Category Archives: Southwest

Paa-Ko Ridge

Paa-Ko Ridge Golf Club in Sandia, NM

paako ridge
Me and Bert, who came all the way from Alaska to beat me

The Stats

Tee Time: May 1, 2017, 9:50, 64 F, partly cloudy

Designer: Kenneth Dye, 2000

Playing Partners: Bert Verrall

Tees: Blue, Par 72 (74.1 rating/142 slope/7,218 yards)

Course Handicap: 11 (8.6 index)

Stats:  96 (49-47); 30 putts; 7/14 fairways; 4/18 greens; 7 penalty strokes

The Course

Just a half-hour from the Breaking Badlands of Albuquerque sit the scenic Sandia Mountains, covered in ponderosas, spruce and just a thin layer of snow. And in those mountains sits one of the nicest golf courses in all the southwest, the Golf Magazine #34 -ublic and Golf Digest #46-ranked Paa-Ko Ridge. And I finally got to get a round in with a fan of the blog. Bert came down from Alaska to pick up a car which he then drove from New Mexico way back up to Anchorage, some 4,200 miles up north. Crazy.

Paako ridge sandia nm drone
Paa-Ko Ridge from the air

Continue reading Paa-Ko Ridge

Black Mesa Golf Club

Black Mesa Golf Club in Espanola, NM

black mesa espanola new mexico golf
Looking out at the front nine at Black Mesa

The Stats

Tee Time: April 30, 2017, 3:15, 60 F, sunny, 25mph winds

Designer: Baxter Spann, 2002

Playing Partners: none

Tees: Blue, Par 72 (70.5 rating/136 slope/6,719 yards)

Course Handicap: 10 (8.6 index)

Stats:  89 (49-40); 35 putts; 8/14 fairways; 7/18 greens; 4 penalty strokes

The Course

black mesa espanola new mexico golf
Fresh snow from the day before on the mountains across the valley

After living in Arizona for five years, I finally made it out to New Mexico for golf. I don’t know why it took so long. Albuquerque is only a six-hour drive, about the same as LA which I’ve done too many times. And New Mexico has some of the prettiest desert scenery in the Southwest. So after a quick visit to Texas to acquire an Adrian Beltre bobblehead, I broke up the flight home by spending a night in Albuquerque and checking two courses off my list that I’ve been wanting to play for a long time, starting with Black Mesa Golf Club. Continue reading Black Mesa Golf Club

Sand Hollow

Sand Hollow Resort (Championship Course) in St. George, UT

 

sand hollow championship golf resort
Me and CJ

The Stats

Tee Time: October 23, 2016, 8:06, 75 F, sunny

Designer: John Fought, 2008

Playing Partners: CJ Phelan

Tees: Blue, Par 72 (71.8 rating/126 slope/6,893 yards)

Course Handicap: 10 (8.6 index)

Stats:  85 (45-40); 31 putts; 4/14 fairways; 6/18 greens; 4 penalty strokes

The Course

To start off the ultimate golf day of 36 holes in two states and two time zones even(!), we had to wake up before dawn to tee off with the first light. It’s crazy to wake up at 7:15am and it’s still so dark out you’d swear it was 3:15am. But the best part of that situation was getting to watch the sun rise over the mountains to gradually reveal the gorgeous landscape of southern Utah and Sand Hollow Resort.

sand hollow championship golf resort sunrise
First we needed the sun to rise…

Continue reading Sand Hollow

The Best Golf in Phoenix

The Top 25 Golf Courses in Phoenix

arizona snowman
Winter in Arizona

The new Golf Magazine course rankings are out, so I’ve gotta update my map.  Included are state-by-state rankings, from AK to WY, including AZ. I’ve been here in the stifling heat of Scottsdale for almost five years now and have played rounds at around 30 courses in the Phoenix area, so why not provide all you snowbirds and Spring Training visitors with a quick and easy guide on where to play. I’ve only played one private course here for one of those Golf Channel tournaments. The rest, such as Whisper Rock and Estancia, are above my paygrade and celebrity status. So unless you’re coming into town with some well-connected friends, stick to this list.

Best Course: Troon North – Monument, Scottsdale ($59-$295)

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The view from the long par-3 16th at Troon North Monument

Ten years ago, I went on a road trip to every baseball stadium in the Major Leagues. I lived in the Bay Area then, so we started by going south to Los Angeles and all around the country before getting through Denver and back home. And after visiting all those stadiums, I found out that the San Francisco Giants’ AT&T Park is still the nicest ballpark on the planet. That’s a lot like Troon North’s Monument course is. It’s the first course I ever played in Arizona, and all these rounds later, it’s still the best. Beautiful scenery, fun holes and world-class service make it tough to top.

