much elevated from the fairway and separated by a deep arroyo. I didn't remember this hole at all, and the on-cart GPS was hard for me to read -- distorted, as if the display was being stretched to fit a certain size different from the image, if you see what I mean . . . no use to me . . . so I laid up with an 8iron from a downhill lie, almost into the arroyo, to another downhill lie in the rough, which made the wedge shot that difficult I was wishing I had gone ahead and had a go at the green . . . there really is a lot of room over the gorge, 40 or 50 yards, anyway . . . the half-wedge came up short, leaving me with my standard chunk and 2 putt. Golf Course wins this day.

Monday, July 16, 2007


WeKoPa Cholla

7225 Yds, Par 72, Slope 136, by Scott Miller


They Say: "Open since December 2001, the Cholla Course at We-Ko-Pa has garnered countless honors and has quickly become recognized as the reference course for quintessential desert golf. Designed by Scott Miller, this 7,225 yard layout was named by Sports Illustrated as one of the 10 best new public courses in the world shortly after its debut. Since then, Zagat Survey 2006-2007 gives Cholla its highest rating among all Arizona courses and Golfweek ranks the layout #2 on its 2006 list of the state’s best public courses."

Mr Science's favorite course . . . his #1 of #1s, if you see what I mean . . . Miller is no Jones, nor no Cavanaugh, but the Kierland & Eagle Mountain are pretty fine credentials, aside from We-ko-pa, itself . . . .We-Ko-Pa means 4 peaks, which is the natural landmark that can be seen from most holes on the course. The manmade landmark that can be seen from the front 9 is the Fountains Hills Fountain that goes off every hour on the hour . . .

#1 is a short downhill par 4, made intentionally "easy" as in a judo strategy, kuzushi, to take the golfer off-balance, "A Piece of Cake" he thinks, walking off the green, even after chunking two pitches and missing a putt.

#2 continues the "set up" with a wide-open driving area for the par 5, but the second shot takes some local knowledge to correctly club, because of those traps crossing the whole fairway, 90 yds short of the green. "Well! That's two birdies I let get away from me!" I said to myself -- nevermind that I got bogeys, instead.

#3 is a testy par 3, where, if you hit the green you could be forgiven for thinking it a breather hole; if OTOH, you fall short in the desert as did the 4some in front of us, you might think it was the killing blow. Mrs Cactus popped up her hybrid, and squealed with disgust . . . but it landed a yard from mine and stopped dead. "OH!" she said. . . . but then she putted off the green from 32 ft -- a forgiveable offense, I say, since these greens were twice as fast as the greens yesterday at Wigwam Gold . . . not more difficult in structure, nor less, but much better condition.

There were several fairways that were fenced off, cartpath-only, but on most we could follow the 90 degree rule . . . those that were fenced off looked in very bad shape, as if they were losing the grass there, even tho' water was plentiful . . . I don't know if it's a seasonal thing, or if the groundskeeper made a boo-boo.

#6 looks like a daunting shot, but with a yardage book I had the confidence and knowledge to navigate the landing easily. Another missed birdie putt from 30 ft, but unlike at Wigwam Gold, I was able to make a few of the comebackers -- something I attribute to the greens themselves, rather than any improvement I made . . .

#7 is a puzzler. I didn't remember this hole from before, but based on this game, I would say that the shot was to the left side, even tho' the right side of the island mound looks wider . . . the wind was left-to-right this day, and it just blew my ball out into the desert right . . . totally dead . . . very rugged territory. That green seems longer and thinner than it looks here.

#8 is another hole tough to figger your first time thru . . . even with the yardage book, I underclubbed my second shot and wound up too high up on the hill, with only half-a-look at the green and a 4iron in my hand . . . I hit a good shot, but the intimidating expanse of waste area made me bail-out at the last second, short of the green on the right. . . tough to get up and down from there. . . .that false front to the green is steeper than it looks.

#9 takes luck or prodigious skill to get into position to reach the green in two . . . it IS downhill . . . but the presentation is very daunting . . . Then I was so glad to have only a 9 iron downhill, downwind to the green I jerked it left into the swale left of the green. Unable to get up and down. Just like yesterday at Wigwam. . . .

