Played Sunday 3/30, late morning tee time via GN website. Temp in low 80s, very breezy/dusty.
Johnson Ranch is located deep in the San Tan Valley, directly off of Hunt Hwy. Those coming from Phoenix would be advised to know that Hunt Hwy is currently under expansion and taking a detour using Gary Rd is advisable, especially during the week when construction is happening and Hunt is only 1-lane available.
This is a long layout, with the tips running @ 7,162 yards (72.7/130) and the Blues @ 6,656/70.2/120. I would recommend anyone with a handicap above 12/13 play from the Whites, which still measure out at 6,204/67.8/114. There are many, many forced carries over desert and those who can't consistently throw a 175+ yard drive in the air will find him/herself in desert or rocks, or worse, rocky desert. while most fairways are wide, many are tilted from left to right and can drag a ball into the desert, even on a well struck drive. There is little rough to speak of; what there is is cut barely higher than the fairway, which is closely shorn as it is. Sadly a lot of dead, thin or dormant areas permeate the fairways. I was nailing my drives all day and rarely felt as though my lie for my second shot was in as good as shape as as it could be.
Tee boxes were decent, though showing signs of hardening up (especially #10, it felt like giving a rhinoceros a flu shot trying to pierce that ground with my tee). The greens were extremely fast and often penal. On #16, for example, my playing partner was 70 yards from the hole, hit a nice wedge to front of the green (with a rear pin placement). The ball bounced once, then rolled, rolled, rolled until finally stopping in a bunker 15 yards past the hole. Absurd. On a number of greens, there was substantial rot around the fringes. Bunkers had limited amounts of sand in them, though no large pebbles/rocks at least.
As for the facilities, there is a large driving range, which, as noted in a previous review in 2012, was pretty chewed up. It still is. At least you get free balls with your round, so you'll have ample opportunity to find some grass from which to hit. Decent putting green, separate chipping area and a practice bunker as well. Carts are electric with ball/club washers (no coolers) and all have excellent GPS on them.
Customer service: Kudos to the starter and the cart girl (who only works the front 9...there is a small snack stand behind #13). Not so much for the pro shop guy, who called me out for wearing a Nike (TW) golf shirt that did not have a collar. I understand the whole not wanting slobs on the course, but an expensive golf shirt is a friggin' golf shirt. Secondly, while the course talks a real good game regarding slow play, they don't back it up with action. All over the cart are messages to play fast, play ready golf, and the GPS seems to have a constant nag screen to catch up, catch up, catch up even when you're not behind. Marshals patrolled the course a lot, yet, no one was "put into position" to catch up with the group ahead. Late on the front 9, one marshal told me the back was wide open, but when we reached #10, or delays increased hole-by-hole. Finished in 4 hours and 40 minutes, 20 minutes above their allotted time, and really inexcusable given the conditions.
All in all, JR is a decent course, and will definitely test your game, but I'm not sure when I'll return. Too many minuses outweigh the pluses.