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Overview: Finally played the Stadium Course at PGA West on Sat 1/26/19. It's hard to believe that PGA West has been open since 1985 and that the first course opened for play the following year. I think we all remember the hole in one that Lee Trevino had during the Skins Game back in 1987. I just remember sitting at home in Buffalo, New York and thinking "this is a golf course and community that looks absolutely amazing." There was the sharp contrast of the green overseeded rye grass versus the dormant bermuda grass and the Santa Rosa Mountains providing a scenic back drop. The sun was shining in La Quinta and I was wondering if I would ever to have a chance to play a course like this. For all intent and purposes this was the beginning of desert golf in the Southwest part of the United States.
PGA West has now grown to 6 courses ... with three of them being private and the other three being daily fee resort, but the Stadium Course was the one we all wanted to play because it was the course that we saw so many times on television and all we heard was how difficult it was.

Clubhouse: The Stadium Course shares a clubhouse with the Nicklaus Tournament Course and has a large pro shop and a nice place to eat (Ernie's). Service was good at the bag drop and in the pro shop, but outside services at the end of the round was not good. A member of my group left a chap stick and his suntan lotion in the golf cart, and he went back for it 5 minutes after we had our bags removed. The player assistant said he did not remember seeing anything and that he would not remember if anything was left in the cart because they had cleaned 166 carts today ... disappointing to hear this type of customer service.

Course: The Stadium Course was in great shape. The Desert Classic had just being completed on the previous Sunday, so it was still in PGA Tour shape. The greens were firm and quick, the fairways were lush and the sand in the bunkers was very good. I now understand fully about the Indio effect and how you need to bring that into the equation while reading putts. I can now say that the Stadium Course is a position golf course. You need to miss in the right place. It was a stern test of golf and I especially enjoyed 16, 17 and 18. I think 16 is an underrated hole and is very difficult because if you miss it down the left side you are in very challenging bunkers.

Final Thoughts: Pete Dye created a very good course that has held up over time and is a course that should be played if you visit the Coachella Valley.
Overview: Quintero Golf Club, a Rees Jones design that opened up in 2000 as a private course, in the northwest Phoenix, AZ suburb of Peoria, is a classic desert course that has tremendous views due to the topography of the course and being surrounded by the Hieroglyphic Mountains. It is a course that has a great set of par 3's ... the par 3 6th and 9th holes come to mind, and a great set of par 5's ... especially the par 5 8th hole. The course became public in roughly 2005 due to the downturn in the Arizona economy. Quintero is basically an isolated golf course with nothing other then 5 or 6 homes on the back nine, and some stay and play housing on the front nine. Other than that there is no development of any kind within 10 miles of the course.
We were very fortunate to have JohnnyGK set up two groups for us at 2:30 pm, and we basically had the course to ourselves. This is so very rare because of the constant play that this course gets. It was nice to have sixpez make the drive from the Coachella Valley and to meet azscratchorbust. It was also great meeting some of the other AZ GK'ers ... Jack, Rick and John. I think we all had enjoyed the course and each others company.

Clubhouse: Pretty straight forward pro shop and a small but clean snack bar. People were very nice and greeted us promptly. The player assistant took my bag and welcomed me to the course and gave me a little bit of history about the course ... nice touch.

Course: As stated earlier, the course has a lot elevation changes and has a great flow to all of the holes. Only a couple of holes run parallel to each other, but other then that the only people that you see are the ones in your group. The course was in great summer shape ... the bermuda fairways were lush and the lies were perfect. The rough was consistent and not very punishing. The sand in all the bunkers was of a good quality and the tee boxes were in good shape. The greens were top-dressed a couple of days ago, but the light coating of sand actually made the bent grass greens run a little bit smoother. Overall, probably the best conditioned "summer" course that I have played in the last 2-3 years.
As always during the Arizona "monsoon" season, we had to worry about afternoon thunderstorms, and we were very fortunate to avoid a couple of the them.

Final Thoughts: It was great to have JohnnyGK make the drive out to AZ and set up a great day for all the GK'ers ... Thanks John!! Quintero is a great facility and I would definitely put it on your "must play" list on your next trip to the Valley of the Sun.
Overview: Indian Wells Golf Resort is a 36 hole golf resort that consists of the Celebrity Course and the Players Course, and the Celebrity Course held the 2006, 2007 and 2008 LG Skins Game. The Celebrity Course was designed by Clive Clark and has dramatic views of the San Jacinto, Santa Rosa, San Bernardino Mountain Ranges and Eisenhower Mountain stands just south of the resort.