#10 looks impossible from the tee, that mound in the middle is huge. I think my pop-up drive hit a rock in the middle of it and bounced clear, toward the green . . . woo-hoo! My 3wood betrayed me for 3rd time on the 3rd straight par 5, leaving me with another 50 ft birdie putt / 3 putt bogey. 2Putting 50 ft down to the lower tier on a fast green is not guaranteed, no matter how well the ball is rolling.

Got a double bogey on #11 when my tee shot went into the deep greenside bunker on the right . . . Had a birdie-lipout putt on #12 . . . not a hard hole, which I played perfectly, but that drive looks a little iffy from the tee. Chunked my 7iron approach from a downhill like on #13, bogeying what ought to have been another birdie attempt . . . flared an 8iron shot on the very-downhill #14 par 3 . . . what a goofball.

#15 is a driveable par 4 . . . I waited for the 4some to hole out and get off before I hit . . . pushed it right into the second trap on the right . . . it mighta got close otherwise. Made a good shot over the looming lip short of the green -- what I call the Mr Science Leave . . . straight uphill to the pin . . . chipped with my 7iron up by the pin for a tapin par . . . ok . . . good ROI . . . While we were putting the group behind us hit . . . one ball came up 20 yards short . . . I pointed to my wife and said that I tho't that was where I'd'a wound up . . . as we left the green, we heard a faint "Fore" so we ducked and covered . . . a ball landed right behind us. Such murderous tho'ts come to one at such a time . . . only on a muni in Texas would one ever experience such rudeness and cavalier lack-of-safety as is apparently common in Arizona. Since it hadn't actually hit us, I just waved imprecations back to the tee and left.

Disoriented by the thoughtless thuggery, I finished 6-6-5, hitting good shots but not playing well, if you see what I mean, for a 46-45=91. Of course my 3wood betrayed twice more, on 17 & 18. We couldn't hurry any more, because we were sandwiched between 4somes -- all the more perplexing the haste of those behind us . . . Mrs Cactus was rushing her putts, I could tell . . . "I'm afraid they'll hit into us again!" she said. "Naaaah," I tried to comfort her, "they wouldn't dare." But I was not so sanguine as I tried to appear. I find it hard to over-estimate the idiocy of Arizona Golfers, based on my experiences here . . . I might excuse it -- to some degree -- as the result of dehydration and heat exhaustion, but then, OTOH. #@@@@! you! You #@@@! #@@@@@@@! #@@@@!

or as they say in the Queen of Golf's Winter League: "#5 & #15, you #55!"

Easily, and undeniably, a contender for the Best Course in the Valley . . . possibly as a consolation prize we could give it the best 36 hole resort award, nosing out Whirlwind & Gold Canyon . . . not a bad or boring hole on the course.


Wigwam Gold Course

7430 Yds, Par 72, Slope 135, by Robert Trent Jones


They Say: "Arizona's Monster The Wigwam was given new life in the 1960's by Robert Trent Jones. Sr., America's most famous golf course architect. At more than 7,400 yards and par 72, the Gold Course anchors The Wigwam golf trio. The Gold Course, a long and winding layout, was Jones' West Coast version of the relentless South Course at Firestone. "
Relentless is a good word. Implacable might be another. Unlike the Blue Course, which I also liked, the Red Course is 1000 yds longer, the greens are twice as big, and the slopes of the elevated greens are half as steep . . . so it is fair, in the same way a Puritan Preacher was fair with sinners, if you see what I mean.
Started out with 4 6s, then had 4 5s & a 7; since I was striking the ball well, and putting well despite the crusty, recently-aerated greens, I was perfectly willing to believe that my luck was going to change and I was going to make 6 4s and 3 3s on the back 9. Not to be. Wound up 51-50=101, with one dang par all day. Part of it was because I kept landing 30 feet from the pin and 3jacking; part was because of the greens condition; part was because of the green design, which makes 30 ft 2-putts a risky proposition; part of it was because I left about 9 putts short that would have been right-in-the-heart . . . I missed abuncha 4 footers . . . man, how that wears on a boy.
The one thing about these Jones boys, is they know where to put fairway bunkers to cramp your style . . . it's just so Calvinistic to make a course this long, then put fairway bunkers out there where they're most penal I'm not so sure the yardages given are right either, all the time. . . if you see what I mean. Like here on #5: from the tee that driving chute looks awfully small, with nothing for it but to favor the right side with a draw, so I tried, hit a solid lick, but it didn't draw an inch. I tho't sure I'd hit it well enough to clear that second bunker on the right, anyway, but the groan from Mrs Cactus told me otherwise. I always say "Fairway bunkers don't bother me, I grew up in West Texas!" but -- If I can say this without impugning either the Groundskeeping Crew or any fellow Travellers who may have preceeded me that day into the Gold Course Bunkers -- it is dang hard to put the ol' West Texas pick-clean-&-cut on a ball in those traps: the lips are kinda steep and the sand surface is uneven.

