Sunday, September 28, 2008
I started out 1 over on the first 3 holes, with 3 missed birdies (including a 3 putt bogey). Then on the par 3 #4, for some reason -- maybe because the wind was gusting in our face, I muscled up, turned on, and turned over my tee shot into the desert left of the green . . . some how that upset me so much that I had to muscle up every shot for the rest of the front 9 hitting those gawd-awful smother hooks right into the fairway bunkers on every hole put there for that purpose on #5, 6, 8 & 9 . . . the good news was it didn't take me 3 to get out of 'em . . . I just took my medicine and tried for a 1 putt par . . . of course on the par 5 #8, I went in a greenside bunker and took 3 to get out of there.
Re-dedicating myself, on the back 9, I started out with 4 4s before stumbling to a 7 on the par 5 #14, the #1 handicap hole.
I smashed a drive straight down the middle, but I still had 280 to the green, against the wind, so I started strategizin' . . . tried to hit a commensensical 5iron away from the water & traps, but still wound up 150 yds short. Tried to hit a 6 iron to the back pin position but flared it weakly right. Tried to pitch-and-roll but it rolled off the back. Tried to pitch-and-stick from 5 yds off in the rough, but it rolled 15 ft past the pin.
It's hard to accept that a par 5 is truly the #1 handicap hole, tho' so many are, here in AZ, but this one . . . next time, I'll just hit a 3wood right of the green and go from there. . . 8^D . . .
I finished the back 9 with 2 more pars, then 2 bogeys. On the long par 3 #17 I hit a half-7wood straight as an arrow, but up onto the back hump above the back pin position . . . from the fringe, I breathed on it and it ran 15 ft downhill past the cup, then I missed the comebacker . . . don't know what to do there . . .
On the par 5 #18, I absolutely masticated my drive into the gathering gloom . . . just enough sunset left to see it flying above the horizon. I only had 205 left to the green, but I over compensated for my slice lie (fearing the nursery, again) and hooked left of the green, pin high. I lobbed my 3rd shot above the hole, where there was more green to work with, but it still ran over into the fringe, so I didn't even really have a realistic birdie chance after all that. Made bogey.
So I finished 44-40=84 . . . enuff better than last week that I can sleep, but I still feel I could do better, if I don't have a lost weekend smother hooking balls into fairway bunkers, and I just know I can eagle #18 . . . I was so close today . . . if I hadn't been rushing to get thru before dark . . .
Outside of #14 & #18, the individual holes didn't really make a lasting impression on me . . . oh, maybe add #11, 15, & 17, the 3 par3s on the back side, but as a whole, the course is a challenging mix of uneven lies, cavernous bunkers (both fairway & greensides), uphill, elevated greens, and panksian devilish putting surfaces . . . I didn't make a putt over 6 ft today, but I made a bunch of 6 fters to save par, unlike last week. The staff here is worth mentioning, too, for their unfailing polite friendliness.
Monday, September 22, 2008
6908 Yds, Par 71, Slope 128, by Gary Panks
They Say: "The 280 acres that is now The Legacy Golf Resort was once a 7,500-acre ranch once owned by Dwight B. Heard at the turn of the century. The original three-grain silos, built in 1902, still remain along the 18th fairway and were once the tallest structures in Maricopa County. The Sierra Vista House, which marks the 1st tee, was visited on occasion by Theodore Roosevelt and Pancho Villa in the early 1900`s."
Gary Panks has done so many very good golf courses it makes me feel like a horrible curmudgeon to complain about them . . . click on this list to see the Pheonix courses we have played and rated . . . None of them have achieved a #1 ranking by Mr Science, but you can see that several that we have both ranked #2, and, for me, that says those courses could be #1, the best course in the Valley . . .
So now we have to consider The Legacy. I was awfully impressed this time, by the way this course just kicked my can: I wound up with a 55-47=102 . . . but I hadn't remembered it was a Panks design, so I added easily a dozen strokes to my score by mis-reading the greens -- I couldn't have saved that dozen, but I might have saved 6, anyway . . . 8^D . . . I show 6 3putts, including 5 on the front 9, and 3 straight lip-outs on #7, 8, 9. Had 2 or 3 burnt edges, too.
There were two holes on the front 9, also, where it took me 3 to get out of a fairway bunker, #3 & #9 . . . I ought not have been in those bunkers anyway, there's plenty of room to avoid 'em, but there I was, full of west-texas bravado that being in those bunkers was no penalty to me! I had 8 missed greens, 2 greenside bunkers, and a water-penalty, too . . .
