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Tuesday, March 11, 2008


Desert Sands

Mr Science Reports:

Ah, the sweet aroma of fresh manure wafting through the trailer courts! It is rare nowadays to see a golf course that fits so naturally with its environs.

The designer, who wisely remains anonymous, has taken a perfectly flat piece of land and created ... a perfectly flat golf course. Except for the tees and greens, no more than a few tablespoons of dirt has been moved from its natural position. It is easily the most uninspired design I have ever experienced. There is one dogleg, and the other 17 holes play dead straight. There is one water hazard ... water feature ? ... treatment plant of some sort, which is not really in play, being well to the right and short of a 117-yard hole, but was nevertheless filled with golf balls. The perfectly round, uniformly small greens have been meticulously constructed, the front and both sides perfectly level with the fairway, and the back middle raised precisely 42". Except for 15, where the right side is up a little, and 17, where the left side is up a little. It must be noted that there are three holes with a small tree in the middle of the fairway (one of my favorite design elements - NOT), but none of them are in play.

Par is 65, with a par 5 (unusual for an executive course) that stretches to 449 yards from the tips. But, don't let the par fool you. 7 of the 9 par 4's are shorter than two of the par 3's in last year's US Open, including a 227-yarder. Even on the tees I play from, I have played longer par 3's, and I remember one of them that was uphill.

Despite the name, there is nary a bunker on this golf course. It would be misleading to call it defenseless, though. The greens are very small, and contoured (even if identically contoured). I had a 3-putt from 3 feet (a downhill, sidehill first putt lipped out on the high side and ended up 5 feet below the hole - I thought of Apollo 11, where they used the moon's gravitational field to slingshot themselves back to earth), and the Golfing Queen (who won her 4th tournament of the year last week and leads the money list at Sanctuary with $120 - I'm calling her Lorena now) putted nearly off the green from above the hole on one occasion. They were not especially fast, but smooth and true, just hard to find. I hit only 6 in regulation, missing at least once with each of my 4 wedges.

While putting on 15, I searched the scorecard for a local rule regarding roosters crowing during one's backswing, but to no avail. There is one for the desert, though: "Please take lateral drop from desert areas. No Penalty." I'm proud to say I did not invoke that one today. Not that I couldn't have, if I had felt inclined to.

In praise of it, I will say that the price is right, $25 to walk on a Saturday morning in peak season (I think you get about 1.64 holes at Troon North for that price) and the overseed was complete, even including the rough. It is in nice shape, and quite playable: A solid 4.

Every once in a while, you get a glimpse through the trailers of Superstition Mountain, or another interestingly-shaped peak (reminiscent of Sedona) in the distance. I thought that if I only had all the money I've spent in my lifetime on cigarettes, booze, and gambling, I could probably buy this place and turn it into something beautiful. Or, I remembered the TV commercial of long ago, featuring an Indian Chief with a teardrop falling down his face, contemplating what the White Man had done to the land of his ancestors.

I couldn't help it -- I had to include that picture . . .

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