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Overview: Ak-Chin Southern Dunes is located in the town of Maricopa, which is a suburb of Phoenix, AZ. The course was designed by the Schmidt-Curley design team based out of Scottsdale, and they worked with Fred Couples on the design of the course. The course was originally a private men's club, but that changed a few years ago. The course had a renovation in late 2014/early 2015 by Couples and the Schmidt-Curley design team. Many bunkers were removed in the re-design but there are still plenty of sand traps on the course.

Clubhouse and Practice Facility: Really nice clubhouse that is broken into three separate sections ... one part is for the grille, another is for the pro shop and the third section is for meeting space. There is also outdoor seating and a fire pit that overlooks the the 9th and 18th hole. The practice facility is in fantastic shape and doubles as a short part 3 layout ... called the minidunes

Course: Southern Dunes is one of the local qualifying sites for the U.S Open (being held on 5/18), and I wanted to see what the set up would be for the event. Considering that I will never play in a U.S. Open, I thought it would be nice to do almost the next best thing ... play a course in U.S. Open qualifying conditions.
May is a tough time of year in Phoenix ... you have the rye grass still in place from the winter and you have bermuda grass that is starting to grow in. In places you could see where there was a battle between what strand of grass was going to win, especially with the change in temperatures this past month. For example, it was only about 58 degrees when I teed off this morning, and that is quite cool for Phoenix this time of year. The course was in great shape on the front nine ... fairways were lush and the areas around the greens were in great shape. On the back nine though, the fairways were not as lush and there were some noticeable bare spots. All of the bunkers were hand racked and/or machine racked through the 12th hole, but the maintenance team still needed to finish the last 6 holes.
The greens were running at about a 12 and the superintendent (who I met on the course) wanted to get them up to 12.5 by tomorrow. I have never seen greens rolled before and it was pretty cool to see how they used a machine to roll the greens instead of having to hand roll them. Greens were very smooth (of course) and were in great shape.
I really enjoy the design of the course, but course knowledge is so very important at Southern Dunes. A lot of people feel that there are too many bunkers, but if you play the course a couple of times you will learn how to avoid many of them.

Final Thoughts: Southern Dunes is about about a 40 minute drive from downtown Phoenix, but I feel that it is a must play if you are in the "Valley of the Sun"
Overview: Verde River Golf and Social Club is located in the Shea Home Master Planned Community of Trilogy at Verde River. The course has formerly been known as Vista Verde and Tegavah. Tom Lehman completed a renovation of the course at the end of 2016. I formerly played the course when it was known as Tegavah and in some ways has improved, but in other ways it has regressed.

Clubhouse and Practice Area: Temporary clubhouse until the permanent clubhouse is completed in late 2017. The staff were fantastic and the new clubhouse should be amazing when it opens up. The practice area was closed due to mowing, but the practice area looked in very good shape.

Course: I am not a big fan of the new 1st hole. The old 1st hole was very nice and Mr Lehman's brand new 1st hole was very boring and I feel that it does not fit in with the flow of the golf course ... IMO. The rest of the front nine was very good with the greens being in great shape. Fairways were almost perfect and the rough was not very penal. Course conditions were just as good on the back nine. What I really enjoyed about the course was that the native areas were really cleaned up and and were much more defined. New landscaping was put in around the holes and it gave the course a more cleaner look. Really disappointed in the changes on the last 2 holes. The 18th hole use to be a nice dogleg par 4 with water to the right of the green and three bunkers to the left of a narrow but deep green. Unfortunately, this is now the 17th hole and they have taken all three bunkers that were left of the green and replaced them with grass. The 18th hole is now a boring 380 yard straight away par 4 that will lead right back to the clubhouse.