The breeze freshened up on us after that, and tho' we were grateful for the cooling effects, a 2 club wind doesn't really help you on a Jones course . . . no matter how I underclubbed with the wind my ball rolled off the back of the green, till I was so skittish I started trying to steer my approaches into the green, which just guaranteed they found a greenside bunker.

On the #1 handicap #8 par 4, I only had @130 yards into the green, and that crappy looking irrigation ditch that runs thru both the Blue & Gold courses (looked better with water and fish this time than without like last time, if you see what I mean) didn't bother me, but the false front bugged me a little bit, and the downwind shot perplexed me: I wound up in the sand, then over the green, then up-and-down for bogey, which I just reckoned was "par" for me that day on that course.
The 7 on #9 is what broke my heart and ruint my score . . . I know I am not going to fly that bunker on the right inside of the dogleg, but I aimed at it, planning for the wind to push it out into the middle of the fairway, but instead, I went right of it into the woods there. I figgered I had an easy choice, a safety shot back out into the fairway for a shot at a one-putt par, but my little knock-down 5iron shot clipped that last tree on the right (short and left of the water) and caromed off into the water. I felt outraged, but calm . . . until my 9-iron knockdown from where I dropped came off the toe and landed on the steep embankment between the green and the water -- it didn't roll in, but missing the green cost me the triple-bogey. @##! @#######! @#####!

Or #6, as they say, in the Queen of Golf's women's league.
I don't remember too much about the back 9, after that . . . in the sand again on #10; my only par on #11, after a gritty 2 putt; my usual mid-round breakdown on #13 & #14; another 3putt bogey on #15; a windblown missed green on #16- the wind was just howling off the open water from the left -- I wasn't brave enough to start it out over the water; a triple on #17; a missed 4 footer for par on #18.
We were flat wore out at the end of the round from the unremitting, unforgiving nature of the golf course. Hitting good shots that were not quite good enough; hitting a par's worth of good shots and still walking away with a bogey, in 100 degree heat with the wind that felt like a convection oven by the end of the round was tough.
One could easily argue for this as the best course in the Valley, but . . . Las Sendas is just as hard or harder with much more scenery . . . it's hard for me to forgive that ugly trench thru-out the course.

Friday, July 13, 2007


Westbrook Lakes

6366 Yds, Par 71, Slope 123, by Ted Robinson


They Say: "The LAKES COURSE offers players a traditional golf course with mature landscape and trees accented with numerous water hazards, undulating greens and silicon sand in strategically placed bunkers. The signature 17th and 18th holes guarantee an exciting finish to every round."
Just as the Vistas course has disappointed compared to other Cavanaugh courses, the Lakes course must disappoint, compared to other Ted Robinson courses . . . still, it's no pushover, and it's not boring, it just lacks that je ne sans quois. Tho' there are hidden hazards, like the water behind the green on #9, there is little of the oppressive challenge of a typical Robinson course, tho' the condition was fine and the appearance "pleasant" there was none of the drama as one would see at Inn of the Mountain Gods, or Sahalee, or even Ocotillo.
I remember trees, but I would say they were generally out-of-the-way, from the fairway, unlike many Robinson courses, and the greens displeased me -- very slow and grainy -- I'm so slow to adapt I know I left at least 9 short when they would have been in the heart . . . I had a 45-51=96, compared to Mr Science's 39-39=78, with a birdie . . . I felt like I was playing well all thru the front 9, with the main difference being His birdie on #8 and my double bogey on #9. On the back 9, I just played double bogey golf . . . hardly remember a hole or a shot . . . did I have a stroke . . . I dunno . . . I think mainly my backswing got too long . . . that and the grainy, slow greens.

