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Overview: With Victory coming out of over seed in the early part of October and going to 90 degree rule on Halloween, I wanted to play and see how the over seed turned out. We were the first group off this morning and it was a brisk 46 degrees. What was nice was that there was not a cloud in the sky and the wind was down ... which never really happens at Verrado. It was nice to finally play "fall" golf in the desert because it finally cooled off in metro Phoenix this past weekend.

COVID-19: Everyone was masked at the bag drop, inside the pro shop and out on the course. They have a nice rule that if you do not know the 2nd person in the shared cart they will allow you to ride as a single. Plus, the carts are brand new and moved pretty quick.

Course: Course was in very nice shape after coming out of over seed. They still had a lot of fertilizer on the course and had put down a 2nd wave of rye grass seed on those spots that did not come out well during the original over seed. The closed the course for over seed on 9/21, but the temperatures did not really help the rye grass grow properly. Nice to see that they went back and are trying to get the course in better shape for the "high" season. Tee boxes, fairways and rough was in nice shape, and the greens were in best shape that I have seen them in a long time. Yes, it probably helped that we were the first group out, but still. The only problem with the course was the bunkers. It looked like that the had not been raked in awhile and we definitely quite crusty on top. For the rate of $79, I thought that it was a fair price and will definitely try to get back out there again before Christmas.

Final Thoughts: As stated earlier, the wind was down today at Victory and that made the day that much more enjoyable. I really enjoy the scenic views of the White Tank Mountains and downtown Phoenix. This is a course that you should play when you visit the Valley of the Sun.
Overview: Wildfire Golf Club is a 36 hole facility located at the JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort and Spa and is composed of the Faldo Championship Course built in 2002 by Sir Nick Faldo and the Palmer Course designed by Arnold Palmer in 1997. Wildfire Golf Club has been the home of the LPGA Founders Cup from 2011 - 2018. The LPGA uses 9 holes from the Faldo Course and 9 holes from the Palmer Course. The Faldo Course has generous fairways, large greens and 108 sand bunkers. Sir Nick Faldo built this course to be reminiscent of the courses that are in the Australian Sand Belt region.

COVID-19: All the staff were masked up and did social distancing where they needed to.

Clubhouse/Pro Shop: The clubhouse is attached to the north end of the resort and has easy access from the parking lot. Check in was smooth and we headed right out to the practice area. The practice area is quite large and you hit your practice shots toward the McDowell Mountains. The practice area was in fair shape while the practice putting green was smooth and rolled at about a 9.5.

Course: The Faldo Course came out of overseed on 10/19 and will be cart path only till 11/13. I normally do not play a golf course within a month after they finish overseed, but I had a friend that was staying at resort and he offered me a free round of golf. The course was in decent shape and was not wet, did not have shaggy greens or fairways. The rough was dormant bermuda and was easy to hit out of. The greens were smooth and ran at about a 9.5. The tees were in good shape and the bunkers had the hard packed "Arizona" sand in them. As stated earlier, the fairways are quite generous and the major defense of the course are the bunkers and if the wind comes up. If you stay out of the bunkers there is a good chance that you will score well.

Final Thoughts: Comparing the Faldo Course to the other Faldo Course out in Palm Desert ... Shadow Ridge, I probably enjoy playing more at Shadow Ridge. There does not seem to be any real memorable holes here at the Faldo Course. Nothing that really forces you to grab your phone and take a picture. My biggest issue with Wildfire Golf Club are the green fees. Here we are on 10/31 ... cart path only and the price was $219 for the regular rate and $139 for the twilight rate. It's a nice resort course that has a lot of bunkers, but in my opinion .. I would not pay that price for this course.
Overview: StoneRidge Golf Course is a Randy Heckenkemper golf course that opened for play in Prescott Valley in 2002. Prescott Valley sits at about 5,000 feet of elevation and sits just north of the Bradshaw Mountains. The temperature runs about 15 degrees cooler than the Phoenix metro area, and from my home it's only about a 90 minute drive.
What I love about the course is that they do not overseed in the winter, so it is a great course to play when the Phoenix golf courses are being overseeded. I have probably played this course about 30 times since it opened, but I was surprised to see that I never did a review about it.

