The Raven Golf Club at South Mountain: Great Opportunities

By Dave Williams, Contributor

PHOENIX - The staff at The Raven Golf Club at South Mountain in Phoenix says their goal is to provide an enjoyable golf experience for all of their guests. Anyone who plays Raven Golf Club can testify that the staff is successful in reaching and even surpassing their goal.

The Golf Club has been rated #1 for the finest service in the state by the Arizona Republic. The service is evident from the moment you arrive and continues until you get in your car to leave.

The Raven Golf Club at South Mountain was also nominated for "Best New Course" in 1996 by Golf Digest. The course was designed by U.S. Open Champion David Graham and Gary Panks.

When they began the layout, Graham said he knew they had something very special. The features include views of Phoenix and South Mountain, deep bunkers, undulating greens, rolling fairways, and water. The course is very challenging, but is playable for any level of golfer.

In many instances, missed fairways will not always mean lost opportunities. Maturing pine trees don't pose the problems you would expect. What you can expect is a great day of golf at The Raven Golf Club at South Mountain.

A smiling staff member meets you at the bag drop or where you have parked your car to relieve you of your clubs. The Clubhouse is nicely stocked with golf clubs, clothing, gloves, and balls. The Raven Grill is available for breakfast and lunch before and after you play.

After checking in, you will find your bag on your cart near the practice facilities. A large range affords you the opportunity to get loose or work on your game. Practice balls, which are stacked in pyramid form, are provided.

There are several targets in the range to check your accuracy. Staff members are available at the range in case you need any assistance. There is also a refreshment area at the practice area, which is between the 9th and 10th holes.

The par 72 layout has four sets of tees, ranging in length from 7,078 yards to 5,759 yards. The tournament tees are recommended for 0-5 handicaps, Championship tees for 6-11 handicaps, Regular tees for 12-20 handicaps, and Forward tees for 21 and above handicaps. For the purpose of this review, we will use the Championship tees (6,722 yards.).

The first hole has no secrets. It's a straightaway 417 yard par 4. If you miss the fairway, you may find your ball in a sidehill lie due to hills lining the fairway. After your drive, it will be easy for you to find your distance to the flag. The carts are equipped with the PROLINK system that will tell you your yardage to the pin, as well as the pin placement and pro tips on how to play the hole.

The pro tips are from PGA Tour pro Andrew Magee, a Phoenix area resident who represents the Raven Golf Club on tour. The fairway is clear of any bunker, but the two-level green is protected on the left side by the first of many deep bunkers you will see on this course.

The first par three is the short 132 yard second hole. The yardage doesn't make it an easy hole. There is a greenside bunker front left and water in the back for shots that fly the green. If the pin is back left, the hole can be difficult if you go for the flag. If you play it safe and are in the right front of the green, you are faced with a long uphill putt. The third hole is the first of several long par 4's.

Fortunately there aren't any fairway bunkers, but you will be faced with a long iron or fairway wood after your drive. The fairway is also slightly uphill to the green on this 459 yard hole, which is the number one handicap hole. No greenside bunkers, but a four is still a very good score here.

A fairway bunker on the left on hole number 4 awaits a drive to the left. A ball in that bunker will make the 577 yards even longer. Keep the ball on the right side of the fairway for a good approach shot to the green.

A large bunker stretches from the front right to back right of the green. Smart play will give you a chance for a birdie. Number five will give you a bit of relief. The short 303 par four is a dogleg to the right, protected by a series of bunkers started from 94 yards from the green and ending with a deep green side bunker you must carry.

A ball over the green may find a bunker in the back. The 408 yard par 4 sixth hole has a fairway bunker and water on the left, mounds on the right. A bunker protects the right side of the green.

Number seven is a long par 3 with a long narrow bunker stretching for about 140 yards to the back leftside of the green. To the left of the bunker is water, so play it safe to the right. Even if you miss the green to the right, you can save par with a chip and a putt.

Water also can come into play on the 400 yard eighth hole that doglegs to the right. At the dogleg is a pond that is easily reachable. Protecting your drive too much may bring fairway bunkers on the left of the fairway into play.

Two deep bunkers are left greenside. The par 5 ninth hole can be reachable with a good drive. Watch out for the three fairway bunkers on the right and the bunker on the left. A second shot coming up short could land in bunkers to the right of the green or a bunker to the left. Go for the green and you could end the front nine with a birdie.

The back nine begins with a 378 yard par 4. A drive to the right will find one of two fairway bunkers. A drive left center is best for an approach shot to a green that slopes to the right. A 171 yard par 3 number 11th hole has a left greenside bunker. This bunker surrounds a smaller deep bunker. Mounds surround the green to the back and right. Play to the fat part of the green and be happy with a three. Another reachable par 5 is next, but stay out of the left fairway bunker.

The right fairway bunker shouldn't come into play. Try for the green. Even if you come up short you will be in a good position to chip and putt. Unless, of course, you land in a bunker to the right of the green. A long shot to the left may find a back greenside bunker. It's a 499 yard hole that can give a stroke or two back.

Hole number 13 is a shorter 370 yard par 4. There is no fairway bunker, but your approach shot must clear a deep greenside bunker that begins in the front left and extends to the right side of the undulating green.

Two greenside bunkers protect the number 14 par 3 green. Although only 148 yards, this can be a tough hole. If you play it too safe, you could end up in a greenside right bunker. Be on the right level and you will be safe.

Number 15 is a short 344 yard that doglegs to the right. Play to the middle of the fairway because of a fairway bunker on the right. Take plenty of club for your approach shot. A shot coming up short of the green will roll back and you'll be chipping instead of putting.

Now that you enjoyed the short par four, get ready for the 430 yard number 16. Three fairway bunkers line the left side of the fairway. A low approach shot could run up onto the green, which is protected only by a bunker to the right. Get your four and go on to the 576 yard par 5 seventeenth hole, the number two handicap hole.

Not reachable by any means in two shots, play it for three, leaving yourself a wedge to the undulating two level green. The only hazard on the way is a fairway bunker on the right to catch any wayward second shots.

Eighteen is a beautiful finishing hole. It's 406 yards long. There are three fairway bunkers on the left. Water is on the right and comes into play on your approach shot. Better to play to the left side of the green and two-putt for your par and finish your round on a positive note.

What you can expect is a great day of golf at The Raven Golf Club at South Mountain.

The greens and fairways have always been found to be in great shape. The staff has assistants that will greet you during your round to help pick up a club or two, or even rake a bunker for you. In the hot summer, they supply cold wet towels. Enjoy the service and the outstanding layout.

Beverage carts circulate the golf course. For those who are staying in Phoenix, there is a separate Learning and Performance Center. The teaching area is as large as the driving range and has its own building for conveniences.

Before, during, or after you play don't be surprised if you see some celebrities. Charles Barkley plays at the Raven Golf Club often and the golfers on the Arizona Diamondbacks baseball team have also been sighted occasionally. Green fees range from $75-$150 including a cart.

How to get there

From Interstate 10 Southbound exit on Baseline Road. Turn west (right) and about two miles down Baseline is The Raven Golf Club at South Mountain-Phoenix.

Raven Golf Club at South Mountain-Phoenix
3636 E. Baseline Rd.
Phoenix, AZ. 85040
(602) 243-3636

Dave Williams, Contributor

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