I have critiqued -- as opposed to criticized, if you see what I mean -- Panks' designs before for being too wide open, too flat, too much the same, but I can't say that about this course . . . all day long I felt like the fairway bunkers were crimping my driving -- and as I say, I was in 2 or 3, sure enuff; tho' one might just mention that every par 4 & 5 seems to hit into a valley and then uphill to the green, the variety of those elevation changes keeps the interest from flagging; the fairways themselves undulate within those elevation changes so that it seemed like I never had a flat lie to work with, no matter where I hit the ball. And the greens, aside from being devilishly Panksian, many of them are elevated AND uphill, in the Jones / Cavanaugh way, which makes it really tough when you miss a green, having to hit those delicate pitch/chips up an 8 foot shaved embankment . . . it all plays much harder than the 128 slope, IMVHO.
#18 is a great hole and a good example of the primo shot values this course offers. You hit over a valley into a rising fairway, and it looks and feels like a very awkward shot. This is a shortish par 5, so I was thinking eagle, since I had nothing else to shoot for, but even after mascerating my drive, I still had 257 yds uphill to the green, off a hook lie. Even tho' that second shot didn't look that inviting, and the distance was a little outside my realistic 3wood range, especially uphill, I still went for it. I've gotten so good at the second shot at sanctuary I just think I can do it. But this is um, twice as uphill. Knowing that, I sliced the holy bejabbers out of it, into the plant nursery over on the right. Took a desert drop (being kind to myself) then lobbed the ball up onto the green. I tho't it might be close but it was 12 ft away, and I missed that putt, too, not realizing this was a Panks green.
I didn't find my scorecard from my previous visit, but I'd reckon that it was at least this bad -- probably from early in our Vision Quest, so that I didn't quite register the Panksian subtleties. The question for me, is whether I could consider it a candidate for Best in the Valley, to raise it from a 3 ranking to a 2 . . . Mr Science already does rank it a 2, just because the golf is good enough and the course conditions are excellent. It's more interesting than Corte Bella, but not as unique as Vistancia, nor as scenic as Sedona. It's more "finished" than Poston Butte, but not as burnished as Whirlwind Cattail.
Trying to decide is like trying to read a putt on a Panks green: even after looking at it from both sides, and with one-eye-at-a-time, I still can't see the break until I miss the putt, cuz I just putt it straight and firm at the hole and hope. I can't see how anyone could prefer it to Quintero, or Vista Verde, or We-ko-pa Saguaro, or Rancho Manana, but OTOH, it'd just be splittin' hairs to deny that it was a great course. If it's not a 2, it's as high a 3 as there could possibly be.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
7145 Yds, Par 72, Slope 140, by Arnold Palmer
They don't say much. I couldn't find a yardage book from before . . . but then again, I don't want to spend too much time on it, I mean, as much as I lavished on the Faldo course, it's just not . . . .
It's not a bad layout, it just doesn't wow me . . . I mean, the Faldo layout is on the same ground, but somehow it just seems much more interesting . . . there is a danger that my faulty driver this day prejudiced my POV, but then again, this was my opinion from when I played it before, also . . . there's only two holes I wish I had better illustrations for:
- the par 3 #8 . . . which is, in the end, a rather ordinary, even if long, hole, but the mounding around the green, which really doesn't enter into play unless you hit a really bad shot, is very attractive, and makes this hole stand out visually, even if not golfically, if you know what I mean.
- the par 5, #1 handicap, #14 . . . which has the most challenging landing area . . . which you can just see in the layout illustration . . . see how it comes to a point on the left, well the fairway slopes left to right so a drive that isn't placed perfectly can run off into the desert. That's what happened to me the first time I played . . . hit the best tee shot I hit all day, a hard power fade down the left side that wound up in the desert on the right . . . the second shot is no favor either, providing you stay on the grass.
Once I fixed that I was good.
- hit a 4iron high and straight on the par 3 #15 to the back fringe, made an easy par.
- missed the green long from the desert in the inside of the dogleg on the par 4 #16 -- a temporary lapse almost corrected by a great second shot
- missed another makeable birdie on #17, an uphill put of 10ft, after a perfectly straight drive and an arrow like 4iron
- bogeyed the par 4 #18 from behind the green after another perfectly straight drive and a pureed 7iron .
I always feel like such a curmudgeon saying it, but it really is true that the Palmer courses just lack that sump'n sump'n that would make them great . . . never mind comparing them to Nicklaus courses, just compare these two Wildfire courses, Faldo & Palmer.