Final Thought: They have made some nice changes to the course and the playing conditions were definitely raised to the next level. The only problem that I have is the changes in 1, 17 and 18. There is also a lot of home construction going on right now, and it will take away some of the beautiful views of the surrounding mountains.
Overview: The Victory Course at Verrado Golf Club opened on Fri 2/10/17 and will be open for "preview" play until the end of April. The course will then close until the "grand opening" in October/November of 2017. At that point in time the clubhouse will be built and will be open to the public. Verrado Golf Club now has 36 holes of golf, but the courses are roughly 1.5 miles away from each other. Rates at Victory right now are $99 before 1:30 pm, $79 after 1:30 pm (twilight rate) and $49 after 3:00 pm (super twilight rate).

Clubhouse and Practice Area: Temporary trailer right now. and there was a little bit of merchandise in the pro shop. The golf shop assistant was very friendly and wanted our opinion of the course after we finished our round. We played after 1:30 pm, so the rate was $79, but my friend lives in Verrado so they gave me the $10 discount too. Very surprised that they did this, and she said "no problem at all". Practice balls were include in the rate.
Practice area was expansive and of course was in great shape. An opportunity here would be to get some practice balls that were not hard as rocks. They were brand new Taylor Made balls, but could not tell what type, but were very hard. Drove up to the practice putting green and it was very nice. It reminded me of the practice putting green at Wickenburg Ranch. A lot of undulation and the greens were rolling at about a 9 on the stimp. The greens ran about the same on the course, but this was to be expected because they want them to mature before they cut them to a faster speed.

Course: A tremendous layout that will only get better in time. The course is set up in the White Tank Mountains and gives you great views of the West Valley, Downtown Phoenix and the University of Phoenix Football Stadium. The course starts by going straight east for the first five holes and then turns back toward the northwest and almost right up against the White Tank Mountains. I think that holes 6 thru 9 are the best grouping of holes on the course, and 18 is a great finishing hole. The course has boulders on each of the holes and I like how the architect (Tom Lehman) incorporated boulders on the side of many of the bunkers. People might call it unfair that bunkers might have large rocks on the outside of them, but it brings a unique touch to the course. Fairways were in very good condition and the rough was not very penal. The greens, as stated earlier were a little slow, but they need to mature and develop a good base before they are cut to a faster speed. The greens had good grass coverage and often had false fronts, sides or backs. The wind will be a consistent test because it seems like it always blows 10-15 miles or higher in the Town of Buckeye.
I would have to say that my favorite two holes were the par 5 8th hole and the par 5 18th hole. The 8th hole is a double dog leg that aims right back up the Whitle Tank Mountains and is the highest spot on the course. This 18th hole is also a double dog leg that encourages you to cut off as much water as you want on the tee shot and then forces you to shoot to the green that sits in a little bit of a box canyon. The clubhouse is going to be built right above the 18th green. It should be a great theater setting when the sun is going down and people are coming up the 18th fairway.

Final Thoughts: Could not use your GPS because the course is not set up for that yet. Nice yardage numbers on the fairway and some of the rough sprinkler heads. but no yardage blocks on any of the tees. I felt that this was very strange and mentioned this as an opportunity. So you had to use the tee markers and the score card yardage together and then you could "eye ball" the yardage. This is something that will be fixed by the fall grand opening. I believe that Tom Lehman did a great job in designing the course and believe that it will only get better as it matures. Take a look at the video that I took from the 18th tee looking back up to the green. I have it on my Instagram site ... same name as my name.
Overview: Golf Club of Estrella is located in the community of Estrella Mountain Ranch in Goodyear, Arizona. Goodyear is in the southwest part of the Phoenix metropolitan area. The course was built in 1999 by Jack Nicklaus Junior and is a desert type layout that has some forced forced carries off the tee and into some of the greens.

Clubhouse and Pro Shop: Not a big clubhouse and pro shop and it's pretty straight forward with its amenities. A very nice outdoor seating area with shade and 2 fire pits.

