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What's in Mark's Golf Bag
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Last Updated: April 12, 2017
100+ golf course photo albums on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/24952137@N00/collections/72157657181789776/
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Mark's Golf Course Reviews
Played here yesterday at 1:52 with dconnally and abbacat. Hot day but consistent breezes kept it quite comfortable all day. It was very gusty when we ... » More
Played here yesterday at 1:52 with dconnally and abbacat. Hot day but consistent breezes kept it quite comfortable all day. It was very gusty when we arrived, so I chose to play the white tees (6,316 yards). (They could use a tee option between the 6,316 whites and 6,829 blues.) POP was pretty good at about 4:20.
The course reopened from overseeding and aeration October 1 and is in pretty good condition. It wasn't a "Palm Desert"-type overseeding where the whole entire course is a dark green stripe show afterward, but overall the turf at Oak Valley is in good condition. Greens were mostly smooth, occasionally bumpy, medium fast and accepted full shots well. They seemed to get softer later in the afternoon. Tough to read with some subtle and not-so-subtle breaks. Fairways had good coverage, a few thin spots here and there but mostly nice lies all day. Rough was healthy with good coverage and was deep in some spots, mostly greenside. I wasn't in a bunker but they looked really nice. Tee boxes were the low point; not a big deal because you can tee it up, but several were domed and some had not grown back in all the way since maintenance. Overall conditions are quite nice, and once the sun got low, the course looked amazing in the late afternoon light.
I hadn't played out here for about 3.5 years, which is way too long of an absence. Interesting layout with lots of elevation changes, no housing on the course, great mountain views and a challenging and beautiful course.
I made a Flickr photo album of 52 photos that can be viewed here: https://flic.kr/s/aHsm4sbKxd» Close
Played here today with a 1:48 tee time through GolfNow. A traffic jam on the southbound 5 caused me to be a little late, and I started about 10-15 min... » More
Played here today with a 1:48 tee time through GolfNow. A traffic jam on the southbound 5 caused me to be a little late, and I started about 10-15 minutes past my time. They sent me off by myself and I ended up sandwiched between a bunch of foursomes. It was very busy out there today and POP seemed slow, but overall was right around 4.5 hrs. I played through one group at the turn, but still had nowhere to go. Very friendly staff all around, but I was disappointed that every water jug past the 4th hole was completely empty on a hot afternoon. Quite windy at times, as usual for this course.
I've definitely seen this course in better condition. The first few fairways were somewhat scruffy, but they seemed to improve later in the course. Still not as nice as I've found in previous visits here. Same for the rough and the greens also seemed a step down from normal conditions out here. Today the greens had nice, healthy turf, but showed a lot of footprints and ball marks in the late afternoon. They ran medium-fast and were a little bumpy. They were very receptive, with full shots stopping very quickly. The new bunkers look great but still felt maybe a bit thin on sand to me; I expected them to have lots of fluffy sand. Tee boxes decent.
I love the setting and layout of this course so much, I still had a great time. But hopefully as temperatures cool a little and they complete the upcoming aeration, conditions will improve somewhat.» Close
I was very fortunate to be invited to play Desert Forest on Sunday, September 17. It took me a while to get the scorecard to Johnny to add it to the d... » More
I was very fortunate to be invited to play Desert Forest on Sunday, September 17. It took me a while to get the scorecard to Johnny to add it to the database, so I'll focus more on the course and less on conditions, because I believe the course is now in overseed mode anyway.
Desert Forest is the original "desert" golf course, designed by Red Lawrence and opened in 1962. The course was renovated in 2013 by a former Coore/Crenshaw associate, Dave Zinkand, who came in and modernized the bunkering and added more contour to the greens. The result is a really exceptional course: No dramatic elevation changes, but wonderful ground movement on many holes. Unlike many desert courses, it's extremely walkable, with tee boxes located very near the previous green (what a contrast from Quintero, which I played the day prior). Another Arizona/desert rarity is that there is no housing on the course.
While beautiful, the course doesn't look all that intimidating, but it plays very tough. Obviously, lots of desert comes into play if you're not hitting it straight, and many greens are elevated and significantly undulating. It's a great challenge that ate me alive, but I enjoyed every second of it. I achieved a first, too: I hit a low screamer of a drive (about 8 feet off the ground) that would've been great... IF it hadn't lodged itself squarely in a saguaro cactus about 100 yards away! That was fun/funny.
Conditions were excellent for late summer, as the course hosted a 14 NCAA men's teams the following weekend for the Maui Jim Invitational. (Local boys ASU took the title.) Fairways and rough were very lush, greens were smooth and medium-fast (I believe sometimes they are much faster here), bunkers and tee boxes were all good. From pictures I've seen, I suspect the course is even more impressive after overseeding.
