Anthem Country Club: What's New in Golf

By Shannon Gazze, Contributor

ANTHEM - Welcome to the community of the new millennium. We've just built your new home. To your right you'll see your new school. We just built that, too. Inside, your kids will work with new teachers on new computers.

Anthem Golf & Country Club
Anthem Golf & Country Club
Anthem Golf & Country Club
If you go

To your left you will see your new country club. Oh yes, and we've just signed on a new director of golf. His name is J. David Hockett and he comes to us from one of Golf Digest's top 100 courses.

Welcome to Anthem.

Imagine, everything around you, including the stores, the homes, the gym, the parks and the golf coursea, are newer than your Y2K model car. Imagine that you are so far off the beaten path that the city has to provide a new exit off the highway just for you. Yet you are hardly roughing it, with all the modern conveniences you could ask for at your disposal and just a forty minute drive to downtown Phoenix.

Well, imagine no longer. Anthem Country Club is quickly becoming a reality. The 3,800-acre Del Webb super-planned community located five miles north of Carefree Highway on I-17 is in full swing, and you can now preview the country club life on a one-time or limited membership basis.

Visitors can play Anthem for a daily fee of $148 after taxes and cart fees.

Also, until the homes are complete and the new members are in tow, Anthem Country Club is offering social and golf memberships to the general public. The privileges do not come cheap, but then again there is nothing cheap about the Greg Nash signature golf course or the lavish, and of course brand new, clubhouse.

From the elegant fireplace and architecture of the Persimmon Bar & Grille to the state of the art spa and equipment at the health and fitness center, it's pretty clear that no expense was spared.

"I think it's very much a hidden gem right now," Hockett said. "Most people are equating Anthem with Del Webb from the home standpoint, and we're trying to get them to understand that the golf itself is world class."

The golf course was designed with the same lavishness and attention to detail, as seen in even the practice facilities. There are four separate putting and chipping greens so you'll never want for your own hole. Not sure how far away the pin is on the two-way driving range? Just ask the attendant to pull out his laser scope and tell you. And you probably won't have to ask him to clean your club after you've used it, but tips would surely be appreciated.

Hockett's staff has already been the subject of rave reviews. It includes Head Pro Phil Johnston and four assistant pros. Johnston, who has been with Del Webb for 10 years, came to Anthem from his Head Pro position at Sun City Grand.

At your cart, you are greeted by a complimentary ballmark repair tool and a complimentary bottle of Anthem Country Club spring water. After perhaps a brief chat with the starter, the golf experience begins.

The first hole can lull you into a false sense of security with its reasonable length, wide open fairway and sparse trouble, but its greatest purpose is simply to move you along to the second.

No. 2 is the most beautiful hole on the course. Here the cacti and rosy-hued brush that line most of the course come together with rough stone mounding, cultivated flowers, fountains and waterfalls to create a spectacular backdrop for a fine 155 yard par three. Most of the water on the course is found behind No. 2, and isn't much of a danger to tee shots. It's sure nice to look at, though.

Anthem has a little bit of everything, including 300-foot elevation changes, arroyos, mounding, waterfalls and tiered greens, but a few of the finer qualities of the course really stick out.

First, the tee boxes are spectacular. There are several teeing areas on each hole, which provides maximum flexibility to keep the holes fresh and in good physical shape. And the uniformly awesome shape of the grass and dirt is a real joy. There are no dead spots and no hard spots. Just tee it up anywhere you like and you're assured a soft but firm feel that is often overlooked by groundskeepers as one key to a good round of golf.

Second, with water not really coming into play much, the bunkers take on a starring role as the trouble to avoid. Some of them can be downright nasty, including several pot bunkers sprinkled along the fairways. Others are wide and sprawling with high lips and soft, white sand.

Even if you are not hitting out of one or over one, it seems like a trap is on your mind with almost every swing.

Another signature at Anthem is a double green shared by its two par-4 finishing holes. No. 9 winds down a hill and over a substantial arroyo to the wide yet shallow lower half of the green. No. 18 also heads down the hill, but comes at the green perpendicularly to the ninth, making the green narrow and very deep for approach shots.

The best chance for a birdie comes on the 317-yard par-4 10th. A lake looming on the left edge of the green and hump in the middle of the putting surface make it a challenge nonetheless.

The prize for the most difficult hole goes to the par-5 16th. Measuring 581 yards from the tips, two very long shots are required to carry a large and menacing arroyo that crosses the fairway about 150 yards from the green. Playing safe, however, leaves you with at least 170 yards over a great deal of trouble into a small and obscured green.

As with any championship-caliber course, Anthem places a premium on accuracy off the tees. But a good approach shot will go a long way toward improving your score on the course. The greens are large, many with two or three tiers, and are well-protected. Narrow necks and front-side bunkers take the bump and run shot out of the bag on most holes, and landing on the wrong tier drastically increases your chances for a three-putt.

Overall, the course exhibits some challenge but much more beauty. The ratings/slopes are as follows: Black tees 74.5/139; Blue tees 71.9/135; White tees 68.2/124; Red tees 69.7/120. The distances range from 5326 yards to 7219.

To the layman, Anthem appears to be geared toward golfers with mid to low handicaps. The length from the blue tees will give hackers some trouble, as will the abundance of bunkers and the surrounding desert.

Anthem plays to a par of 72 and is well worth a look from visitors and golf connoisseurs in the Valley - especially considering that the course will most likely be private within a year or two.

Hockett says Anthem is considering building at least one more championship course, and will most likely have a permanent daily fee course available when all is said and done. In fact, the project as a whole and not just the course as it stands is the main reason he took the job.

"It's been an opportunity to go in and, from the ground up, set something up that's pretty special," he said.

Hockett wants to introduce people to high quality, high end golf for a reasonable price. And he should know a thing or two about good golf courses. He's played on the Nike and Tommy Armour tours and he came to Anthem from his Head Pro position at the Estancia Club in Scottsdale, ranked by Golf Digest as the third best course in the state and one of America's top 100.

With such a background, his words are high praise for Anthem:

"In my opinion, I would say that it is probably among the top five layouts in the Valley," he said. "But the condition of the golf course and the amenities of the clubhouse and the fitness center are as good as any in the Valley."

Shannon Gazze, Contributor

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