Clubhouse: Nice clubhouse that fits in well with the StoneRidge home community. It normally has a nice restaurant and outdoor seating area, but due to COVID-19 the only food available was by takeout or being able to sit on the outside patio area between 10:00 am - 5:00 pm. COVID-19 restrictions are not seriously enforced, but you can ride in a cart as single.

Course: One of my favorite courses because it is very challenging and very unique. The course has a lot of elevation changes, a fair amount of blind tee shots and a lot of forced carries. Bottom line ... you can't spray the ball and you need to play with someone that has played the course if you have not played there. The course is not long ... a little under 6400 yards from the gold tees and what is very enjoyable is that there is a few risk reward holes and some good par 3's. The green complexes are quite large and they have a fair amount of slope in them. The were not in the best of shape because they were cut the day before (they only cut them every other day). The fairways were in good shape and the rough was a little bit tough because it was cut at about 1-2 inches. The views of the surrounding area are great especially on the back nine where Mingus Mountain and the Bradshaw Mountains are in view.

Final Thoughts: Many people do not play StoneRidge because they feel that the course can be too tough because of the forced carries and the wind that always seems to blow in the Arizona "high country". Years ago we use to pay $50 for "golf and lunch", but those days are long gone. The rates are now $79 Mon - Thurs, $89 Fri - Sun, and twilight is $48 after 2:30 pm. Rates will drop further starting November 1st.
Overview: Kelly Plantation Golf Club is located in the "Emerald Coast" town of Destin, Florida and runs along the Choctawhatchee Bay. The par 4 4th hole is the signature hole and it runs parallel to the bay. The course was designed in 1998 by Freddie Couples and Gene Bates. The course is located on the former site of a turpentine plantation. The back tees are called the 'Couples" tees and and the other tees were named after the local vegetation on the course ... Plantation, Palmetto and Magnolia. One of the neat things about the GPS system is that it tells you how Freddie played the hole (what clubs he used) and what he scored on that particular hole.

Clubhouse: The clubhouse definitely reminded me of the clubhouses that are so common in the southeast part of the country. Everyone was very helpful, but Ashton Crowe, their Head PGA Golf Professional was amazing. He spoke with my wife and I about the course and and he also talked to us about where we were visiting from and gave us a 15% discount on an item of clothing that we bought in the pro shop. Ashton, thank you for your "southern" hospitality!

Course: A normal "Florida" golf course in the sense that it was fairly flat, had a fair amount of water in play (on 11 holes) and was wall to wall Bermuda. The course does not over seed in the winter and Ashton admitted that they "paint" the bermuda greens in the winter. Not a lot of memorable holes, but a good layout. The one thing about Florida courses is that the Bermuda rough is nasty. The rough was cut at about 1.5 inches, but the ball went straight to the bottom. Tees were in good shape and the fairways were in excellent shape. The sand was the classic Florida "fluffy" sand where you definitely had to use a sand wedge to get out of it. Greens were were in good shape and ran at about an 11 on the stimp.

COVID-19: Face masks had to be worn in the clubhouse, but not out on the practice area or on the course. Single carts were in use if the other rider was not a member of the same household.

Final Thoughts: The Florida Panhandle is known for its white sand beaches and emerald green/blue water. It is a beautiful part of the country that has some very good golf courses.
Overview: Raven Golf Club Phoenix is located just south of downtown Phoenix. South Mountain is just south of the course and views to the north are of downtown Phoenix. The course was designed in 1995 by David Graham and Gary Panks and is quite different from the desert style courses that you play when you visit the Arizona desert. There are over 6000 mature pine trees that surround the course and it gives you the feel that the course is located in North Carolina.

Clubhouse: Very simple check in process in the pro shop because you pay on-line. All you have to do is just check in at the pro shop and you are good to go. It was nice to see that practice golf balls were included in the golf rate ... normally you have to pay extra for them. The clubhouse is the same from when they opened in 1995 and is definitely do for a remodel. It was clean, but it is time for a renovation.