Clubhouse: A beautiful clubhouse awaits as you enter the golf resort, and was greeted promptly by a player's assistant when we entered the bag drop area. We parked the car and went into the pro shop and paid for our round. Was taken care of quickly and efficiently and was told that we would be hitting from the "lower" driving range. I have played both courses before and have never heard of the lower driving range. I had a puzzled look on my face and she smiled and said we would be using the lower range so that the sun would not be in our eyes as we hit practice balls ... nice touch.

Course: Considering that we played the course in late May, I was amazed at the condition of the course. The course was still wall to wall green grass with very few brown spots. Fairway lies were basically perfect and the rough was lush and only about 1 inch thick. The greens looked great, were smooth and ran at a medium speed, and you could see that bermuda was starting to overtake the rye grass. I thought the golf course was in tremendous shape, and believe that most courses in Phoenix, AZ would love to have these conditions from December - March, let alone at the end of May. The Celebrity Course is a par 72, but only has 2 par 5's and 2 par 3's, which is kind of strange; however, these 4 holes are some of my favorite holes. I think that the back nine is one of my favorite stretches of golf and love the finishing holes of 16, 17 and 18.

Final Thoughts: Indian Wells Golf Resort is one of my favorite places to play, and I have been very fortunate to also play there in peak season (thanks John). It is a set of courses that I will definitely play again when I visit the Coachella Valley. Finally, I can see why the GK'ers voted it as the 2017 winner of the "Best Playing Conditions" in the Palm Springs Region. Do not pass on these courses if you have the opportunity to play one or both of them.
Overview: Marriott's Shadow Ridge Resort was Nick Faldo's 1st U.S. design, and he said that he drew his inspiration for this design from the sand belt courses of Australia ... in particular Kingston Heath and Royal Melbourne. The fairways are quite large with deep bunkers and large undulating greens. This course reminds me of his Wildfire Course in Phoenix, AZ as well as the Gary Panks design ... Legacy Golf Resort in Phoenix, AZ.

Clubhouse: Greeted promptly at the bag drop and went right into the clubhouse and was taken care of quickly and efficiently by the pro shop staff. Nice to see that range balls and sales tax are already included in the price. Always charged tax in AZ and it seems that more and more courses are starting to charge a separate fee for practice balls.

Practice Area: Large, beautiful practice area that had very nice grass coverage. There was also a large practice putting green and a very nice small short game area.

Course: A beautiful course design with a great variety of holes. The 1st hole is pretty much right in front of you and gives you a chance at a good start to your round. The tee shot on the 2nd hole is right in front of you too, and then the par 5 dog legs to the left and you see all the water down the right side and that is when you know the course has some teeth. The bunkers are quite deep and for the most part have good sand in them. The greens are quite undulating, very smooth and ran at a nice speed. The greens had tightly mowed areas where the ball could ... in many cases run off into a chipping area. The fairways were in very good shape and had good grass coverage. I enjoyed many of the holes, but my favorites were the par 4 9th hole and the par 4 10th hole. #18 is an excellent finishing hole with a creek that runs on the the left side of the fairway for the tee shot and then snakes in front and then to the right of the elevated green. This hole can be very challenging with the prevailing wind out of the north west that was blowing 15-20 mph the day that we played it.

Final Thoughts: Wanted to thank sixpez for his recommendation on playing this course. With the amount of time that I have played golf in the Palm Springs area over the last few years, this was the first time that I have heard of the course and was excited to try something new. We enjoyed playing here and this course will be added to our must play list when we visit the Coachella Valley in the future.
Overview: The Mountain Course at La Quinta Resort & Club was built in 1980 at the base of the Santa Rosa Mountains by the legendary golf architect ... Pete Dye. The course is known for its small undulating greens, pot bunkers, large waste areas and beautiful mountain views. The course's signature hole ... the par 3 16th hole sits high above the green and allows golfers a spectacular view. The course is known for the "mountain" holes of #13 - #17, but also for the very under rated stretch of holes #4 - #6.

Clubhouse: Greeted promptly at the bag drop by an outside player's assistant and directed to the pro shop. Went inside the pro shop and was greeted by the staff and told about the sale going on. Went down to the carts and was told where the range and putting greens were. Everyone welcomed us to the course and were all very friendly.