If you ever have the opportunity to play here, take it. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Huge thanks to the member who organized this outing, if he ever happens to read this.
I posted some photos to the photo gallery here, but if you want to see my full album of 65 images, copy & paste this URL: https://flic.kr/s/aHsm5rMgNL» Close
Played here Saturday, 9/16 to kick off an Arizona golf weekend. Had a 12:01 "Deal" time through TeeOff.com but arrived around 10:00 due to driving acr... » More
Played here Saturday, 9/16 to kick off an Arizona golf weekend. Had a 12:01 "Deal" time through TeeOff.com but arrived around 10:00 due to driving across the desert faster than I anticipated. After hitting a few balls and putting for a few minutes, I was able to hit the first tee around 10:35, by myself. Played the first few holes at my own pace, but then ran into groups on the 4th or 5th hole and waited the remainder of the day. The staff and marshals all did an amazing job of explaining that there was really nowhere for me to go due to groups stacked up in front of me, but they gave me all kinds of different options to circle back and play the front nine twice plus the back nine later, etc., in order to avoid the back-up. I thanked them for their concern but chose to just play the course in normal order and I took my time taking pictures, etc. One marshal even gave me a fresh baked chocolate chip cookie because he felt bad for me. The whole staff, from greeters at the gate who take your bag, to the pro shop, beverage cart, marshals, etc. were outstanding. I don't remember the last time I received this level of service at a course. It seemed like everyone working there genuinely cared that I enjoy my round. Total POP ended up being around 4:30.
Conditions are very good, playing a little better than it looks due to most of the grass being medium to light green this late in summer. Greens were fast and mostly smooth, although there were quite a few healing ball marks on them. The greens accepted full shots very well; balls stopped pretty much where they landed. Fairways were lush and provided good lies. Rough was maybe a little less lush, but still quite nice for September. Tee boxes were good. Bunker sand was excellent.
It's a pretty fun layout, very reminiscent of another Rees Jones desert course, Cascata (even with lots of similar pointy hills nearby). It also reminded me somewhat of Trump National L.A., with nearly every fairway surrounded by trouble on both sides. You don't have to miss far off line to be in the desert here. Really nice par 3s, especially on the front side, both of which play from significantly elevated tees that provide great views across the course and desert.
One more note: Carts had basic text GPS with yardages to the front, back and middle of each green. The layout could really use a monitor with hole routing, etc. However, a marshal told me they will have all new carts and some sort of brand new, state-of-the-art GPS system when they reopen from overseeding in about a month or so.
Here's my album of 62 photos: https://flic.kr/s/aHsm5uqWmv» Close
Played in the GK Plays Saturday and had a great time. The whole event was well run at a really nice venue. Huge thanks to Johnny and all the sponsors,... » More
Played in the GK Plays Saturday and had a great time. The whole event was well run at a really nice venue. Huge thanks to Johnny and all the sponsors, especially Linksoul and Golf Moose for my winnings!
I agree with lots of what Sal wrote in his excellent review. The course conditions were good, even if this late in summer, the course doesn’t look super lush. There are varying shades of green throughout the course right now, mostly light green but playing really nicely. Greens were smooth and medium fast, but there was an abundance of ball mark damage on many greens that raise some questions I don’t have answers to: What’s a course supposed to do if people don’t fix their ballmarks? And why was it so prominent here? Otherwise, the greens were good and held full shots well, except the one green that really needed to, the par-3 16th. I know both myself and mpisarski landed short irons on the green and bounced right into the back bunker, and I heard tales of the same happening to several people in another group. This wouldn’t be worth mentioning except that my approach shots on nearly every other hole stopped immediately upon landing, and then the one hole that tucks the pin in an area of green only about 10 yards deep is rock hard. That’s unfortunate. Fairways provided great lies all day, some with more cushion than others. Rough was also in good condition and could be penal or easy depending on whether or not your ball settled down in or not. The tee box (combo tees) grass was a little long and puffy for my liking, but otherwise they were good. The bunkers I was in were pretty hard packed and could use some additional sand or a really deep raking.
I’m probably being a little more critical than normal in those comments above due to the typical rack rate out here. Some of those things I wouldn’t expect at a course with such a lofty price tag.
Layout-wise, it’s very solid but unremarkable. The course is not very captivating, especially relative to its price. I liked the 10th, 13th and 14th holes, but never did I step onto a tee box and think to myself, “Oh, what a cool hole.” All of this probably sounds like I didn’t enjoy myself, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. I had a great time and would like to play the Legends course one day. The resort seemed quite busy and the service all around was very friendly and efficient.
I made a Flickr photo album of 35 photos that can be viewed here: https://flic.kr/s/aHsm49C3aS» Close
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