This weekend goes to show what I’ll do in the name of finding new golf courses to play. Greenskeeper.org had an outing scheduled at Rams Hill Golf Club in Borrego Springs on Sunday afternoon (I’ll review that later this week). Unfortunately, I have played everything out there, so I had to expand my territory a bit.
On a couple of my previous visits to Borrego Springs, I had gone down into Imperial County first. It seemed to work out find to take care of all the really out-of-the-way courses in Southeastern California and offered a nice easy drive into Borrego Springs from that direction. On one of the visits, I even ventured into Yuma, AZ for a round, so it was the next logical destination to conquer.
As I did my research to look for courses, I was shocked at how many there were in this southwestern corner of Arizona. I thought there were only a handful and I might be able to visit them all in one trip. Very few of the courses have websites and limited information is available on most, so I had to scour satellite images, maps and various golf sites to track down what courses were there. I turns out there are 14 courses in the greater Yuma area!
If you extend the search area out a little bit to include Wellton, there are seven regulation 18-hole courses, one of which I had already played (Mesa del Sol) and one of which is private (Yuma Golf Club). Then there are seven short courses of varying shapes and sizes. I headed out there with a fellow course-collecting friend on Saturday to check out what I could before heading back toward Borrego Springs on Sunday.
We left my place around 2:00 am to account for a roughly four-hour drive and the time change crossing into Arizona this time of year. We were there and ready to play our first course…
Las Barrancas Golf Course • Yuma, AZ • 1/9/16
I had booked a 7:37 tee time over the phone, thinking we were getting a $29 weekend “early bird” rate that was listed on their website with no restrictions other than playing any time before 9:00. When we checked in, they asked for the full $49 rate. I brought up the website advertisement and it turns out that was meant to be for playing the back nine only. After a little confusion and discussion, we struck a compromise and they charged $39. Better than nothing I guess, but hopefully they learn to put more specific stipulations on their website because that deal was one of the main reasons I picked this course for the morning round.
We played as a twosome behind a threesome and another twosome, who all moved at a reasonably good pace. We never felt the need to try and play our way through, so we stayed back and finished in about 3.5 hours. It was freezing early on, but once the sun was up over the mountains it warmed up quickly and turned out to be a picture perfect day in the 60s without any wind.
Las Barrancas is the newest course in the area and it strikes me as something that was built in the midst of the golf/real estate boom, but stalled out with the recession. As it sits, the course has kind of an “unfinished” feel. It has a ton of potential because the layout is solid and the setting is interesting enough, but it’s not quite there. The winter conditions on the course didn’t help the appeal. I’m certain it looks much better in the spring and early summer, but it still seemed kind of rough around the edges in terms of its general presentation. The small trailer pro shop and dirt parking lot don’t help it seem too impressive either.
The front nine is a somewhat links style layout with a lot of native desert areas lining the holes and a mostly straightforward design. It’s a solid layout and not overly challenging. Then the back nine definitely gets more interesting with some more changes in elevation brought into play.
The two par-5s on the back stand out as the signature holes. The 10th has water on the right off the tee and then plays to a severely elevated green after a dogleg left at the end. The 14th has a quarry feel with rocky shelves edging the length of the hole on either side. The 16th is also a pretty cool par-3 with a downhill shot into a little canyon where the green sits.
I mentioned the winter conditions. The tee boxes had been overseeded and mostly played nicely. The fairways and rough were all completely dormant and brown with a lot of thin sandy areas, some west/mushy seconds and fairly “thatchy” bermuda turf that wasn’t always easy to play from. Around the greens, the course prettied up as the grass was kept greener. The greens were inconsistent, often bumpy and fairly slow, though.
One of the most interesting things about this course was the bunkers. As part of it’s links-inspired design, there were a lot of British style pot bunkers throughout the course. I liked this element. However, there was no sand in any of the bunkers. They were grass bunkers with more choppy rough inside. It was rather unusual. I can’t imagine this was the intended design, so I don’t know if they were converted at some point to save money and maintenance time. Or perhaps, they were part of the “unfinished” nature of this course and they never got around to putting sand in them. I think they would be better with sand (or maybe alternate some as sand and some as grass), but they are also not too bad as grass bunkers. Just something different.
Las Barrancas confirmed my assumption that Yuma is not one of Arizona’s destination golf towns like Phoenix, Scottsdale or Tucson. It’s not bad. It’s not great. The area is mostly snowbirds with RVs and senior residents, so it’s a more laid-back lifestyle and even though there is more golf than you think, it’s never going to be anything too amazing.
Some pictures from Las Barrancas Golf Course (1/9/16):
The rest of the day we played by ear to try and get the most golf in. We drove by Las Barrancas’ sister courses, the two 9-hole courses of Foothills (one is regulation and one is par-3). Unfortunately, they both looked very busy. We called two of the full-length courses in town (Cocopah Bend and Desert Hills), but they were all booked up. Then, we looked on GolfNow and found a 1:36 tee time at Coyote Wash. It was about 20 minutes east in Wellton, but it was our best option.
However, it was only around 11:00 when we booked the tee time, so we had to find a way to kill a little extra time until then…
Westwind RV & Golf Resort • Yuma, AZ • 1/9/16
This course is conveniently located right off the I-8 freeway, so it was easy to stop by and scope it out. I knew it was just a 9-hole par-3 course. We got there and the course was pretty empty, so we paid $12 and were teeing it up a few minutes later. We got around the course in about an hour and it worked out perfectly.
