Club West Golf Club: Plenty of Advantages in the Mountains

By Michael Hegarty, Contributor

PHOENIX - If you have trouble just deciding what club to hit on par-3s, you're in for a real dilemma on the 17th hole at Club West Golf Club in Phoenix.

The course's most distinct hole offers golfers the option of two separate greens to choose from. It's not like other double-green courses where the tees dictate which flag you shoot at (like the one at SunRidge in Fountain Hills). Here, the elevated tee boxes are the same for both pins. It's up to the golfers to pick which green to shoot at. One plays around 150 yards, the other about 200 yards.

"It allows people to chose rather than having us chose for them," said Richard Wright, Director of Golf at Club West. "It's easier for them, because if they're not that skilled and don't want to take the risk of hitting a longer iron, they can shot for the closer pin."

It's probably the smarter play for most golfers, yet that doesn't seem to be the one most aim at.

"Due to peer pressure, a lot of people go for the back green," Wright said.

But don't worry about having to make these kinds of decisions on the other 17 holes, there's just one green, per tee box, yet the club selection is important throughout the whole round on the par-72 championship course.

Tee shots must carry the desert on nearly every hole with plenty of bunkers (often filled with rocky sand) throughout the generally wide fairways and protecting the gentle, yet undulating and often tiered, greens. There are plenty of doglegs on this traditional desert course that offers little rough before letting balls roll into the natural landscape that borders the fairways..

While courses like Raven, The Legacy and The Pointe use the north side of the South Mountain as a backdrop, Club West actually winds up and down the mountain that provides a barrier from downtown Phoenix. However, this also makes Club West more difficult and harder to get to for Valley golfers.

Wright admits the other courses are just minutes from downtown Phoenix (whereas Club West is at least 30 minutes) and "we're not easy from an access standpoint," yet he likes the advantages Club West presents since it lies in the mountains, providing elevation changes on nearly every shot.

"The courses on the other side are further away from the mountain. We have lots more elevation changes and our views are scenic without having to look at downtown and the smoggy air that goes with it," Wright said.

Club West, though, isn't out in the middle of nowhere, at least not anymore. When Brian Whitcomb designed the course in 1993, "it was all desert," Wright said.

Now, with the area having grown 143 percent in the past decade, the growth is evident around the course that sits in the middle of a fully developed community.

Homes border each hole, adding an out-of-bounds that might not have originally been there. Yet golfers still have some room to work with between the fairway and OB before dropping another ball.

"The landing areas are very generous which makes the homes appear to be farther off," Wright said.

Indeed, the fairways are wide, but depending on where you tee it up - 7,142 yards from the Black tees, 6,585 yards from the Blues or 6,200 yards from the Whites markers - determines if you can even pull the driver out of the bag.

"If you're all the way back, you better hit your driver," Wright said. For those playing up, that's not always the best club. "It's smart to know the course because there are areas you can hit through with your driver."

The first tee lets you knock it into play with a long iron or 3-wood on a modest par-4 that doglegs left with bunkers to catch any drives too deep. No. 3, the first par-5, is reachable at 457 yards from the Blues (and 521 yards from the Blacks), but be aware of the arroyo short of the green on the right side.

The other par-5 on the course, No. 8, is guarded on the right side by a concrete drainage ditch that bisects the fairway about 75 yards short of the green. The final hole on the front is the longest par-4 on the course, 432 yards from the Blues (470 yards from the back) that requires two big shots. The sunken driving range is right of the fairway so keep the ball left.

The back nine opens with a short, and easy, par-4 of 320 yards (335 yards from the back) but it's best to just keep it in the fairway and attack the green with a short iron. No. 12 has a pond on it, but it doesn't really come into play on the par-5 that really is three shots, measuring 581 yards from the Blues (606 yards from the Blacks). An arroyo divides the fairway, but there's plenty of room to work with on both sides to lay-up accordingly.

The mountainside tee shot on the par-3 15th is not as big a drop as it appears since the green also is elevated. Just one less club should do the trick on the hole that plays between 143 and 170 yards.

No. 16, the final par-5, is a dogleg right par-5, with homes tight on the left side and a fairway that climbs back up to the green. If you have to win one hole, try this one since honors could make a difference on the 17th. Whichever green you end up shooting at on this par-3 - either 157 yards from the Blues (164 yards Black) or 208 yards (and 215 yards ) - err on the side of the other green since a playable grassy area connects the two.

No. 18 breaks the mold set on the rest of the holes, by having a tight fairway, that breaks off on the left side with heavy rough and is 422 yards from the blue tees (440 yards back). Finally, water comes into play, guarding more than half the green from the right side. Bunkers are short of the putting surface on the left side to grab any overzealous lay-ups.

The good news is, a spacious clubhouse sits on the other side of the lake, just short of the quiet side of South Mountain and the perfect place to recoup before heading back to the hustle and bustle of Phoenix.

Club West Golf Club
16400 S 14th Ave
Phoenix AZ 85045
Phone: (480)460-4400

Perfect Time to Pay: If you can weather the heat, now is the best time to play the course at reduced rates. Through June 3, Club West charges $49 Monday-Thursday, $59 Friday-Sunday, with the rates dropping to a season low of $39/$49. Green fees peak at $115 during the cooler, busy months.

A Quick Double-Header: The only other course on this side of South Mountain is The Foothills Golf Club, a public 18-hole championship course designed by the award-winning team of Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish. The par-72 desert-links style course is just five minutes away from Club West, the perfect location for those looking to get in 36 holes.

SunCor Players Club Card: SunCor Golf offers golfers a $250 card that gives 50 percent off tee times Monday-Thursday and 25 percent discounts Friday-Saturday at their six courses throughout the region. Besides Club West, there is SunRidge Canyon in Fountain Hills, Sanctuary Golf Course in Scottsdale, Palm Valley's 36 holes in Goodyear, Sedona Golf Resort, and Coral Canyon Golf Club in St. George, Utah. The card, which is valid through December 31, 2001, can be purchased at any of the participating golf course pro shops or by calling SunCor at 602-285-6800.

Michael Hegarty, Contributor

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