Practice Area: Players can hit from both sides of the range, and they rotate it on a consistent basis. Today we hit practice balls from the back part of the range. The hitting area was very nice ... lush overseeded rye grass and the practice balls were Callaway. There is a nice chipping area and 2 practice putting greens. One of them by the practice range and the other is right by the first tee. Great idea to have a practice putting green right by the first tee (just like Rams Hill).

Golf Course: Pleasantly surprised in the condition of the course. Tee boxes were a little thin and fairly level, but the fairways were in very good condition ... probably the best condition that I have ever seen them in. Greens were smooth and they had a lot of grain in them. They do not overseed the greens because they changed to a different strand of Bermuda about three years ago. They did this because there is a tremendous amount of salt content in the irrigation water and the overseeded rye grass would practically die in the winter months because of the high salt content. There is nothing worse then paying $139 to play golf and the greens are terrible. Very strange to have a lot grain in the greens out in Arizona, so it takes a little time to read and understand the roll of the greens.

Final Thoughts: Golf Club of Estrella is a desert style course, but the fairways are fairly wide and offer a good mix of holes. The signature hole is the par 3 17th hole that is 176 yards from the copper tees (6733 yards for the course) and 157 yards from the silver tees (6249 yards for the course). It is one of my favorite holes in golf because of the backdrop behind the hole is the Estrella Mountains. You will enjoy this course if you are in the Phoenix area!!
Overview: The day after the tremendous GK plays event out at Rams Hill Golf Course, JohnnyGK was able to set up 2 GK Review Guru Tee Times out at Indian Wells Golf Resort - Players Course. JohnnyGK, allan_grant and myself went off in the first group. The three of us had a great time and really enjoyed each others company during the round. I played the Celebrity Course about 5 years ago, but have not had the opportunity to play the Players Course. So, need less to say, I was very excited to play the Players Course. Indian Wells calls both their courses "the Beauty and the Beast" and I can tell you the beast was an amazing experience.

Clubhouse and Pro Shop: Very nice experience driving up to the bag drop. The player assistant was right there when I pulled up and took my bag, promptly told me about the parking options, where the pro shop was and where my bag would be. I walked into the pro shop and was really impressed with the their quantity and quality of their merchandise. Having worked in the retail world for almost 25 years, I can tell you that merchandise presentation is what drives sales and this pro shop was probably one of the best presented pro shops that I have ever seen. Big thumbs up to Troon Golf, the merchandise manager and all the staff that work in the pro shop. After the round, I went back into the pro shop and bought a Club Glove golf towel and a ball marker.

Practice Area: One of the opportunities for the resort is the practice area. Turf was torn up a little and quite thin, and for a resort of this level there is not enough space allocated for golfers to warm up. It was very easy to warm up on Monday because not a lot of people were playing both courses, but if there was a tournament or both tee sheets were full, golfers would probably have to wait to warm up. Another opportunity was length of the practice area. It seems that if you were a big hitter (280 + off the tee), the range would not be long enough for you to hit driver during your warm up. Loved the lighted 9 hole putting course and I thought the practice putting greens up by the tee box was very good.

First Tee: As we drove up to the first tee box, The Head Golf Professional, Tom Burly and the Golf Course Superintendent, James Crews were waiting for us. They both came over, introduced themselves, welcomed us and hoped that we had a good day on the course. This was a very nice touch. It was greatly appreciated and it showed that they really care about the GK community.

Golf Course: Just like Rams Hill, it was wall to wall lush, green grass. The course was in great condition and the I thought the fairways were even better than Rams Hill because the fairways were definitely cut a little tighter. The sand traps were deep and were filled with quality and consistent sand ... very impressed with the bunkers. Greens were over seeded with rye and putted very nicely. They probably rolled at about a 9.5 - 10 on the stimpmeter. I enjoyed the layout of the course and thought that this was a nice pairing with the Celebrity Course. Both courses have their own unique character and I will definitely bring people back to Indian Wells Golf Resort in the future.

