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?