What started as a day trip out to Arizona turned into a two-day visit after some offers I could not refuse. With a round at Troon North being lined up for Thursday morning, I needed something for the afternoon. The plans came together fairly last minute, so I looked around all the booking sites and there weren’t any deals that were too exciting. Prices are just so high this time of year and any affordable options were pretty well booked up.
Red Mountain Ranch Country Club in Mesa turned out to be my best option with a 1:05 tee time for $69 (plus tax). I’ve always been somewhat intrigued by this course as a Dye design, so I went ahead and booked it.
It was very busy out here and I teed off around 1:15 with a twosome. One of the guys was literally a first-time golfer, so it was a test of patience. However, there was nowhere to go with groups stacked in front of us, so it really wasn’t all bad. Thankfully, it was a bit slower behind us and nobody ever pushed us too much. That’s usually when playing with a novice is a little stressful. Though it felt longer and slower, our round took about 4.5 hours to complete.
Red Mountain Ranch is considered a semi-private club as I believe most play comes from members. Public tee times are easily available most days, but I think there are some time restrictions.
As mentioned, this is a Dye design. GolfAdvisor lists both Pete and his son, Perry, as architects, so I don’t know the full involvement of either. The club’s website just calls it a “Dye design,” which usually leads me to believe that Pete was less involved (otherwise, they use his full name specifically). Regardless of who did what, this is definitely a Dye course as it has all the qualities and hallmark design features you would expect. There is lots of mounding, creative bunkering, funky little greens and some railroad tie walls.
At its longest, Red Mountain Ranch stretched out to 6,653 from the gold tees and then the blues (which we played) are only 6,034, which is relatively short for a par-72 layout. There is a combo gold/blue set if you want something in between. The course has some doglegs and elements that make it not seem so short. There isn’t a ton of trouble to get into off the tees, but positioning is important because accuracy is vital around the greens. These greens are somewhat small and have odd shapes. Then, there are false edges, mounds, shelves and bunkers (ranging from big, deep bunkers to sneaky little pot bunkers that the Dyes love to incorporate).
Undoubtedly the signature hole at Red Mountain Ranch is the par-3 11th. It’s flat from tee to green, but there is a water hazard short right and left of the green is a unique bunker complex lined with a cool railroad tie wall feature.
The other par-3 on the back nine (the 15th) is also great. It has you hitting across a little valley to a very unique green complexes. In front of the green are more of the railroad tie walls that line some grass bunkers/depressions that maybe were sand bunkers at some point. It looks like a Dye hole through and through, but also unlike any hole I can remember.
The 18th is also a strong finishing hole with another classic Dye green complex. This par-4 holes plays as a dogleg right from the back blue or gold tees, but is pretty straight if you play the forward tees to the left. The second shot is fairly intimidating with a water hazard short/right and some bunkers around the green.
As you can tell, I definitely enjoyed the layout. Unfortunately, the conditions left something to be desired. Troon North set the bar impossibly high in the morning, and that probably didn’t help my impression of Red Mountain Ranch. Still, in the middle of Arizona’s peak season, I expected more here.
It was really dry and somewhat thin throughout the course. The tee boxes were fine. The fairways and rough were patchy green and brown in color, with kind of a semi-dormant look with some inconsistencies in whatever overseeding they attempted. Some fairways were nicer than others and I definitely felt the back nine had better fairways overall. The fairways were definitely on the thin side, but I can’t really say I had too many bad lies during my round.
The rough was mostly not a factor with a lot of bare spots and it wouldn’t do anything to keep balls from rolling into the desert areas. The greens were good overall. They were firm with medium/fast speeds, and again I’d say the back nine seemed more filled in with the overseeded grass. The bunkers were raked well, but were very rocky with lots of pebbles and coarse sand.
If the course were in a little nicer shape visually (I would say it played a little better than it looked for the most part), I would have walked away with a really positive feeling about Red Mountain Ranch because I did enjoy the layout. If you like Dye courses, you will certainly find yourself entertained here. After years of rumors, it sounds like ASU Karsten (the more affordable and accessible Pete Dye layout around here) is finally going to close this May and that may add even more appeal to Red Mountain Ranch for local Dye family fans.
Some pictures from Red Mountain Ranch Country Club (3/28/19):
(Click on any picture below to pull up a gallery slideshow.)