Monday, July 09, 2007



Longbow 7003 Yds, par 71, Slope 125, by Ken Cavanaugh

I'd forgotten who designed Longbow when we got there, but I suspected all along it was one of the Jones, which left me well prepared for the rigors ahead authored by Cavanaugh, who keeps up with the Joneses pretty well, if you see what I mean .

Not as severely penal as Verde Vista or Gold Canyon, this course is interesting, beautiful, and almost challenging as either, and more enjoyable for it . . .

Not to slight any of the holes, but in the interest of brevity, just a few notes about our favorite holes:

#3, a longish par 4. We were both in the fairway, Mr Science in the middle, back a little more than 150, and I, with a very long drive, wound up behind the bunker on the left of the dogleg, around 125 yds away . . . so, first, Mr Science blocked his shot right of the green into the desert; then our charming pick-up player, a young woman with a sweet swing but apparently afflicted with ADD, had her shot come up short in the dry wash in front; I had a bit of slice lie and a left-to-right wind, but only a 9iron, but this confidence was misplaced since I wound up short in the wash. "Those yardages must be wrong!" I observed to the young woman, and she cheerfully agreed. It took both of 4 to get up-and-down from there, but it only took Mr Science 2, as his trouble shots and short game gathered the first of many compliments of the day.

#7 is a longish Par 3, very deceptive in a MacKinsean way: from the tee the two traps in front look equally far from the tee and green: see how the right trap is smaller than the other. The Marshall kinda hurried us up there and I didn't take time to look at the hole map, so I tried to thread the needle between the two traps instead of just flying the one on the right and wound up in the trap on the left. Mr Science, using his, er, uh, science, correctly wound up on the right side near the pin for an easy par. I had to leave one in the trap and 2putt, but I wasn't upset. . . I'd hit a good shot but I lacked local knowledge, my first foray in the sand educated me as to its dense, crushed-granite-like nature, and I realized even before this that this would not be an exceptional putting day -- with aerated greens of Panksian difficulty -- but really, I should call them Cavanaughvian, for like the greens at Verde Vista, they are subtly treacherous in ways different from Panks-greens, which are contortured, whereas these are made to confound conventional wisdom: the greens are canted contrary to "what everybody knows" such as the ball breaks away from the mountains. Insidious.

I liked the shortish par 5 #9 a lot, but that may be because I hit a career 3wood 2nd shot from by the first trap on the left over the big trap on the right, after a rather weak tee shot. With the Marshall watching over my shoulder I flopped a half-sandwedge right over the pin, to about 10 ft. He grunted his approval then genially suggested we might let the 3some behind us play thru . . . Didn't mind . . . missed the birdie putt, tho. I think Mr Science hashed up his 3rd shot after 2 perfect, strategic shots, but his short game bailed him out again. We let the 3some play thru on the next hole . . . which seemed somehow less of a pain than usual, because of the friendly, interactive, and informative marshalling . . . on very few other courses do you even see a marshall, and they usually make ludicrous demands or vague exhortations that do not help. He told us exactly what we should do in a very nice way, and I'm sure it made the 3some feel good that he helped them, too.

#13 is a long, hard par 4 - in the same league as #4 at Rancho Manana. Some sort of Performance Anxiety Hoodoo made me hit two balls into the water, trying to steer-job my drive into the apparently tiny landing area between the traps and the water. It's uphill and long enough that a long iron or fairway wood just doesn't seem adequate. Then, for the approach, the green looks tiny between the large bunkers on the right and the shaved shoulder going down to the water on the left: a ball will not stop there; it's so steep the ball won't stop even after its underwater. In the time it took me to retrieve my ball retriever from the cart, our young playing partner's ball had oozed out of sight.

