A Phoenix Four-Pack

After 36 holes on Saturday at TPC Scottsdale to celebrate my 800th (and 801st) course played, I was ready to go again on Sunday. I was definitely able to pad the course count even more with four rounds played!

After staying the night in north Phoenix, I was up early and headed seemingly to the middle of nowhere for my first round of the day…

Quintero Golf Club • Peoria, AZ • 8/28/16

I had a 7:07 tee time and was paired with a fun threesome. I think we were the fourth group off in the morning, so the pace was pretty solid. This is not really a quick-play kind of course, though, because it is very spread out. There’s a lot of driving between holes and even a really long cart ride from the pro shop and staging area up to the practice area and first tee. The overall layout of this property is a little unusual, to say the least.

Quintero strikes me as a development that either fizzled out or is taking a long time to grow. It really is isolated along Highway 74, kind of in between northwest Phoenix and Wickenburg. There don’t appear to be many houses around, which is nice for the course because you have so many great unspoiled views to enjoy. The scorecard makes reference to this course as the “Founders Course.” To me, that implies it was the first of what was supposed to be multiple golf courses in the community. I guess we’ll just have to see what the future has in store for Quintero.

For now, though, the isolation and remote location only add to the intrigue and appeal, a lot like Coyote Springs up in Nevada.

And just like Coyote Springs, you get one heck of a golf course at Quintero!

The layout was designed by Rees Jones, who is an architect I generally really like even if his style doesn’t exactly fit my game. I think he excels at creating very visually striking par-3s and dynamic par-5s with interesting risk/reward elements.

In my opinion, the par-3s and par-5s are what stand out most at Quintero. The collection of par-3s is fantastic. Each is beautiful, challenging and scenic. Three of the four feature very elevated tees, and they all have a variety of different tee boxes that can be used to mix up distances and angles. The 7th hole has the biggest drop-off from tee to green and an amazing view of the valley floor below, but the 9th is clearly the signature hole with another nice view and an intimidating little water hazard to clear.

I also liked the par-5s at Quintero a lot. The 14th is one of the best-looking long holes on the course, with a fairway that goes down and then back up toward the green. Two small mountain peaks frame the hole nicely behind the green.

However, the hole that really jumps out most is the 8th. You get a glimpse of this hole earlier on in the front nine, so I was anticipating coming back around to play it. For long hitters, this is a great risk/reward design. The conservative play is to lay up to the wide, flat fairway area to the left. Then the hole doglegs 90 degrees right as you hit your next shot over a big ravine, Then, you finish with a short approach shot to a severely elevated green tucked in at the top of a canyon. The aggressive strategy is to try and bypass that ravine and cut the corner. It’s pretty much a totally blind shot (you can see a little patch of fairway through the trees and brush), but if pulled off it will leave a fairly short approach to get on the green under regulation.

The layout at Quintero is certainly dramatic and quite challenging, and it is only enhanced by the great scenery. The course is very hilly and incredible views are around every corner, so I took a ton of pictures.

My only gripe with the layout was the amount of semi-blind, severely uphill approach shots. I kind of felt this way on my most recent visit to Cascata, another brilliant Rees Jones desert course outside of Vegas. For the most part, the only downhill shots at Quintero either come on the tee shots or on the par-3s. Otherwise, a majority of the longer holes have very elevated greens. It gets a little repetitive and tiresome having to use extra clubs on every approach shot.

The course was in excellent condition from tee to green. The tee boxes were ideal. The fairways were soft (maybe a little too wet in the early morning as we had a few balls plug) with good fluffy lies to hit from. The rough was kind of browned out on the first several holes (along the fairways and around tee boxes, but green and lush around greens). That was only on the first several holes, though. After that they were green, lush and beautifully kept just about everywhere you looked, with just some tiny weak spots here and there. The sand was soft and great.

After dreadfully slow greens at TPC Saturday, I was excited when the pro shop guy told me the greens at Quintero were running at around 11.5. The practice green did not disappoint with a very pure and slick surface. The greens on the course rolled just as quickly. Unfortunately, they were very pock-marked. It was more of a visual blemish with a lot of tiny brown spots from old ball marks. Most had been repaired, but it was always worth taking the time to flatten out any on your putting line. As long as you did that, you’d get a pure result. Longer putts through a bunch of spots were sometimes thrown a little off from any slight depressions on such slick surfaces.

The appearance and occasional bumpiness of the greens were a bit of a let-down, but only a minor grievance in my overall experience. I really liked the course layout, the service was excellent and the setting was awe-inspiring. It’s well worth the out-of-the way drive and I would recommend Quintero in a heartbeat.

Some pictures from Quintero Golf Club (8/28/16):

As the crow flies, my next course was not really that far away from Quintero. However, there really is no direct route, so I had to circle my way around to get to Sun City West for round two of the day…

Grandview Golf Course • Sun City West, AZ • 8/28/16

I’ve been out to the Sun City West 55+ community in the past with Greenskeeper.org. If you are okay with fairly no frills golf at a great value, then the seven courses here are worth considering. They are all open to the public, easy to access and cheap to play.

I played the Trail Ridge and Pebblebrook courses in the past, so this time I was slated to play two more. I started on Grandview Golf Course, which is one of the full regulation layouts here.

