Arizona Weekend, Days 1 & 3: The Beginning and End

After getting back from a little weekend road trip to Arizona late last night, it’s time to start getting caught up on all my reviews and photos. I was trying to decide how to break up the trip into a couple of posts. Normally, I’d go chronologically, but I decided to start with the beginning and the end of the trip in this post. Day 2 will be covered later this week.

This road trip found a golf buddy and I playing together for all four rounds we played. We hit the road after a half-day of work on Friday, and of course, we stopped along the way for some golf…

Indian Palms Country Club • Indio, CA • 10/4/6

We were looking for something relatively inexpensive for this round. Conditions are so tough to predict this time of year in the desert with courses drying out in preparation for fall overseeding, just coming out of their overseeding or completely closed while overseeding. Mainly, we wanted to save our budget for golf in Arizona.

After scouring the web for the best golf deals, we came across a booking site called golf18network.com. They don’t represent that many courses compared to GolfNow, EZLinks or Click4TeeTimes, but they had the best rate for us Friday. Other booking sites (including Indian Palms’ own site) had the afternoon rates here at $50 or more, but golf18network had times for only $20. We were wondering if there was some sort of catch, but everything worked out just fine and it was a steal of a deal!

Our time was 1:28 and there was hardly anybody out there when we arrived. We played the Indian and Mountain nines. The Royal nine is closed right now for overseeding. As a 27-hole facility, they have the luxury of only having to close one course at a time for maintenance. We enjoyed our own quick, but relaxed pace as we never ran into any other players out there. It was ideal.

Indian Palms is another of the old school country club courses in the desert like Rancho Mirage, Woodhaven and Palm Desert CC to name a few. It has some similarities to those and likewise won’t blow you away like some of the more dramatic resort courses in the area.

The Indian nine starts you out with one of the more awkward opening tee shots you’ll find anywhere. The first hole is a short, but severe dogleg left, but the corner is closer to the tee than it is the green, making for some interesting decisions. If you can play a big draw/hook, then you can really take advantage of this hole. If you play a fade like me or even a straight ball, it’s not so comfortable.

Beyond that the course is pretty straightforward, but it plays pretty tight from tee to green. There are some quirks like the palm tree in the middle of the 3rd fairway on Indian and a few tricky angles to contend with, but keeping the ball in the fairway is the key here. Trees and houses (O.B.) line every hole and create some narrow chutes to contend with at times.

The course tends to be more intimidating when standing on the tee than when you are approaching greens. Outside of a handful of holes, most of the greens don’t have much protection at all. So if you keep your tee shot in the fairway, you can be aggressive on your approach and post a good score. But spray your ball just a little offline from the tee and you will not have an easy time out here.

Overall, I definitely liked the Mountain nine better than Indian. I thought it had a better overall “look” and the layout seemed more enjoyable. My biggest complaint is that all the par-3 holes we played on the Indian/Mountain courses were rather boring.

The course was in good playable shape. Obviously it was fairly dried out this time of year and there were some thin areas, but I mostly encountered good lies in fairways. The rough was very short, so it was easy to hit from. I wasn’t in a bunker, but some I checked out looked pretty terrible and others I noticed looked decent. The highlight was definitely the greens. Though the surfaces were pretty dry/crusty on top and didn’t look that pretty visually, they rolled very, very smooth and true. They were fairly receptive, as well.

There are many other courses in the Coachella Valley I would recommend over Indian Springs in the “medium” price range where it sits, but if you get a good rate it’s a fine option.

Some pictures from Indian Palms Country Club (10/4/13):

Indian Course:

Mountain Course:

Saturday found us playing two rounds in Arizona at SunRidge Canyon in Fountain Hills and Longbow in Mesa. I will cover those in a separate review later this week since that was really the highlight day of the trip.

So let’s skip ahead to Sunday. After all this was our main excuse for planning this trip…

Pebblebrook Golf Course • Sun City West, CA • 10/6/13

As we did earlier in the year at Sun City West’s Trail Ridge Course, Greenskeeper.org organized another little Skins game outing here. Pat from Sun City West really helped create a fun event last time, so why not try it again on one of their other courses, Pebblebrook?

We started play around 10:30 with five groups of players vying for skins. They gave us a great golf rate of just $25 a player and then it was a $14 cash buy-in for the skins game. A lot more skins were won this time than last time, so the payouts weren’t quite as nice, but I did manage to win one skin with a birdie on the par-3 11th hole and walked away with a $18 prize for a slight profit!

Of the two courses we’ve played at Sun City West (they have seven courses now open to the public), I probably preferred the Trail Ridge course a bit more than Pebblebrook. Neither are very flashy, but Trail Ridge had more of the desert feel I want when playing in Arizona. I think it’s also more challenging.

As for Pebblebrook, it’s a solid course on all levels. It looked and felt like many Inland Empire courses here in Southern California. These are courses I like, so Pebblebrook fits right in, but when I’m on vacation I generally look for something more dramatic and representative of the unique local landscape. Luckily, we got plenty of that on Saturday, so Pebblebrook was a nice comfortable, relaxed way to end a fun weekend.

I don’t want to paint the picture that Pebblebrook is boring. If I lived in the Phoenix area (especially the western side of town), this would probably make the regular rotation as a very affordable and quality option.

The holes that stood out to me most on Pebblebrook are the first three out of the four par-3s. These are all very nice-looking holes, albeit somewhat similar with one another. Each features a water hazard on the right and greens that slope severely from back to front. The 11th probably brings the water most into play with the tee shot playing directly over the lake.

I thought the course was in very good shape considering it’s about to close for overseeding in a couple weeks. Everything was a bit dry and starting to brown out in many places, but the playing surfaces throughout the fairways and rough were excellent. I always had a great lie wherever I was. The one bunker I was in on 17 had good soft sand. The tee boxes were also nice and level.

The big story of this course Sunday was the greens. Man, were they an adventure! They were lightning fast and terrifying on downhill and side-hill putts/chips. They had very firm surfaces and were impossible to hold if you hit a low runner, but actually held well-struck high shots pretty nicely.

I wouldn’t drive five hours just to play Pebblebrook (or Trail Ridge), but both of these GK skins game outings have been a ton of fun and have provided the perfect excuses for a couple of wonderful golf trips this year.

Some pictures from Pebblebrook Golf Course (10/6/13):

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