Course: Course was in nice shape ... tee boxes were good, fairways had good bermuda coverage and the rough was cut at about 1/2 inch. The opportunity for the course has always been the bunkers. They have very inconsistent sand quality ... some of them have a good amount of sand and some of them are almost hard pan. Finally, I have been very spoiled lately because I have been playing on bent grass greens. The Raven has bermuda greens during the summer months, but they were in nice shape, had good coverage, rolled smooth/true and ran at about a 9. One of the things that you always have to worry about on the greens is where you are in relation to South Mountain and downtown ... you have to take both landmarks in consideration with regard to the speed of your putt.

Final Thoughts: As mentioned earlier, The Raven is not a desert course, but it gets a good amount of play because the course is only 5 miles from the airport. Many people play this course when they first come into town or the last course they play before they leave and fly out of Sky Harbor. In my opinion, the course has good rates during the late spring thru September, but once they complete over seed thru the beginning of April prices are quite steep.
Overview: Quintero Golf Club is located in the northwest suburb of the Phoenix metro area. The course was designed by Rees Jones and has now been open for 20 years. It was originally suppose to be one of two golf courses at Quintero Golf Club ... the other course was suppose to be a Greg Norman design. The Norman design was scratched with the crash of the Phoenix housing market from 2004-2007. I remember playing the course when it was private and the only way to play the course was with a member or there was a specific website where you could get a tee time. I remember going out years ago in the month of December and there were only 3 cars in the parking lot and we paid $50 to play the course ... not anymore.

Course: A great desert layout in the Hieroglyphic Mountains that has gotten better over time. Even with the exceptionally warm summer in the Valley of the Sun, the course was in great shape. We had a 6:57 am tee time and we were very happy to see that the fairways had very little casual water and the bermuda fairways were in exceptional shape ... great grass coverage and not many brown spots The bermuda rough was cut at about an inch in length and was consistent. The bent grass greens were running at about a 10, but that was a little bit slower than what they normally run at. The sand was very consistent throughout the course and were quite easy to hit out of.

Final Thoughts: One of my favorite courses in the Phoenix metro area. It is always in great shape and is such an interesting layout. #9 is the signature hole, but there are so many other holes that I really like. When you are in the Valley of the Sun, this is one course that you need to play.
Overview: Troon North Golf Club is a 36 hole resort in Scottsdale, Arizona ... composed of the Monument Course and The Pinnacle Course. While the Monument Course is considered the "signature" course at Troon North, the Pinnacle Course was designed by Tom Weiskopf in 1996 to complement the Monument Course. The Pinnacle Course provides a little bit more of a links type feel with a continuous layout that returns to the clubhouse only after the 18th hole. Troon North has been a fixture in the Scottsdale golf scene for 30 years and is one of the original true "desert" golf experiences in the Valley of the Sun.

Clubhouse: Promptly greeted by a player assistant when I drove up to the bag drop. Was taken care of smoothly and efficiently when I checked in at the pro shop and was quickly taken care of by the outside service team when I went outside to get my cart. In my opinion, the clubhouse has not really changed in the past 15-20 years and is due for an update. Everything was clean but it's time to give the clubhouse a new look.

Course: Was excited to play the Pinnacle Course because it has been closed for summer maintenance since 6/1. The course had just re-opened last week and I was looking forward to see what type of shape the course was in because of the record breaking heat that we have had this summer in the Phoenix metro area. I was not disappointed at all. As with most courses, the fairways had a little amount of casual water due to the amount of water that has to be placed on them to keep them in good shape, but the bermuda grass was thick and lush and except in a few spots was not brown at all. Bottom line ... they were in great shape.
The bent grass greens were smooth, rolled true, were of medium speed and were very receptive. Each green had only a few pitch marks that were not repaired, but it was understandable because of the amount of water that needs to be placed on bent grass greens to keep them alive in the desert during the summer months. The Pinnacle Course and Cascata are some of the best greens that I have putted on in the past couple of years. I was in only one bunker and the sand was of very good quality and was easy to hit out of.

