Lone Tree Golf Club is worth the drive to Chandler
CHANDLER, Ariz. -- Maybe life isn't fair, but it's nice to know there are some Phoenix-area golf courses that are -- courses that won't leave cacti thorns in your pants or scuff the numbers off the bottom of your clubs with hard pan. If you're down to your last sleeve of balls, need a little boost in confidence and wouldn't mind saving a few bucks while playing a solid course, check out Lone Tree Golf Club in Chandler.
From first tee to the last, you'll enjoy spacious fairways and greens. But wait; this course is not just one big pushover. You see, this course is good enough, and long enough from the back tees, to hold one of the annual qualifiers for the area's yearly PGA Tour stop.
Based on that fact, you can expect top course conditions from any of the four tees, which measure 5,001 yards from the front to 6,939 from the back. Sand appears on nearly every hole -- the first not included -- so if you decide to challenge yourself from the back tees, precision with the long, and short, irons will be key.
Designed by Darryl Wilson of the CMX group and opened in January 2001, Lone Tree G.C. is a semi-private club set throughout the 1,100-home Solera by Del Webb community in Chandler. Head Professional Greg Avant points out that the par-71 course is not the typical course you'd find winding through a living community.
"The idea was to not make it simply a linear golf course," he said. "Only four holes have houses on both sides of the fairway. Although the course is somewhat flat and playable, there are subtle turns and plenty of hazards."
Although you won't find any doglegs, and you won't get to take tee shots from the top of any mountain vistas, the traditional Lone Tree isn't without character. In fact, with par-5s Nos. 9 and 18, the course arguably boasts two of the better finishing holes in Greater Phoenix. These are two of the five holes in which you'll need to avoid the water.
Lone Tree Golf Club's ninth is rated as the toughest hole on the course and lives up to expectations, especially if the pin is placed anywhere near the left side of the green. A well-struck tee shot will leave you with a potentially perilous, albeit inviting, look at a carry over a lake that swoops well out to the front-left of the green.
Many golfers are seriously tempted to take a crack at it, as a steep upward slope to the back-right of the green collects shots that go long, the best place to miss because the lake curls all the way around to the back-left of the green leaving most golfers a chip or putt back towards the water.
Once you've conquered that monster, you can take a couple of deep breaths before reaching No. 12, which Avant calls the signature hole of the course. Although it's tough to see from the tee, this hole is nearly completely surrounded by water -- an island green with only a small piece of turf from which to enter at the back left.
The water in front of the green, and a bunker right, make this shot look a little more intimidating than it really is, as the green is plenty big enough from front to back to hold most balls on target. Playing at 176 yards from the back, this is certainly one of the most fun holes on the course -- hopefully your scorecard agrees.
New tee boxes at Nos. 12, 13 and 17 were recently completed, adding some length to a few holes on the back nine in order to make it more challenging. Once you get to these greens, and the others, you'll discover a fair share of undulation, yet sloping is gradual, so you'll almost always find putts inside 20 feet can be made.
After No. 13, a straightforward par-4 with no sand, and No. 14, a short and fun par-3 with plenty of beach, get ready to take on three of the course's four toughest holes as you close out your round.
Stay left of trouble, and there's plenty of it from tee to green, all the way down the right side of No. 15. The personality of the back nine continues to build on No. 16, the second of three par-4s in a row. Watch out for the fairway bunker right, and the greenside bunkers in front and to the left. Still, birdie is in sight.
Lone Tree Golf Club's 17th hole is the third par 4 in a row, another enjoyable and potentially rewarding hole that slides right off the tee. Try to cut the distance too much and three fairway bunkers await you down the right side of hole, 423 yards from the back tee. Drive the ball too straight and too long, and another fairway bunker will gobble up your shot. Steer clear of trouble and this is another potential birdie.
The final hole is a par-5 that sets up very similarly to the par-5 ninth. And the strategy in beating this hole is also the same -- if you miss the green, miss it long and miss it right. Once again, a lake guards the front and left portions of the green. If you get beat once at No. 9, don't get beat twice at No. 18 or shame on you.
"Those two holes have provided people with a sense of frustration more than a couple times before," Avant said. "But they're great finishing holes. For the most part, our course is user-friendly and a lot of fun to play."
And your pocketbook won't be much worse off either. Considering the course conditions and playability from four distinct tees, Lone Tree Golf Club is worth the drive to Chandler in southeast Greater Phoenix.
November 14, 2003