Runners up: We-Ko-Pa – Saguaro, Fort McDowell; Wickenburg Ranch, Wickenburg

Continue reading The Best Golf in Phoenix

Wickenburg Ranch Golf & Social Club

Wickenburg Ranch Golf & Social Club in Wickenburg, AZ

wickenburg ranch
Sean and I relaxing on a random couch

The Stats

Tee Time: August 21, 2015, 11:15, 100 F, partly cloudy

Designer: Bill Brownlee and Wendell Pickett, 2015

Playing Partners: Sean Cohan

Tees: Blue, Par 71 (70.6 rating/134 slope/6,486 yards)

Course Handicap: 9 (8.0 index)

Stats: 77 (36-41); 36 putts; 9/13 fairways; 11/18 greens; 0 penalty strokes

The Course

If Phoenix is the sun, then the 101 freeway is like the orbit of Mercury. The 202 is Earth or Mars. The newly discovered 303 is like Neptune. That would place Wickenburg Ranch Golf & Social Club, in this Valley of the Sun solar system, somewhere out where Pluto resides. And just like Pluto, the journey out to this distant location is well worth it. Located in a new housing development in Wickenburg, this might be the most exciting thing to come to this part of Arizona since all the gold was mined out of Vulture Mountain many years ago. The course just opened in 2015 and I can guarantee you’ll be seeing it rated on a few lists in the near future. For now, while the houses are still being built and sold, the plan is to stay open to the public for a couple years. Just like the gold, come out and get it before it’s too late.  Continue reading Wickenburg Ranch Golf & Social Club

We-Ko-Pa (Saguaro)

We-Ko-Pa Saguaro Course in Fort McDowell, AZ

wekopa saguaro
Sean, me, Ryan and Mike

The Stats

Tee Time: August 7, 2015, 7:58, 101 F, partly cloudy

Designer: Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, 2006

Playing Partners: Ryan Cohan, Sean Cohan, Mike Harvey

Tees: Purple, Par 71 (70.2 rating/132 slope/6,603 yards)

Course Handicap: 10 (8.1 index)

Stats: 83 (41-42); 36 putts; 9/14 fairways; 9/18 greens; 1 penalty stroke

The Course

Four years in the desert and I finally made the trip out to We-Ko-Pa Golf Club with summer rates begging me to play. The pair of courses, Saguaro and Cholla, come heralded as two of the finest places to play golf in the entire Southwest. It’s always a battle between the two here and the two at Troon North for the top spot in many rankings. The best part about being a resident is I can play all four and judge for myself. We started with the Saguaro, and I’ll be sure to loop back for the Cholla shortly. The Saguaro course is younger by a few years, having been commissioned after the Cholla course proved successful. Saguaro was designed by the elite duo of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, who have a “lay of the land” philosophy to designing the courses that has led to some world-class golf around the world. Just take a look at this resume! On top of the fantastic golf, We-Ko-Pa features some stunning desert scenery. I’d love to take my clubs and camera out for a twilight round and catch a radiant Arizona sunset over this layout. Even a morning with some rain produced some stunning photos. So stunning you might just look at the pictures and ignore all my three-putts. Continue reading We-Ko-Pa (Saguaro)

Quintero Golf Club

Quintero Golf Club in Peoria, AZ

quintero golf club hole 3
The dangerous par-4 3rd

The Stats

Tee Time: May 24, 2015, 10:46, 84 F, breezy

Designer: Rees Jones, 2000

Playing Partners: Bob, Bud and Jim

Tees: Gold/Silver Combo, Par 72 (72.0 rating/140 slope/6,655 yards)

Course Handicap: 10 (8.1 index)

Stats: 89 (43-46); 30 putts; 8/13 fairways; 3/18 greens; 3 penalty strokes

The Course

Long weekend and the need to get away from the house led me an hour northwest to the highly-recommended Quintero Golf Club. It’s a long trek from Scottsdale, especially considering there are about 300 golf courses closer than this joint in Peoria. So instead of going through the tedious process of getting someone to drive with me to check it out, I just booked it on a 3-day weekend before the heat comes in. It all worked out, and I had the pleasure of playing with Bob, Bud and John Flanagan of New Jersey. They were as Jersey as they come. Not Jersey Shore, thankfully, but more Sopranos. Fun guys, though. They had no idea the battle they were about to put themselves through. Continue reading Quintero Golf Club

Cowboys Golf Club

Cowboys Golf Club in Grapevine, TX

cowboys golf club
Me and Greg (and a cutout of the Golf Channel’s Charlie Rymer photobombing us)