Final Thoughts: Thank you JohnnyGK for setting up such a great time at Indian Wells Golf Resort. The GK Review Guru Tee Times are a great addition to the playing options that you provide for the GK Community, and I definitely plan on playing in more of them in the future. Also, thank you Troon Golf for putting together a tremendous 36 hole facility in Indian Wells. Happy Holidays to all the GK'ers! #gkreviewguru #knowbeforeyougo
Overview: This is the second time that I have played Rams Hill Golf Course, and once again I am very happy that I made the drive from Phoenix to Borrego Springs. I drove up to the gate and the security person asked me if "I was ready for this course". I laughed and said that "I was here in January and that I wanted at least one more chance at it." I was paired with HmtGolfGuy, sixpez and Itslikeimsayin and the four of us had an enjoyable time with a lot of conversation going on between us during the round. While Ron and I left some shots out on the course, I thought Keith and Mark played quite well. We could not have asked for a better day to play golf ... temperature got up to about 75 degrees, not a cloud in the sky and hardly any wind.

Clubhouse and Pro Shop: This is starting to become one of my favorite clubhouses. I enjoy the exterior look and especially like the patio that looks over the valley and the 18th hole ... beautiful setting. The pro shop was stocked, but I though they would have a little more merchandise due to the holiday being 2 weeks away. I purchased a Foot Joy shirt and the pro shop staff let me try it on in the men's locker room. I have never bought a Foot Joy shirt before and they definitely run a little larger than the normal brands that I wear. The shirt was competitively priced and they had a sale where you buy 1 item and get 15% off the price, buy 2 items and get 20% off and buy 3 items and get 25% off. A good deal for this time of the year.

Practice Area: Pro V1 range balls and good turf. I thought the putting green was very good and ran about the same pace as the greens on the course. Rams Hill said that the greens were running at a 11.3, but everyone in our group thought they were running a little slower than that. I was thinking about a 10.5

Golf Course: Rams Hill is an amazing layout and is in tremendous condition. I am always impressed with the wall to wall carpet of lush, green grass. Greens are bent grass and ran very smooth. They were some spike marks on the back side, but nothing from really stopping us from making putts. My only small issue was that the fairways seemed a little long ... nothing serious at all though. Sand in all of the bunkers was consistent and of good quality. I enjoy the variety of holes ... especially the par 4's that range from about 280 - 430 yards from the blue tees.

Food and Service: We all met and ate out on the patio after the round and enjoyed the setting. The food was good, but our server had a couple of opportunities ... nothing though that stopped us from enjoying the beautiful setting and our conversations.

Final Thoughts: I can't thank John enough for taking the time to set up another #gkplays out at Rams Hill. It was amazing that he was able to get us out there again in 2016. Rams Hill has become one of my favorite places to play and I hope to come back in 2017. Much respect to one of the owner's of Rams Hill to personally thank us for coming out to his course and ranking Rams Hill as high as we do. Happy Holidays to all of the GK members!
Overview: McDowell Mountain Golf Club reopened in October of 2011 after undergoing a name and brand change. In the Spring of 2011 Phil Mickelson (yes, that Phil) and Steve Loy acquired the operating rights to the golf course formerly called "Sanctuary Golf Course at West World". During those few short months, in the summer and early fall of 2011, Phil and Steve had original golf course architect Randy Heckenkemper do some course revisions. Randy and his team reshaped and expanded most of the fairways, added 460 yards to the back tees and filled in many of the bunkers. The nines were also flipped (which I think was not one of their better ideas).

Bag Drop: Was warmly greeted at the bag drop by one of the player assistants. They quickly loaded by bag and pointed me in the direction of the pro shop.

Pro Shop: Greeted by the pro shop staff and they handled my transaction promptly. Nothing to do with the pro shop, but I hate paying an additional fee for practice balls. I was charged $5.00 and tax for about 30 balls. I think that all golf courses should include range balls in their golf rate.