Final Thoughts: Troon North, as stated earlier, is one of the standards when people think of when they discuss true desert golf. Tees are perched on pedestals above the fairways, but you must navigate the fairways that run through desert. There are numerous forced carries to target landings in the fairway and/or green complexes. Some of my favorite holes were the par 5 5th hole that has a split fairway choice after your tee shot, the uphill par 3 8th hole that has narrow green complex and finally the par 4 10th hole that is framed in the distance by Pinnacle Peak. The Pinnacle Course is a must play when you come to the Valley of the Sun.
Overview: The Victory Course at Verrado Golf Club is one of the golf courses at Verrado Golf Club ... a 36 hole golf club. The course opened in 2017 and was designed by Tom Lehman. The other golf course at the Verrado Golf Club is called the Founders Course, and was designed by the team of Tom Lehman and John Fought. Both courses are separated by almost 2 miles and have 2 different clubhouses.

Clubhouse: The clubhouse at Victory is called the "Cliff House" and is a smaller clubhouse then the one at the Founders Course. The Cliff House overlooks the beautiful 18th hole at the Victory Course. It sits about 100 feet above the 18th green and also gives you a great view from their outdoor patio of the White Tank Mountains to the north and west of the course. I always enjoy the course, but especially like the finishing holes of #15-#18 ... with the par 5 18th hole being the signature hole on the course. This par 5 is a double dog leg and has the green set in a box canyon, with a tee shot that forces you to carry water with your drive.

Course: With the weather being so hot in Phoenix this summer, due to the lack of the monsoon season, I was expecting the course to be not in good shape. I was pleasantly surprised to say that it was in much better condition than I expected. Tee boxes were level and had good grass coverage. The fairway bermuda grass was quite lush and other than a couple of areas where water had collected, the fairways were in nice shape. The rough was about one half to an inch in length and was consistent. The greens were in nice shape ... they ran pretty smooth and were just at a medium speed and had not been cut that morning. The sand, as always was of good quality and easy to hit out of.

Finally Thoughts: While I have always enjoyed playing the Victory Course, housing development has started to happen on the back nine around the course over the last couple of years. Unfortunately, that development is starting to happen on the front nine. I enjoy the front nine because you play closer to the White Tank Mountains and the views are amazing. While housing is a necessity to keep the community of Verrado flourishing, it will definitely take away a little bit of the natural beauty of the surrounding area around the course ... especially by holes #8 and #9. Victory is a course that you should play if you visit the " Valley of the Sun".
Overview: Made the drive up from Phoenix to play with the GK Guru's at the high end, VIP treatment golf course that is Cascata Golf Club. Cascata was designed by the "Open Doctor" Rees Jones in 2000 and was ranked #62 on the list of America's top 100 Greatest Public Golf Courses in 2019. (as noted by Golf Digest)
The mountain backed golf course and 37,000 square foot Tuscan designed clubhouse has a dining room, cigar bar, pro shop, cart barn and two locker rooms. Canyon walls frame each hole and many of the holes have man-made water features.

Clubhouse: One of the most beautiful clubhouses that I have ever seen. As soon as you come through the gated entrance and up and around the main drive, you see the clubhouse and kind of just stare at it in awe. You come in the main entrance and on the other side of the wall is a very nice dining room and bar area. You look out the windows of the dining room and see the beautiful practice area. To the right is the waterfall that comes right through the middle of the clubhouse and on the other side of the clubhouse is the pro shop, the ladies and men's locker rooms. Below that is the "cart barn" ... more about that later. Due to COVID-19, the locker room area was very limited (totally understandable), but in normal times you would be able to have a locker for the day, with your name on it. (nice touch)
I had breakfast in the dining room and it was very good and the prices were better than I expected. I was paired with rob1563 and John_T and the three of us had a couple of drinks after the round. Rob and John ... enjoyed playing with both of you. Hope we get to play together again!

Practice Area: As you leave the cart barn area, the doors swing open like a Disney World ride, and before you are man-made water features, 2 beautiful practice putting greens and a practice area that allows you to aim up the mountain and possibly hit into a 400 foot long river of water that comes down the mountain. Unfortunately, the water was not flowing down the mountain today, but the setting just teases you of what is going to come once you get to the 1st tee. Probably the most photogenic practice area I have ever seen and/or used.