Mr Science likes #16, a middling par 3, I reckon. His tee shot hit the pin off the first bounce and stop dead inside the leather. That's one way to take the uncertainties of the green out-of-play . . . that filled his quota for the day: 2 birdies (I had none, tho' I came close several times . . . missing by, as The QOG says, a smidgeon). The other came on the middling par 3 #12, but he had to make a twisty 17 ft putt for that one -- no less satisfying, in its own way, if you see what I mean.

#17 is the only really short par 4 on the course, and edified by the experience I'd had on #7, I examined the hole-map, then whammed the ball over the right trap -- couldn't see where it wound up, as that is a blind landing area . . . Mr Science split the two fairway traps (you can do that, he says, if you know where your ball is going), and came up just short of the greenside bunker. He had to be sure he flopped over the bunker and his ball ran to the back fringe on his next shot . . . it was a makeable birdie, in an optimistic way, if you see what I mean, but he had to settle for a tap-in par. My ball'd wound up pin-high in the waste area on the right -- a little aggravating . . . the shot this time should be at that middle bunker because behind the trap on the right is a giant swale that feeds the ball off the grass. I chunked my 2nd up onto the grass, then lobbed my 3rd around the hole, but I still had a long knee-knocker for par.

#18 isn't any more remarkable than any of the other holes I haven't talked about, if one wants to take excellence for granted, if you see what I mean, except that I made a good one-putt par there after my 7wood betrayed me with a 120 yd foozle that I overcame with a remarmkable half-sandwedge that rolled 6 ft behind the pin. I call that "finishing strong" and it allows me to forget all sorts of mis-hits and mis-reads, when I can do it.
Thus fortified, I wound up with a 45-47=92, even with my normal mid-round disaster around #13 . . . Mr Science wound up with an 82 with 2 birdies, not nearly the grind as the day before at Rancho Manana, but still a grind . . . but let us give this course its due. Cavanaugh is not as famous nor as prolific as other architects, but these courses he has done in PHX will stand the test of time very well, as long as there is water enough . . .


Rancho Manana Again



We went back, not only because it is my fave, but also in hope that the higher elevation would make for a lower temperature . . . the QOG judged not . . . we didn't tee off until 8:30, which means it was afternoon before we finished . . . while it was true that the AC & Tontoritas in the Tonto bar were refreshing, she felt it did not completely alleviate the heat stress.

Mrs Cactus had never seen the course before, so it was fun to see it again thru her eyes: the awesome views from the high tees on the front 9, the boggling changes in elevation on #s 7 & 9, the staggering shot values on every hole.

I had an 82, with 2 birdies; the second was on #10, a 514 yd Par 5. . . I only had 190 left for my second (note: therefore, drive of 324 yds), and I lashed a 7wood right up on the green (I admit I tho't I'd missed it right). A micro second after I hit my 9 ft eagle putt, Mr Science said, "Good Birdie". Worst Eagle putt of my life. Foot-and-a-half short out of 9 ft.

Mr Science ground and grumbled his way to an 84, demonstrating his implacable imperturbility and bulldog tenacity . . . I'm not sure he even had his c-game . . . he was all over the place, but still found a way to score, whereas when I stumble, nothing will help but what I will fall, like on #12, a very artful hole, with a blind landing area that slopes down to a dry wash in front of the green. I guess it might have been PBFU from #10, or the 3putt bogey on #11 that set me up, but I yanked my drive on #12 well left. Amazingly enough it was still on the grass, 150 yds from the green, but first I bladed a 7 iron into a palo verde in front of me, then I topped a 9 iron into a bush in the dry wash. A drop, a chunk, and another 3putt saw me thru to my snowman. Couldn't capitalize on good luck like Mr Science, and in fact, made my situation worse every time I swung. I dunno.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007


Legend Trail

6845 Yds, Par 72, Slope 138, by Rees Jones


They Say: "Designed by Rees Jones, Legend Trail Golf Club offers bent grass greens and an amiable challenge that seems to capture a bit of Scottsdale's Old West spirit. This premiere course has a special essence of the Southwest Sonoran style of golf."