I teed off by myself around 12:30 and was finished about two hours later. The course was not busy at all. I did play through a few people, but otherwise enjoyed my own quick pace. It was pretty hot out, so I kept moving, though I don’t think it ever got over 100 on the day. I really lucked out with some moderate late summer temperatures in Arizona on both days I was out there.

There isn’t really that much to highlight about the Grandview layout. Like everything at Sun City West, it’s a solid course that’s pretty straightforward. What you see is what you get. The fairways are wide and the greens are never too hard to get at. That said, it played a little harder than it looked. I think that was partly because it played kind of long thanks to some extra fluffy fairways.

Considering the value of these courses, it’s impressive how good they keep the conditions during the late summer. Grandview was in great shape. The tee boxes were good. The fairways were definitely on the fluffy side. They did not provide much roll-out, but were pretty nice to hit from. The rough was generally very good, with a few inconsistencies here and there. The bunkers were crusty and relatively thin—probably the weakest aspect of the course right now. The greens were firm and were kind of the dry/crusty bermuda one might expect this time of year. However, they were rolling well at medium speeds. They had a similar look to TPC’s greens on Saturday, but actually rolled much better.

Good prices at Sun City West are easy to find. Don’t set your expectations too high for a dramatic layout. These are simplistic locals’ courses designed for a senior crowd. I have to admit the “Grandview” name kind of fell flat for me after playing Quintero earlier (which has truly grand views). Otherwise, I enjoyed my brief time there.

Some pictures from Grandview Golf Course (8/28/16):

While in Sun City West, I decided to check out one of the shorter courses in the community as my third round of the day…

Stardust Golf Course • Sun City West, AZ • 8/28/16

This review will be pretty quick. Stardust is basically a shrunk-down version of Grandview. It is an executive 18-hole layout that plays to a par of 60. It features three par-4s on each nine.

When I say “shrunk down,” I am referring more to the total yardage of the course because Stardust is no pushover. I played the blue tees and four of the par-3s are over 200 yards. The 6th hole is 225. The par-4s range from 325 yards up to 400, so this course has pretty legit length from hole to hole. You will use just about every club in your bag during the round.

The course was in very similarly good shape as Grandview. Good tee boxes. Pretty nice fairways on the par-4s. Good rough throughout that wasn’t too punitive. The bunkers were another step down as they were even more firm and crusty here. However, I’d say the greens were maybe a tad quicker with the same nice dry bermuda surfaces.

Hardly anyone was out there, so I played even quicker at Stardust. It’s a decent executive course and a good value like the rest of Sun City West. There are a few nice water holes, but it’s mostly pretty simple and straightforward. So again, set your expectations accordingly.

Some pictures from Stardust Golf Course (8/28/16):

My rounds at Sun City West went so quickly that I was done at Stardust by 4:15 or so. That left plenty of time for another round, even though I was felling pretty tired. I considered yet another round in this community, but decided to take advantage of some better deals I knew would be available at more desirable courses.

During my morning round at Quintero, the guys I played with were raving about the current conditions at this next course (which they played the day before). I knew it was fairly close by, so it was worth checking out…

Trilogy Golf Club at Vistancia • Peoria, AZ • 8/28/16

I called over and they said the course was pretty wide open. They also said the price was just $20 (plus tax), which is the same “online price” I saw when I looked on their website. That seemed like a great deal, and it was.

I teed off by myself around 4:40 and was finished about two hours later. I had to play through a few groups along the way. I was in full sprint mode as I ran on fumes, so I wasn’t slowing down for anyone!

The golf course was designed by Gary Panks and it is a very enjoyable layout. The topography here is fairly flat, but the mounds and contours give it a nice overall look throughout the course. There are many native desert areas with sections of long brown grass. There are a few water hazards. The course is framed nicely from an aesthetic standpoint.

Scenery-wise, Vistancia doesn’t quite measure up to something like Quintero, but there are no shortage of pretty backgrounds here. This is a more fully developed community, so houses line much of the course. However, they never feel like they come into play much at all. They are set back nicely from the course itself in most spots.

My favorite hole here was probably the par-3 17th. By the time I played it, the hole was bathed in evening shadows and that only added appeal. It’s plays over a water hazard and a desert waste area runs up the left side, with the sand running right up to the water’s edge. I like that style.

As hoped, the course conditions were indeed excellent. In fact, Vistancia rated the best across the board for me on this trip. The conditions were a little firmer out here, so I actually appreciated the extra roll-out on drives after so many soft and fluffy fairways. Still, the grass was lush, green and beautifully kept throughout the tee boxes, fairways and rough. I always had perfect lies and found few flaws anywhere. My only issue was with the bunkers. They had great sand, but every one I was in was littered with footprints. The greens were on the firm and dry side, so ball marks were few and far between. They were still reasonably receptive, and most importantly they were rolling very smooth and quicker than any of the other courses I visited this weekend.

For only $20 and a super quick pace of play, my time at Vistancia was hard to beat. This is a very nice course that’s well worth checking out. After my round, I decided to sit down in the Tap Room here, where I enjoyed one of the best wood-fired pizzas I’ve ever had. They had a great menu and I may consider coming back just for the food next time I’m in Phoenix!

Some pictures from Trilogy Golf Club at Vistancia (8/28/16):

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