Sunday, September 07, 2008
They Say: "Raven Golf Club at Verrado is a new Arizona golf course, quickly gaining a reputation as one of the Phoenix Valley's finest new golf experiences. We will be updating the list below with Golf Course Accolades and Awards as they come in.
America's Best in 2005: Top 10 New Public Golf Courses - GolfWeek
#1 Public Golf Course in Phoenix - Sports Illustrated
Top 10 New Golf Courses You Can Play - Golf Magazine."
Read the Architects Review -- note Tom Lehman is a co-designer . . . but note also, the course was called Whitstone when this was written and the layout does not match the present . . . and, failing to mention some of the most interesting features sorta implies that these were added later.
So I whipped up into the parking lot an hour ahead of time . . . huge madhouse . . . they had a tournament just finished up . . . so the pro-shop said, you can go as soon as they say it's ok outside . . . Julie the cart girl was there, too, and she said, "Come on, I'll show you where to go and who to talk to . . . " So she walked me out to my cart, hidden among the post tournament parking lot, talked to the starter for me, came back, and said, "you're good to go, First tee's over there. Is there anything else you want? Drink or Sandwich?"
"G-a-a-a-a-a-w-d! This is perfect! Gimme a blue gatorade & a turkey sandwich & I'll be on my way!"
She gave me those, then said, "You want some more ice?"
"Yes," I said, "You are my Queen!"
"HAHAHAHA!" she laughed, "I AM the Queen of Concessions! See you later on the course."
So I ripped my drive on #1 down the middle with a power fade, then lobbed half9 not-as-close to the hole as I'd like, then putted 12 ft passed the hole, uphill . . . so that told me my putting wasn't on, and these greens were faster even than Quintero. G-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-w-d!
On #2, something about the way my sandwich stuck in my throat made me go back for a drink of gatorade & my 3wood, instead of the driver. I wisht I had a yardage book, both for then & now, or a good picture of the hole. My 3wood stopped in the fringe along the center-line just short of the waste area. But those sprinkler head yardages seemed wrong to me all day, and here on #2 I pushed my 9iron right and long up onto the hill under a tree. Another bogey. Was it just an off-day for my putting or is there some subtlety to those greens throwing me off, I don't know. They were in good shape, but I was offline over and over.
Everybody gives rave reviews to the course, including me, but it seemed to me this trip that those fairways are really wide, so wide even Panks or Nash would blush, but OTOH, it could have just been a day I was driving the ball so well, they seemed that way. This was the first course in PHX I played, 4 years ago, 36 holes plus lunch deal. Then it was so wide open compared to Walden I was wildly overswinging, just from agoraphobia, if you know what I mean . . . but I was sorta underwhelmed, in that I tho't it would be typical of Desert Courses, when, really, it's sort of unique.
On the par 3 #6, I saw Julie again, and got more ice. She complimented on my tee shot, and I said, "Yeh, it was almost a good shot." She said that her Dad had made a hole-in-one on that hole, of which he liked to speak at length & often . . . 8^D. . . that's why I have my golf blog, to spare those around me from those endless monologues on my trials & tribulations . . . as I have said before, tho', it's amazing how little other people are interested in my lip-outs and burnt edges . . . 8^D . . .
As in example of the uniquity of Verrrado, #8 . . . now, like I said, the Architect's Review (AR) doesn't match the current course, and here's a prime example . . . the AR shows this as a Par 5, but now #7 is the par 5 and this is a par 4. Plus the AR doesn't say anything about the cliff intruding into the tee shot from the left . . . I mean . . . if anything makes this course unique, it is that tee shot on #8 . . . maybe some of the tee shots at Bighorn, where the pros play in January, might be similar, or even more so, but no other course in PHX has anything remotely like it . . . and it doesn't even show up on this picture. You really don't havta hit over the cliff, you want to be on the right side, but it'd be death warmed up getting off the grass on the right.
When I played here before, we played the front 9 3 times, because when we made the turn the second time, the back9 seemed too backed-up. So I've played this hole 4 times now, hit 4 good drives around or over that cliff, so maybe it's not so much a hazard as it seems.
#9 is a good follow up . . . there is a cliff on the left that sorta pinches off the fairway, even more finally than on #8, but there is also a cross bunker over on the right that really gets into your head . . . when I played here before I hit 3 3woods left and short of that cliff-edge (where that trap is on the left), then 9iron to the back right fringe since the pin was in that quadrant, then missed the birdie 3 times . . . this time I just power axed my driver over the cross-bunker to half-wedge distance away. Naturally then I bladed my half-wedge over the green into the desert. G-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-g-h!