The course is sophisticated, elegant, and challenging -- but the extremely elevated greens common to "jones" courses (of all 3 generations) is barely present, i.e. the greens are elevated but not so much as one might expect . . . i.e. there are only small swales, usually, on the sides and back of the elevated green, where the front might very well be extremely elevated from the fairway, if you see what I mean . . . the traps are cunningly placed, gorgeously shaped, and full of very nice heavy granite sand -- well raked by the groundscrew, but not fluffy . . . the greens are skillfully contoured, but not contortured -- on this day they had been recently aerated, so the putting wasn't the best, but one could tell they were normally fine . . . the greenbelt was wide, especially in places where holes parallel each other, but the fairways still reek of drama and challenge, with moguls, swales, and mounds throughout . . . from the tees, sometimes, there is a very uncomfortable feeling for the first timer on where to place the ball, the kind of doubt that first kills confidence, then the score.

Like #6 above, a short par 4, but most of what you can see from the tee is that big bunker on the left and a dense copse of tall palo verdes in the trash that crosses the fairway: How much can I hit? I hit a full 3wood to the right side of the fairway not-quite short of the bunker; Mr Science hit a half-driver on the same line not quite past the bunker. My PW went 8 feet right of the pin on this extremely elevated green; his, 10 ft left. Ordinarily, those would both have been in serious danger of birdies, even tho' the pin was just on the slope between two tiers, but with the aeration, not this day. I remember this hole from before tho'. Not hitting perfect shots makes it much more difficult. I love the ideation of that #6, it's so, so, so full of wild abandonment that it must prey on the subconcious of the golfer, luring him long into trouble like a siren.

#11 has to be the second hardest hole in Phoenix, behind #4 at Rancho Manana . . . it's not as steeply uphill as #4, but it's longer. I see where the web site says to use a fairway wood instead of a driver, but I can't honestly say that that would have helped me. I remember this hole, too, with a snowman everytime. It's one of those holes, I'd just like to play over-and-over, until I get it right.

#14 is a mid-length par 4 pregnant with challenge. We've played this course 3 times now. The first time on this hole we were so long as to get into trouble from the sharp downhill of the 2nd half of the fairway. So the second time we both laid up too short . . . you don't want to be hitting a longiron into that green. But this time, just as on #6, I hit a full 3wood and Mr Science a half driver; he rolled a further down the hill than I did, but I was very happy with my semi-flat lie. Again, he was long and left, say 12 ft, and I was short and right, say 8 ft. The bumps derailed his birdie putt again, but I would not be denied.
But that would be my only birdie that day; I shot 45-47=92. Mr Science had a 79 with 2 birdies. After my debacle on #11, all I wanted was 2 birdies, but Mr Science broke 80 AND got 2 birdies, trending dangerously close to improving from consistent mediocrity to consistent excellence, if you see what I mean . . . 8^D . . .


Talking Stick North Again

We'd played Talking Stick North before, but not with the QOG or Mrs Cactus, so we went again.

I shot 43-50=93, no birdies; Mr Science shot 80, um, I think, with 2 birdies, now the norm, as I say, if you know what I mean.

"What does Talking Stick mean?" asked the QOG.

In the vacuum that follows such a question, I leapt: "It's because when the Indians first saw white men playing Golf, they kept hearing muttering, and, not knowing the nature of Golfers, they assumed it came from the golf clubs in the bag!"

I didn't play my favorite two holes very well, #4 and #12: with #4, I was struggling with my swing, vacillating between my so-called Medicus swing and my, um, even-less-standard swing which gives rise to the name of this blog for its resemblance to the Kokopelli . . . but from 5 thru 9, I felt entirely on top of my game. Then on #10, some pimple-faced deputy-assistant pro tells us to hurry up, which, means less than nothing to anybody else, but will wreck my game every time. I double-bogied 10 & 11, then took an 8x on #12, when my drive disappeared . . . I had arrogantly aimed at the left landing area, but the shot looked good to me off the tee, I just couldn't find the ball . . . damitall. One stinking par on the back 9, no birdies.