Practice Area and Putting Green: Nice range with good turf and the speed of the practice putting green just about mirrored the speed of the greens on the course. It was nice to see that they had a McDowell Mountain Rolex Clock right next to the putting green ... nice touch.

Golf Course: I was impressed with the condition of the course and really enjoyed the layout. Most of the holes ran North/South, which I think is very good because you will never seem to have the "sun in your eyes". Course came out of overseed about 6 weeks ago and the course was now back to "90 degree rule". Greens rolled true and were about a 10 on the stimpmeter. Pace of play was excellent due to the fact that we were the first group off. Our pace of play as a twosome was 2 hours and 40 minutes.

Final Thoughts: Definitely enjoyed the course and will try to play there again in the near future.
Overview: Wickenburg Ranch Golf Club is located in the community of Trilogy at Wickenburg Ranch and is developed by Shea Homes. This community is located in Wickenburg, Arizona which is about 60 miles northwest of Phoenix, Arizona, and opened in February of 2015. What is very interesting about the course is that it was built in 2008, and for those 7 years before 2015 there was no public play at the course. What is great about the course is that there is 12 minute tee time intervals and only 72 rounds a day (18 foursomes). Wickenburg Ranch is doing this because they want to give off a "private" course feel. They do plan on going private in the next 2 - 3 years.
What is interesting about the course are the green fees. For example, golf was $64 today and for $15 more you could get a Travis Mathew hat and for an additional $25 more you could get a Travis Mathew golf shirt. So, $104 and tax gets you golf, a hat and shirt ... great deal. Of course, the price goes up in the high season, but last winter I paid $130 for golf, a shirt and a pullover ... an even better deal.

Course: A tremendous layout of 6 par 3's, 7 par 4's and 5 par 5's ... a very unique design. I was amazed at that condition of the course because they start to overseed the course on Monday 10/17 and they will come out of overseed on Friday 11/11. The tee boxes were perfect ... flat and very little divot damage. The fairways were in great shape and the rough was in good shape but not very penal. The greens are bentgrass, which is very rare in the desert, and will of course not be overseeded. Thus, when the course come out of overseed they will not be shaggy and slow. The greens ran at an 11 today and were in great shape. The only minor issue was that there was some divot damage on some of the greens. Why can people not fix their ball marks? Most of the greens are double tier and have very subtle breaks. You have to play the course a couple of times before you can really understand the greens.

Summary: The golf course is building a permanent clubhouse and I was told that it will be completed in the 1st quarter of 2017. I was also told that they are trying very hard to have it ready by Super Bowl Sunday. The clubhouse sits right by the putting green and will overlook the 1st tee and the 18th green. This is a great course that will unfortunately go private when enough homes are built and golf memberships are sold. This should take about 2 or 3 years and until that happens I will definitely be making the trip to Wickenburg once or twice a year.
The Cholla Course just re-opened on 9/16/16 after being closed for 3 months. During the closure they re-grassed all 18 greens with the strand of Bermuda that is on the Saguaro Course. Replaced all the sand in the bunkers with a 50/50 white and USGA beige sand mixture. They removed 6 acres of turf and replaced it with native Sonoran Desert vegetation. There was an installation of a high tech, computer based irrigation controllers, valves and nozzles, and finally there was a slight change in design on the signature hole of the course - the par 5 8th hole.
Course was in great shape - All tee boxes, fairways, rough and greens were in tremendous condition. Greens were consistent in speed and rolled true. Sand in the bunkers was excellent and was much better than the normal "Arizona" sand. I have been a big fan of this course for quite sometime and the improvements in the course have now taken it to the next level. The views are spectacular and there are no homes on the golf course. I would recommend this course to anyone that lives in or travels to the Phoenix area.
I would like to thank John for setting up the GK play at Rams Hill. It was great day and the weather definitely cooperated with us.