Course: Each foursome has a forecaddie and we were fortunate to have a good one (Dan), who has worked at Cascata for a number of years. In particular, he did a great job reading the bent grass greens. The course basically works up and down Red Mountain and each hole is separated by canyon walls. This let us feel that we had the course to ourselves ... which we did. A good mix of holes, and the par 4's had a good variance of length ... a couple of short par 4's and then stretched out to #17 that was 470 yards from the blue tees and 453 yards from the white tees. In particular I enjoyed the par 3's ... especially ,#4 #7 and #12, but my favorite hole was the par 4 14th hole.
The course was in great shape ... fairways were very, very good. The rough had an intermediate cut and then the regular cut. The regular cut was just long enough that the ball might settle down and cause you some trouble. I really liked the white sand bunkers and thought that the sand was very consistent throughout the 2 green side bunkers that I was in. Cascata did a bunker renovation in 2019 ... they replaced the liners, revamped the drainage lines and replaced the sand with new white sand. The white sand is a nice contrast to the desert terrain and matches nicely with all the water features. The greens ran at an 11 on the stimp and they were smooth, had a lot of grass coverage and were pure. I would have definitely have underread the greens all day if Dan was not there to read our putts. The only small issue that I had with the course was that some parts of the fairways were re-sodded and they had punched those sodded areas ... particularly on holes #1 - #6. Lastly, we were fortunate enough to see a baby bighorn sheep looking down at the tee box at #2, and then we saw about a dozen more bighorn sheep grazing on the practice range grass after our round.

Final Thoughts: Cascata is a beautiful course that fits in well with the Las Vegas "high roller" scene. It is a course that I would not be able to afford to play on a regular basis, but it was great to go out and experience the uniqueness of that type of customer service and attention to detail. If you plan on playing in Las Vegas, this would definitely be a course that you should play.

Johnny ... thank you for working with the staff at Cascata on allowing us to play their beautiful course.
Overview: The Boulders Golf Club in North Scottsdale is a 36 hole golf resort that was designed by Jay Morrish. He completed the North Course in 1984 and the South Course in 1991. These 2 courses are the true definition of "desert golf" with scenic views and the rugged beauty of the Sonoran Desert in play on all 36 holes. The South Course is considered to be the more scenic and tougher of the two courses.

Clubhouse/Pro Shop: A small pro shop where the player assistant gave good customer service. The clubhouse also had a grill and a members area, but I did not take a look around due to the massive increase in cases in AZ with regard to COVID-19. Was able to ride as a single in the golf cart ... due to the pandemic.
I thought the golf merchandise could have been presented in a much better way, but that is just the retail manager coming out in me.

Practice Area: A beautiful practice area that looked out toward Black Mountain, but the range was closed due to maintenance. I voiced my opinion about this to one of the outside player assistants and he apologized saying that the maintenance crew should have had it done by 6:00 am that morning and that they were running late. Kind of disappointed because I am a huge fan of loosening up and hitting balls before I play.

Course: A true desert course that forces you to hit it straight off the tee. It is not the tightest of courses that I have played, but considering that I have not played there before it was more of a challenge to pick the proper line off the tee. The fairways are transitioning to the summer bermuda ... they were of course brown in spots and wet due to the amount of water that is being placed on the course. The rough was cut down very tight. The bentgrass greens were punched and sanded about 3 weeks ago and were in very nice shape. They were smooth and ran at about a 10 or 10.5. They should be perfect in about 7-10 days. Sand was very nice, consistent and easy to play out of.

Final Thoughts: Was very fortunate to play the South Course. During the summer, it seems like only 18 holes are in play each day. At times, they will allow you to play the the front nine on the North and you might play the back nine on the South or some other variation. I was very happy to play the South because I have played the North before. Be aware that the Boulders does have private membership and there was a lot of play by them yesterday. While the resort guests and outside players went off the front nine, the membership went off the back nine. We got to hole #7 and we were told to slow down because they were doing split tees and we would have to wait for the last group of members to go off the back before we could play #10.
The Boulders - South Course is a true desert course that everyone needs to play if they are visiting the metro Phoenix area. It ranks right up there with some of my favorite courses, and the scenery on the front nine is truly amazing. It is definitely a course that I would consider paying the greens fee in the high season.
Overview: The Legacy Golf Resort is located on a 280 acre parcel of land that was originally purchased by Dwight B Heard. Mr Heard originally purchased this area when he bought 6,070 acres of land in South Phoenix back in 1901. Gary Panks designed the course in 1999 and as well has developed the Raven - Phoenix, Grayhawk Golf Club and Trilogy at Vistancia. The LPGA hosted the 2000 Ping Register Tournament at the Legacy Golf Resort.