Course: As all courses are this time of year in the Coachella Valley ... there is the transition between the winter rye grass and the summer bermuda. This was very evident on the greens due to the contrast in color, but the greens ran very true and smooth. As noted by others, the tee boxes on the par 3's were a little beat up, but the rest of of them were fine. Fairways were in good shape and the rough was starting to fill in with the bermuda grass. Hitting out of the rough is going to be very difficult in about 2 weeks because the ball will go right to the bottom of the grass. As mentioned earlier, I really enjoy the back nine (especially #13 - #17) because they are very scenic holes and really make the course. I also enjoy hole #2 and #4 - #6 on the front nine. Suggestion, please be aware that is was only in the mid 90's this past Sunday, but it felt much warmer because of the close proximity of the mountains. Make sure that you use plenty of sunscreen and drink as much water as possible.

Final Thoughts: John, as always, it was much appreciated that you were able to set up another enjoyable GK Plays. I enjoyed playing with you, Kevin and Mike. The shotgun start was fun, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that we got around the course in about 4 hours and 15 minutes ... it was a great pace of play. Enjoyed talking to a lot of people after the round, and really like all the prizes that you give away. Look forward to attending another #gkplays in the future!
Overview: The La Quinta Resort and Club has two courses (the Mountain Course and the Dunes Course) and both are designed by Pete Dye. John set up #gkreviewguru tee times on both courses and I played the Mountain Course in the morning on Mon 1/8/18 with Brian, Ron and George. The four of us had a great time, and I would definitely would be interested in playing in the same foursome again in the future. Thanks guys ... each of you made it a great day for me!
John, enough can't be said about your ability to foster relationships with these resorts and golf courses. We appreciate your efforts in getting us to play some of the best courses in Arizona, California and Nevada ... thank you.

Clubhouse: We were the first group off at 7:03 am and the clubhouse/pro shop was promptly open at 6:00 am. The staff in the pro shop were friendly and told me that there was a sale going on. All full price shirts were 15% off and all full price hats were 20% off. Surprised that they would be having a sale during their high season, but it was nice to get the discount ... I purchased a Puma shirt that was $55 after the discount. Fair enough price.

Practice Facility: Beautiful view of the Santa Rosa Mountains, but I thought it was interesting that you could only use irons on the range. It seems that the range ended at 200 yards from the practice tees. Ok, not a big deal for me, but how about the group that comes from the East Coast and has not hit a driver in about 2 months?

Course: A classic Pete Dye course with big waste areas (which were perfectly raked), elevated greens, lush green fairways with about 5-10 yards of overseeded rough on each side of the fairway. The rough was not that deep, but you had to think about the possibility of a flyer. Lastly, the dormant bermuda that was in sharp contrast to the overseeded fairway and rough. Just the classic look that you see on tv when you watch the Hope or as it is now called the "Career Builder Challenge". The bunkers on the course were small and the sand was a little heavy/wet. Might have been because we were the first group out that morning ... not a big deal. Both Brian and I made a "sandy" on the par 4 8th hole.
The mountain views are spectacular and I really enjoyed the course. Hole #2 is a great par 3 with water down the entire left hand side, Hole #4 is a tough little par 5 with a blind second and/or 3rd shot to a green tucked back next to the mountain. The meat of the course though is on the back nine between hole #13 - #16 ... #13 is a par 3, #14 is an uphill par 4, #15 is a downhill dogleg right par 5 that plays to an elevated green. Finally, the signature par 3 16th is basically hit the green or the bunker left of the green. If you hit neither, you will be in the rocks.

Final Thoughts: Was not able to play the Dunes Course in the afternoon, but had lunch with John, Ron and Nickesquire before they went out and played the Dunes ... food and service were good. John, once again, thank you for setting up a great couple of days.
Overview: What a beautiful way to start off 2018 ... a #gkplays out at Rams Hill Golf Club in Borrego Springs, CA. Partly cloudy skies and a high in the upper 70's (while about 50% of the nation is in a deep freeze.). This is my third time out at Rams Hill and the course has matured nicely over the past two years.

Clubhouse: One of the most beautiful clubhouses due to the design and layout of the outdoor seating, fire pits and outside chairs. I enjoyed breakfast at the bar and ate a ham and cheese omelet, potatoes and rye toast. The waitress was very nice and gave good service. I had two pulled pork sliders on the patio after the round and they were just ok. Steve, thanks for the suggestion on the IPA beer ... it was quite good. It was nice to see that there was a lot of servers on the patio for us after the round.

Practice Facility: Kind of surprised to see that they took away the laser range finders, but that was not a big deal. There was good turf coverage on the range and the practice putting green was fast and smooth.