Setting: I was driving up 78 East into Borrego Springs on Sunday morning and I could not believe how peaceful it was. Mountain Vistas on all sides and nothing but the desert floor below. All the stress of the holiday season fading away.

Clubhouse: I drove up to the bag drop and dropped off my bag and parked. Walked back into the pro shop and was met by the Director of Golf - Mike Setchell. Mike immediately introduced himself and we spoke for a few minutes as he gave me a quick tour around the clubhouse. How many golf directors do that? The clubhouse was beautiful and I really enjoyed the outdoor seating area. It just felt so peaceful sitting out there as the sun came up. I then met Mike's wife, and asked her if she had any other ball markers for purchase. What I saw in the pro shop was not I was looking for, but she had two of them in her desk and she gave them to me. I asked her "How much are they?" She looked at me, smiled and said "Free." Wow ... very appreciative. We talked about the golf merchandise business for a few minutes and it was nice that she took the time to speak with me. Bought an Adidas shirt and a ball repair tool with a ball mark in the top of it. Prices were comparable to other golf shops.

Practice Range - Pro V1 practice balls, laser range finders and good turf at each practice stall ... enough said.

Playing Partners: Very fortunate to have been paired with Ron Conrad again. We played together at the GK play at Southern Dunes in July of 2015. Ron, always a pleasure to play with you. The other two gentlemen that played with us were Tim and Mark from Long Beach. I very much enjoyed playing with both of them and the four of us talked a lot during the round. We had a lot of fun.

Course: Could not ask for better playing conditions. Lush wide fairways and rough, and I was surprised to see how how much of the rough was overseeded. Greens are bent grass and ran at an 11 ... very quick and very smooth. Surprised to see that Rams Hill has bent grass greens. Must be very difficult to maintain them in the summer. The only small concern was the fairway on the 18 ... very thin in some spots and a lot of bird droppings on that fairway. I thought the 18th fairway was a little unfair because the fairway slopes to the right and runs right into the water. I think that there should be some rough grown in right next to the water so that a good shot does not roll into the hazard.
Overall, I thought the layout was tremendous. A good mixture of distances on the holes. The par 4's ranged 280 yards - 432 yards (blue tees), and I liked that all of the par 3's played in different directions.

After We Played: Nice to have a place to shower after the round. Very clean and big towels were provided. We all sat out on the patio and had something to eat. I thought the food and service were good and that the prices were very fair.
John gave out a lot of prizes and it was nice to see that everyone went home with something. Enjoyed meeting many of the GK'ers throughout the day and I hope to play with many of you again. Kevin V ... hope to catch up with you in Palm Springs or Phoenix.

Final Thoughts: Great course in a beautiful setting! Hope to get back there and try one of their stay and play packages.
Played out at AK-Chin Southern Dunes on Thursday 7/23/15 with JohnnyGK, the AZ GK'ers and a Hemet Gk'er. JohnnyGK got us a great rate for the golf and treated us to lunch after the round ... thanks John! This was my first time at a GK play or GK event, and I enjoyed playing with John and the GK'ers very much.

Course was in very good shape. Bermuda was growing in nicely and the greens were true. The greens were not fast as they are in the winter, but if you put a nice stroke on the ball there was a good chance that it was going in the hole.

I felt that the course was pretty wide open off the tee, but the closer you got to the green the more the bunkers came into play. The bunkers ... there are a lot of them on the course. Most of them were deep and you need to practice your sand play before you play at AK Chin. There is a lot of bunkers on all the par 3's and the par 4 14th hole that measured 283 yards from the blue tees had 17 of them!

The pro shop staff and the starter were all very professional. We saw the beverage cart three or four times during the round. As stated earlier, John bought us lunch in the Arroyo Grille and my deli sandwich was good and the onion rings were really good.

Overall, I really enjoyed the course and will definitely play there again. John, thanks again for the nice course and lunch!
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