I had 3 occasions today where approaches wound up in the desert, 2 blades and a pull . . . on all 3, I found the ball, then chunked twice and putted twice for a double-bogey. Pthththththththththt.
So I put a little West Texas Red Ass on my tee shot on #10, and climbed w-a-a-a-a-y up the hill . . . might a been a little wind with me too.
This is another hole that differs from the AR . . . the bunkers around this hole are ALL around the front . . . all you can see from down below is bunkers . . . but from only 185, no way was I going to lay up, so I took my trusty 7wood and trusted it . . . didnt get as much trajectory as I'd've liked, and sure enough I saw a spectacular splash of sand at the top of the hill, but Que Milagro, I also saw my ball bounce up and out and onto the green. I had 32 ft for eagle and hit it 38 ft, but made the come-backer, so that's what I'm playing for, is those eagle opportunities. I have a working theory that more eagle opportunities will give me more birdies too, but that ain't necessarily so, if you know what I mean. Like on #7, the other short par 5. That was my only drive off the grass all day, mostly, I would say due to lack of local knowledge nor a yardage book, as I drove thru the fairway into the desert. Que Shiraz, Shiraz!
I got lost in the interchange of cartpaths on the way to #11 . . . I was already teed up on what turned out to be #17 when I heard Julie yelling at me, "Over Here!" So I wended my way back over there, got some more ice and some golf advice from her about #13. She wouldn't take another tip, so I said, "Well, then give me a hug -- but watch out, I'm wet."
"Never mind wet," she said, "you feel cold!" Well, I do sorta soak myself on these intemperate days, relying on evaporation, if you know what I mean . . .
We don't honor a Cartgirl of the Month or anything like that . . . it seems creepy in a way I don't want to affect our blog . . . but if we did, the friendly, helpful, beautiful, and golf-knowledgable Julie would be Miss September, no contest!
So despite my confidence & optimism I missed the green again on #11 and didn't get up and down. I show 6 holes like that, and 6 more missed-birdies, in my own negative way of keeping stats . . .
The par 4 #12 is an interesting hole, another where a yardage book might have come in handy . . . it looks to me like they want you to lay up short of that bunker there and have a long approach, but I tried to thread the needle and wound up in that swale you can kinda infer there on the left . . . not really a swale, just desert area with a super steep embankment on the inside of the dogleg, but my ball stopped about 6 inches on the grass. I was sure it would hook like banshee so I aimed well right, but it went straight, into a gully on the right . . . this is one of those chunk-chunk-putt-putt holes.
You'd have to say that 10-11-12-13 make their way uphill in a very interesting fashion. A good use of remarkable terrain. I still feel in a kind of you-can't-ever-please-us-enough way that the course should have been snuggled up closer to the mountains, but I guess that would have cut into their real-estate profits . . . When-and-if people ever move out here in numbers the course won't seem near so natural nor interesting, IMVHO, of course.
What makes #13 even more interesting, the little tid-bit that Julie had confided in me is that the whole front half of that green is an unputtable false front, which doesn't show up here . . . I musta tried to add some height to my drive and just managed instead to hit a 1-liner into the hill . . . it still rolled up a respectable distance, say 60 yds short, so as long as you keep it straight this hole is pretty much wysiwig, but that false front is sumthin' else. Forewarned, I gave it extra on my approach, but it was scary when my ball totally disappeared -- that's not only a false front but the rest of the green slopes away from the tee, too . . . I was putting from the fringe, 12 ft away, but missed my birdie.
Missed another birdie (6 ft) on #14; on #15 (18ft), pulled a 7iron shot that bounced off the left edge of the green into the desert on #16, then 3putted #17 -- but I fished 15 balls out of the water there . . . I love playing after tournaments! But I think I was done after that . . . took a 7 on #18, heating a weak slice, then foozling a 3iron, chunking an approach . . .
Finished 42-44=86. Played in 3 hours flat in 106 degrees.
Now: Could this be the best course in Phoenix? I currently had it ranked as a #2, meaning that it Could Be, but Wasn't, while Mr Science had it as one of his #1s. Are its par 3s truly awesome -- maybe I'm a little jaded after Quintero, but I don't think Verrado compares favorably, compleat set vs compleat set. Are they better than Rancho Manana's? I don't think I would even go that far.
Are the Par 5s memorable . . . well, I like #10 . . . 8^). . . but are they better than Los Caballeros at Wickenberg, or Quintero's, or Vista Verde's, or Rancho Manana's? No.
