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 . . .