Course Conditions: Considering how dry the winter has been so far in California, it was nice to see that Rams Hill is still wall to wall lush green grass. There were a couple of brown patches in some of the fairways, but that is to be expected considering that Borrego Springs has not really had any measureable rain this winter. The greens have softened up and are definitely more receptive then in the past. The bunkers looked like they had new sand in them and were definitely softer then what I have been use to in the past. Finally, the 18th hole fairway always seems to be a small opportunity, but the superintendent and the maintenance team have done a nice job getting that fairway to look like the rest of the course. The 18th hole looked even more amazing from the clubhouse this year, and it's nice to say that I made par on this hole this year.

Finally: There are not many courses that I will drive 300 miles (one way) to play, but Rams Hill is definitely one of those courses.
Overview: Happy New Year and I wish all the GK'ers the best in 2018. Was very fortunate to get back out and play Victory on Wed 12/27 due to sixpez sending me his "bounce back" round at Verrado for the month of December. Keith, appreciate that you sent me your coupon to play Victory at such a great rate ... thank you. It's always nice to be able to play golf in the Arizona desert in the month of December for $25. Yes, $25 to play this course!

Course Conditions: One of the concerns that I had about Victory was that they did not overseed the greens (the greens are not bent grass). I asked the starter about this when I played here in October and he said that they would get more of a "tan" color the further they went into the high season of December - February. I asked him if the greens would still roll true and be quick ... he said that they would. I then commented that our winter visitors can complain a fair amount if the greens do not have a lush green look if they do not have a rye grass overseed. He said that the strain of grass on the greens will make them much more playable throughout the entire year. As I played the round, I noticed that the greens definitely had more of a tan "hue" on them, and in a couple of spots if looked liked they had spray painted them with a little bit of green paint. Yes, they did have a nice pace and did roll true, but I am still concerned that our winter visitors will complain about the greens when the rates jump to $119 in the month of January.
The fairway and tee box overseed turned out good, but not great. There were definitely some thin spots on the fairways and the tee boxes definitely needed to be cut. The rough was cut very short and was not overseeded, and this was (as it normally is this time of the year in the desert) a nice contrast to the green fairways. I think that the bunkers are some of the best in Arizona. Nice sand with a good base underneath them. I think the boulders around the bunkers are a nice touch and are something that I have only seen here.
I enjoy the routing of Victory because it has two very distinct nines. The front nine plays very close to the mountain and the views at holes #8 and #9 are some of my favorite in Phoenix, and the back nine is going to be running through a housing development. While this is normal for a course to have houses on both sides of the fairways, the views on the last 4 holes really make a nice ending to the round. Finally, hole #18 is a dramatic par 5 that forces you to carry water on your tee shot and then play to a green that sits in a small box canyon.

Finally: With the construction of the pro shop and a small but very nice patio that overlooks the 18th green (this building is called the "Summit House"). Victory has created a beautiful spot to enjoy a drink and/or food. The view of a sunset and/or sunrise will bring you back to play this course many times.
Overview: The Victory Course at Verrado reopened about 2 weeks ago after being closed since about Mother's Day. Verrado wanted the course to mature and they felt the best way to do it was to close the course for the summer. With over seed now complete and of course with the golf course being "cart path only" for only another week, I decided to go back out and see what changes (if any) have been made during the closure over the summer. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the temporary trailer for the pro shop is now gone. In its place is the "Cliff House", which is a small bar/pro shop with outdoor seating over looking the 18th hole of the course. It's a very nice set up, but I was led to believe that it was going to be larger in size.

Course Conditions: As mentioned earlier, the course will be cart path only until Mon 11/6. The course is in nice shape and the greens were in excellent shape and had good speed due to the fact that the greens were not over seeded. Verrado has a new form of Bermuda on the greens that does not need to be over seeded during the winter months. The only thing that was mentioned was that the greens will definitely have a brownish color to them by January or February. Will have to check back and see what that looks like ... I wonder if our winter visitors will be happy with that?

Finally: The course has two distinct nines with the front nine playing closer to the White Tank Mountains and it looks like home sites will be fairly limited on the front nice, while the back nine will play more through home development. I really enjoy the last 4 holes because it plays back toward the mountains and the last hole is a very nice par 5 over water and doglegs back into a small box canyon. The only suggestion for 18 is that they add a tee box between the silver tee box (548 yards) and the white tee box (470 yards). A good number would be at about 510 - 520 yards.
Verrado Golf Club is now 36 hole golf complex that people can enjoy when they come to the "Valley of the Sun".
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.
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