The Stats

Tee Time: April 12, 2015, 8:30, 78 F, Cloudy

Designer: Jeffery Brauer, 2001

Playing Partners: Greg Ryan

Tees: Silver, Par 72 (72.6 rating/135 slope/6,563 yards)

Course Handicap: 10 (8.1 index)

Stats: 83 (39-44); 38 putts; 10/14 fairways; 11/18 greens; 2 penalty strokes

The Course

cowboys golf club hole 13
The gorgeous approach to the 13th

There’s a lot of expected extravagance at the Cowboys Golf Club in Grapevine, Texas. Four replica Super Bowl trophies prominently displayed just inside the pro shop. A six-foot wide Cowboy star in the middle one of the fairways. A Cowboys magnetic pin given to all golfers to wear that lets the cart girls know you can eat and drink for free. Markers at every hole detailing various moments in the Cowboys’ rich football history (just ignore those past twenty years or so since their last Super Bowl…) Golf carts without numbers but labeled with names of Dallas Cowboys of the past instead (we got Randy White). There are constant reminders that this is the world’s only NFL themed golf club. Though being the world’s only NFL themed golf club is a lot like being world’s only golf-themed football stadium. What? Exactly. Especially to a non-Cowboys fan like myself, all of this can detract from what is a very good golf course that more than holds up to the Jerry Jones-driven hype. Even that great carnival barker who just happens to own an NFL team can’t oversell this well-constructed track. You probably won’t even hear him, what with the 747’s coming in for landing at the nearby DFW airport all day. Maybe that’s why I played well here, I couldn’t even hear myself think. Continue reading Cowboys Golf Club

Old American Golf Club

Old American Golf Club in The Colony, TX

old american graig mantle
Me and Greg

The Stats

Tee Time: April 10, 2015, 11:00, 70 F, Windy

Designer: Tripp Davis/Justin Leonard, 2010

Playing Partners: Greg Ryan

Tees: White, Par 71 (71.6 rating/130 slope/6,366 yards)

Course Handicap: 10 (8.1 index)

Stats: 96 (48-48); 37 putts; 5/13 fairways; 2/18 greens; 4 penalty strokes

The Course

Old American Bunker Club, sorry, I mean Old American Golf Club in The Colony, Texas, is a newer, semi-private golf course along the shores of Lake Lewisville. If I said there are 500 bunkers on this course, I’d be low. And they’re all so easy to hit into. They’re not there just for show, to look good on the front of the scorecard. Technically, they’re waste areas and are played as such. The description says the bunkers here are meant to be true hazards, punishing missed shots instead of rewarding them with fluffy lies to make sand saves from. I personally didn’t find the actual bunkers that intimidating; there are just so many that it becomes a nuisance, like mosquitoes on a muggy summer day. Try as hard to avoid them as you want to avoid them, they’ll still get you. The sand isn’t that much different from the typical sand trap. I expected the “waste area” to be a dump of thin lies, scattered twigs and other muni lies. Instead the only difference is you’re allowed to ground your club in the sand. At least they didn’t rule some areas waste and some bunkers, or I could’ve pulled a Dustin Johnson. Now that I’ve described the bunkers, the other half of the course that isn’t sand is actually very nice. I didn’t mind the sand until about the twelfth time in them. The least they could do is not make me rake the waste area. Continue reading Old American Golf Club

SunRidge Canyon

SunRidge Canyon in Fountain Hills, AZ

sunridge canyon graig cj
CJ, Jim, Al and me

The Stats

Tee Time: March 22, 2015, 9:58, 84 F, calm

Designer: Keith Foster, 1995

Playing Partners: CJ Phelan, Al, Jim

Tees: Gold, Par 71 (70.1 rating/134 slope/6,403 yards)

Course Handicap: 9 (7.4 index)

Stats: 82 (37-45); 31 putts; 9/13 fairways; 7/18 greens; 3 penalty strokes

The Course

CJ came down for his first desert golf experience. Also, my first taste of golf since October, almost six months! (No, the 9-hole, 7-iron round doesn’t count). So after two planned days at Wildfire, to check out the LPGA, and Southern Dunes, a favorite of mine, CJ wanted more. My wallet and wrist were hurting, but who says no to more golf? Thankfully, we got a prime spot at SunRidge Canyon. If you’d been out with us, you might even notice we were golfing. We were paired up with another twosome, Jim and Al who made the day much more fun. Jim and CJ became best friends by the third hole, carrying conversations from tee to green while Al and I watched in amusement. They’d still be telling stories mid-backswing and be just fine. I was thankful for the company, because toward the end of the round, SunRidge Canyon features the “Wicked 6.” It is the selling point of this course, a tough 6-hole slog back up the canyon to finish your round. I laughed it off. I was wrong. Continue reading SunRidge Canyon