Clubhouse/Pro-Shop: As you turn off of 32nd Street into the resort you see the par 3 17th hole on your right and side and past that as you drive straight into the resort you see the large clubhouse in the distance. The clubhouse/pro shop and grill are all located in one building and while a very nice structure, it's starting to get a little dated. Not much has changed since the opening in 1999 and the building is ready for a little bit of a re-model.

Practice Area: A nice practice area that allows you to aim your warm up shots straight up towards South Mountain ... a beautiful view of South Mountain as the sun starts to reflect off the mountain in the early am. The practice area has nice grass coverage and the putting and chipping areas are nicely taken care of and maintained.

Course: The Legacy Golf Resort is a links style course with deep fairway and green side bunkers. Most of the greens are raised and they do have an area where you can run the ball up, but these areas are not very large. The course is right there in front of you, but the biggest defense for the course is the greens and if the wind blows.
You have to take into account the slope of South Mountain on those holes that play North and South to the mountain and it also to a certain extent those holes that play parallel to South Mountain. The course was in decent summer condition, but was wet in spots. The tee boxes were in good shape, the fairways were getting some brown patches and the areas around the greens were getting thin. The bermuda grass on the greens was consistent, smooth and rolled about a 9.5.

Final Thoughts: While not at the same level as Troon North, Grayhawk, We-Ko-Pa and other high end courses in Phoenix. Legacy Golf Resort is good course to start/finish your golf trip in the Valley of the Sun ... what is important to note is that the course is about 15 minutes from the airport. Golf rates are fair and they do have some good prices ... even in the high season.
Overview: The Phoenician Golf Club is located at the Phoenician, a Luxury Collection Resort, which is on the border of the City of Phoenix and Scottsdale, AZ. The beautiful landmark of Camelback Mountain sits just north of the course and resort. The course was a 27 hole facility for a long time, but a 10 month redesign and renovation by architect Phil Smith was completed on November 1, 2018. This changed the course to an 18 hole facility.

Clubhouse/Pro Shop: Very nice clubhouse and pro shop that were both redone during the remodel. The pro shop was very well set up and spacious, but the clubhouse area, as well as the rest of the resort was still closed due to COVID-19. The player assistant was very cordial, and dealt with a difficult member in a very professional manner. I bought a shirt, and the price was right in line with other retailers.

Course: As stated earlier, the golf club was previously a 27 hole facility that was changed to an 18 hole facility. Mr Smith used previously existing fairway corridors to reroute the course and developed some new golf holes. Fairways were re-contoured and greens were rebuilt and resurfaced with TifEagle grass putting surfaces. I felt that greens were more contoured than before and this allowed for the possibility of some very difficult pin positions. The front nine went out to the east and for the most part away from Camelback Mountain. As previously mentioned before in another review, it was mentioned that the front nine felt like a "Palm Springs" golf course ... I definitely got that feel too. Fairways were pretty wide open and with a fair amount of bunkering around the greens.
On the other hand, the back nine was definitely different. The last nine played for the most part directly south of Camelback Mountain, and from holes 12 - 15 played up and parallel to the mountain. Fairways were definitely more narrow and the views were amazing with Camelback Mountain right there, a view of downtown Phoenix right behind hole #14 and the view of the Papago Buttes in the distance on the beautiful par #3 11th hole.
The course was in excellent shape for the time of year. Once again, it has been very warm in Phoenix and got up to 112 degrees on the day that I played there. So, they had watered a lot and in spots it was definitely wet, but not a big deal. The greens rolled true and were very consistent in their speed. The fairways were starting to turn a little brown in certain areas, but there was a lot of grass coverage. Rough was non-existent, and the bunkers were probably in the best shape/condition that I have played from since playing at Rams Hill.

Final Thoughts: I have wanted to play at the Phoenician since the renovation, but have not had the opportunity to play there. The price was a little steep for the time of year ... $89, but I enjoyed the course and would suggest that the GK community should come out and play there. The course is managed by Troon Golf ... that alone means that the customer service at the course will be excellent.
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