Westwind is part of large RV/mobile home park that seems to be primarily active seniors. We parked next to the pickle ball courts that were getting plenty of play while we had the golf course mostly to ourselves. The layout is pretty basic with tree-lined holes that sometimes feel a bit tight, but are still pretty forgiving. The greens are very small and most are turtle shell in nature, with the high points being in the middle.
The holes range from 78 yards up to 184, so it’s a pretty good mix of lengths and you’ll get to use several different clubs in your bag. The conditions were much greener here than Las Barrancas and the course was mostly in pretty good shape. The greens were rather slow and shaggy, but that’s pretty common with a little course like this.
Otherwise, there isn’t much to say about Westwind. It’s an okay way to spend an hour in Yuma, but it certainly won’t knock your socks off.
Some pictures from Westwind RV & Golf Resort (1/9/16):
We got back on the road after finishing at Westwind and headed east for our afternoon tee time…
Coyote Wash Desert Golf Resort • Wellton, AZ • 1/9/16
Here’s another area course with limited information online even though it seems to be one of the better options around. It is one I remember seeing from the freeway while driving to Tucson last year, but it took some research to figure out what it was.
It was a bit of a roller coaster experience at Coyote Wash as we showed up early for our 1:36 tee time. The guy in the pro shop warned us when we checked in that they were way behind. There was a frost delay in the morning, some slow players out on the course and they didn’t have enough carts. As groups were coming in, they were cleaning them real quickly and sending the next group out.
The guy was very nice in keeping us informed and even refunded our $15 green fee, though we were still welcome to wait around and play once he could get us out. At this point, we didn’t have anywhere else to go, so we stuck around and figured we’d play as many holes as possible before dark. We ended up going off a little after 2:00 along with another twosome. Because of all the cart delays, the afternoon groups were pretty spaced out and it took awhile before we caught any groups ahead. Though we initially thought there was no chance to finish, we were putting out on the 18th hole with some twilight to spare. It all worked out great in the end!
If Las Barrancas seemed somewhat “unfinished,” then Coyote Wash is no doubt a work in progress. The course is part of a bigger planned community that obviously stalled out somewhere along the way.
It consists of two very separate 9-hole courses located on either end of the development. The older course is by the clubhouse and has a lot of homes around it. The layout is rather basic and fairly uninteresting outside of a couple decent holes. Then, the newer course is located further to the west end of the property. It doesn’t have many homes around it, but the layout is much more interesting.
Because of the odd geography, the routing has you go out and back. You play the first six holes of the old nine before driving a long way (literally a mile-long cart ride) to reach the 7th tee. You play that whole nine before driving that mile back to the 16th tee. There is a snack shack on the newer side to provide some sense of civilization, but that’s about it. Otherwise, it kind of feels like a ghost town of a development that never quite came to be.
The conditions here were markedly better than Las Barrancas and provided much better winter playability. The tee boxes were okay. The fairways had been overseeded (though there were a couple that weren’t for some reason), and lies were generally pretty good. The rough was dormant, tight and easy to play from. I wasn’t in any bunkers, so no comments there. The greens were very firm and rather fast. In fact, the greens proved to be the most challenging part of this course. They have some tricky undulations and the pins were always in difficult spots. It was tough to get the ball to stop once it passed the hole and sometimes it would roll all the way off the green, so our group had many three-putts.
The real stories at Coyote Wash are the tough greens, unusually spread-out routing and the friendly staff. The older nine is mediocre at best and the newer nine is a solid desert layout with some character, though it won’t blow you away either. It’s an okay course overall that, like Las Barrancas, has potential to be something better but probably will never be as special as it was meant to be.
Some pictures from Coyote Wash Desert Golf Resort (1/9/16):
Coyote Wash concluded our Saturday in the Yuma area, but we stayed the night in town and were able to squeeze in one more quick round before leaving in the morning…
Ironwood Public Golf Course • Yuma, AZ • 1/10/16
This seemed like the best choice for a quick morning round before we headed back toward Borrego Springs. Knowing we would gain an hour going back into California made the timing work out perfectly. I had called ahead and made a 7:30 tee time, but that didn’t seem to matter as this course was empty while we were there. The pro shop was open and the lady inside was nice. With nobody else there, we waited around a little to get some more daylight and then we set off. Another twosome showed up eventually, but we pretty much had the place to ourselves for a quick and easy round.
The price was $13.50 and the course is walking only. It is flat, tightly compacted into the property and pretty basic, so it’s a real easy walk. Ironwood is a 9-hole executive layout that plays to a par of 31. The par-4s are all under 300 yards (one is only 202), but trickier than expected because of trees and funky angles that made it hard to try and drive the greens.
The par-3s here range from 100 yards up to 188 yards, so again you’ll get to use a variety of clubs. Beyond that, it’s rather simple with holes that run back and forth. The greens were similar to that of Westwind. They were very small and mounded in the middle, which made them hard to hold on approaches.
The greens were dreadfully slow. The rest of the conditions weren’t great. The maintenance seems pretty minimal here, so they probably mow the “fairways” and “rough” once or twice a week and whatever grass grows in is fine enough. There are no bunkers and just one small water hazard that comes into play on a few holes.
Beyond this, Ironwood is just a basic little local course that is ideally suited for seniors, youngsters and novice players. It’s a friendly and unassuming place that isn’t trying to be anything more than a rudimentary golf experience. It is what it is.
Some pictures from Ironwood Public Golf Course (1/10/16):