And the par 4s? #8 & #9 are very fine . . . #2, #12, #13 are all worth analysis. . . . . I can't decide . . . I'll leave it like it is, till Mr Science can play it again . . . if you had a friend coming to town from Back East, and you wanted to show him Arizona Desert Golf that was totally different from what he knew, this would have to be one of the courses you'd take him to, wouldn't it?
Tuesday, September 02, 2008
They Say: "Measuring 7,190 yards from the championship tees and playing to a par 72, the Rees Jones course is certain to test any golfer. Yet, with as many as nine tees per hole, it’s also accessible to players of all skill levels. Dramatic elevation changes enhance the thrill of this desert golf masterpiece.
#3 among private courses in Desert Golf Magazine’s 2005 Top Ten
#10 on Golfweek’s 2006 list of top 100 Best Residential Golf Communities
#48 on Golfweek’s 2006 list of top 100 Best Modern Courses"
Mr Science said, on our way to the 9th green, "I think this has to be my new #1 favorite course in PHX."
Disapproving of such unusual, rash judgement from Mr Science, I asked, "why?"
"Well!" he said exasperatedly, "LOOK at it!" . . . 8^D . . .
And, in part, he meant #8, a savage, true 3-shot par 5 . . . you can sort of see how uphill the 2nd & 3rd shots are, but not quite. It IS a haul.
I found this hole a little too-too, in that the 1st shot has to be a lay-up . . . even IF one could reach the 2nd fairway, the risk-reward makes it just no-go . . . I hit 7wood to the middle of the first landing area, then 5wood up short of that first trap uphill on the right you can see in the photo, then flared a 4iron right of the green, miraculously not in the bunker nor off in the desert. Mr Science had hit 3hybrid left of where I was, then a 3wood short of the traps (absolutely no roll uphill on those wet, lush fairways), then flared his 7wood next to mine. He lob-wedged his ball halfway to the hole, where it released up onto the back tier. I sorta chip-pitched my PW onto the front of the green hoping it would roll up onto that ledge, but it stopped just on the slope up. We both missed those makeable putts. Great hole. Reminiscint to me of #4 at Rancho Manana, but I definitely felt a sense of grievance that I couldn't hit driver on such a long hole.
Then you come to the par 3 #9 . . . Mr Science said, "Boy, Rees Jones likes those downhill par 3s!"
"Thank God!" I said.
I piastered my 6iron high with a draw like I do in my daydreams . . . I was afraid it would be over the green, but it landed barely a yard over the water, 9 ft below the hole. Mr Science & The Defenestrator wound up pin high left of the green in the rough -- tantalizingly close, but a very tough up-and-down. I misread a break that wasn't there, and missed the birdie.
After a start of an 8 and 4 6s, I birdied another very downhill par 3 #6, then missed another easy birdie on #7, missed the par putt on #8, then another birdie on #9 . . . I was so grateful not to be averaging double-bogey anymore, I didn't care . . . it was my driving that was putting me a penalty shot in the hole every time. I don't know why . . . . I wound up 47-43=90, with just that 1 birdie, and 5 pars. I didn't drive well to start off, as I say, and I never did putt very well, but I did chip well. I was 1over on the par 3s, which are all awesome, downhill buggers, but I was 5 over on the par 5s . . . they all seemed to be uphill as much as the par 3s are downhill. #14 adds another twist: even from the elevated tee, your tee shot tends to dig into the hill face landing area, so that the 2nd shot is blind, too -- you know there's bunkers down there, but . . . then that uphill 3rd shot to the typically elevated Jones-style green . . . very tough, those elevated, uphill greens.
Legend Trail is the only other Rees Jones course here in PHX we've played -- as far as my records show . . . I'm thinking there's another, but it's not Dove Valley, like I tho't it was, which was done by his Father Robert Trent Jones, Jr, so I don't know . . . but this one is better than Dove Valley, as hard as Las Sendas, more beautiful than Vista Verde . . . so I kinda agree with Mr Science . . . I'm not ready to declare it my personal fave, but it's up there in the top 5 for sure . . . #8 ranks with #4 at Rancho Manana & #13 at Longbow as just impossible holes -- ones you gotta play 4 or 5 times to get a handle on it . . . the ludicrous difficulty of the par 5s reminds me of Los Caballeros at Wickenburg, when I think about it . . . but the Truth may be, from now on, that all the other good courses remind me of Quintero, instead, if you see what I mean.