Granite Falls North

6720 Yds, par 72, Slope 120, by Greg Nash & Billy Caspar

They don't say much on the web site, but none of these Sun City Courses do . . . then again, there is not much to say, if you know what I mean . . . the course is very nice, well maintained, not too challenging, occasionally interesting, wide-open . . .

I had a 48-40=88, with my two birdies; Mr Science had a 39-38=77, with no birdies, just 5 bogeys . . . consistent mediocrity, I call it . . . 8^D . . .

There's a few holes that stick in my head:

#18, the Granite Falls Hole, if you see what I mean, with rocky breastworks defending the green in addition to the large water hazard in front . . . it ought not be an issue, since it's a par 5, unless one wanted to go for it in 2, but it seemed like a very awkward distance -- tempting, but foolish . . . We wound up playing this hole twice, since we started on 18; both times, I foozled a 6 iron layup, then missed the green, first time I bogeyed, second time a chip-in par from the fringe.

#7 -- I think -- has one of the most devilish greens ever seen anywhere, with oddly shaped tiers that make the approach trepidatious and putts treacherous. It's a shortish par 4, but being closer to the green, seeing what's in front of you, is no help here . . .

#16, a long par 4, and uphill to an even more elevated green. I think our Sun City Host told us that this hole was built by the main entrance without the rest of the course, to give a flavor of the golf resort, without the expense, if you see what I mean . . . it is a beautiful hole . . . and tough, too . . . The scorecard says I had a bogey-5, but I coulda sworn I made a par there: Hit the kind of smother-hook I do now with my new driver when I muscle up and still had 200 yards to the green for the approach. Absolutely scorched a 5 wood, but to the wrong side, leaving me with a very long putt down to the bottom tier on the right side of the green. I remember making a good lag putt, but I mighta missed the come-backer.

All during the front 9, I was driving the ball well, averaging 260 yds, at least . . . but then blading my wedges over the green, till finally, I accidentally rebuked my PW into two pieces -- played much better without the traitorous PW on the back 9 . . .


2 Birdies

I remember years ago, before Y2K, that my ambition was to make a birdie every 9 holes -- with the result that I should have 3 or 4 missed birdies every 9 holes . . . but now I find these many years later that that is still my ambition. What brings this to mind is how often either myself or Mr Science gets 2 birdies a round here lately . . .

I feel like I play better than 10 years or 5 years ago -- and Mr Science is definitely crowding past his performance levels in the past: now he is disappointed if he doesn't break 80 every time -- and I know I am longer than I used to be, smarter course-management-wise, more skillful short-game-wise, but maybe not as strong as back then -- not as much endurance, but it's hard to see the difference score wise . . .

maybe my handicap has dropped 4 or 5 strokes over the last few years, but even with my new driver I'm not seeing the same benefit as Mr Science in the only metric that matters. I keep making high numbers on at least one hole per 9, which offsets the benefit of my birdie. It could be that I've simply plateaued at the max potential for the collective sum of all my swing faults, but I still feel if I could play more . . . .

Comes to mind since I made 2 birdies at 2 of the three golf courses I played on vacation, and Mr Science, too, has been on a binge lately, exceeding his consistent mediocrity, as when he got two birdies, on two consecutive days, at Eagle Mountain . . .


Westbrook Vistas

6432 Yds, Par 72, Slope 120, by Ken Cavanaugh


They Say: "The VISTAS COURSE is a links golf course and, while golfer-friendly, offers challenging golf holes from your choice of four sets of tees, with out-of-bounds, doglegs and water hazards. Don't be surprised to see the urban coyotes on most days."

Don't remember anything about this course . . . despite great expectations based on Cavanaugh's other efforts (Gold Canyon and Vista Verde), all of which contend for Best-In-Valley. This is not nearly as hard as any of those, nor nearly as memorable. I had 46-42=88, while Mr Science carded a 39-41=80, with 2 birdies.

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