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Golf in the Valley of the Sun

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By Kevin Clarke

Most of my golf trips to the Southwest have been in the summer when the crowds are gone, the temperatures are up and the green fees are down.

I’m part of a group of guys who have made an annual golf trip for the last 36 years. We have visited seven different states, but typically in summer with 100+ degree weather. To be able to play a number of Phoenix area courses in moderate November temps was really a treat for the four of us who made this most recent trip. Apparently, the locals didn’t think the temperatures were moderate. We were quickly “outed” as tourists by showing up in shorts where the regulars were bundled up in layers of clothes and stocking caps. “Where are you guys from” was the greeting at one course we played. It seems that wearing our shorts was a dead give-a-way that we were from out of town. To them this was freezing weather. We were expecting something like room temperature at the end of November in Arizona, but a cold front made it about 10 degrees cooler at 62. To us (three from CA, one from WA) it was a perfectly nice day to wear shorts.

The highlight of this trip though, was playing the spectacular Quintero Golf Club just North of Peoria Arizona. The course is a little remote, but so worth the approximately 50 minutes drive from Phoenix to the facility. We had a great time,

beginning with the warm welcome we got from the General Manager, Mike Poe and the Head Pro, Brad Bachman. The course is surrounded by the Hieroglyphic Mountains and has fabulous views from many of the tee boxes and fairways. A memorable feature of the course is the dramatic elevation changes and up and down nature of the Rees Jones design. The fairways are in great shape and reasonably forgiving. Many of them have borders of rough that slope back to the fairway keeping some errant shots out of the desert environs for which they were headed. Also helping to keep you out of trouble and enjoying yourself is the “tip” sheet that is provided. It was accurate, simple, and easy to read. Many courses have a course guide that only slows play down by being complicated with too much information. The starter on the first tee was a fellow named Chip Garriss, who was very friendly and also helpful with tips on how to play the course.

Quintero 9 Picmonkey#9 is another beautiful and short par 3 with about a 60 foot drop from the back tees. Your tee shot must carry a gorgeous little stream and a lake guarding the front of the green.

If you like big challenges however, just wait until you get to the greens. Beautiful, super fast, very true and contoured enough that you will be guessing at many putts, especially if it is your first time there. But it brought out the kid in “seasoned” men like my group. The putting surfaces were great fun and only made me want to come back and have another go at them. They had four sets of tees to choose from as well as three combination tees so you can choose your challenge from 7249 to 5807 yards. We were all 60+ years old and we had all we could handle from our tees, the 6437 yard “silver” tees – matching the hair of those of us that still had any.

The par 3s were particularly dramatic, with a drop in elevation of some 110 feet in one case and about 60 in another. All but one had a significant elevation change and required a mental calculation in picking the right club. That is if you could focus on your game and next shot instead of just admiring the view.

No matter what tees you choose don’t expect to walk. I’m not even sure they would let you, since the cart paths wander up, down and around between holes and cover quite a distance between some greens and the next tee. They must have spent a lot of bucks on those cart paths, which are not asphalt or concrete but made of red stone tiles. Because of some initial build complications the very nice practice area is adjacent to the first hole but is about a 5-minute cart drive from the pro shop. But I say, all the better to enjoy the views and let the anticipation of a great time build on the drive to the first tee.

The available accommodations are beautiful and well appointed with everything you need in the way of appliances for a multi-day stay. But there are only four condos to choose from so if you are planning on staying overnight you had better plan ahead and make reservations. One drawback is there are no close restaurants other than the course grill, which makes good short orders like burgers, wings and breakfast. But if you want something bigger you have to make a relatively easy, no traffic, 15-20 minute drive to the Happy Valley Parkway where you can find dozens of places to eat. What’s not to like in a place called “happy valley”?

I have no absolutely no hesitation recommending this golf course for anybody who loves golf. It would be my #1 course to play in a return trip to Arizona.


Editor’s note:  Author Kevin Clarke is now a resident of the state of Washington, but enjoyed a recent visit to Arizona, playing in a foursome which included three of his California pals. In the coming year we'll have more reports on more visits to interesting courses—most of them in California.

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