Los Caballeros Golf Club keeps its dude-ranch roots alive in Wickenburg

By David R. Holland, Contributor

WICKENBURG, Ariz. -- So when Hopalong Cassidy, Clark Gable and former President Richard Nixon visited Rancho de los Caballeros -- a famous dude ranch dating back to 1948 -- did they tee it up at Los Caballeros Golf Club?

Los Caballeros Golf Club - Vulture Peak
Los Cabelleros Golf Club has humps, bumps and Vulture Peak views.
Los Caballeros Golf Club - Vulture PeakLos Caballeros Golf Club - no. 13Rancho de los CaballerosLos Caballeros Golf Club
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Los Caballeros Golf Club

3.5 stars out of 5 (based on 4 reviews)
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1551 South Vulture Mine Rd.
Wickenburg, Arizona 85390
Maricopa County
Phone(s): (928) 684-2704
18 Holes | Resort/Semi-Private golf course | Par: 72 | 7020 yards | Book online | ... details »

Nope, but one might be surprised that dude ranches started thinking about golf as far back as the 1950s. Many have access to golf courses, but a list of the best has to include Los Caballeros Golf Club, the Alisal Guest Ranch & Resort in Solvang, Calif., and the Flying L Ranch Golf Club in Bandera, Texas.

Los Caballeros Golf Club was constructed in 1979 by Greg Nash and Jeff Hardin (Red Lawrence trainees), taking rugged Arizona land that features views of Vulture Peak, the Bradshaw Mountains, saguaros, chollo and there might even be an orange tree next to your guest room.

The 7,020-yard par 72 is situated 2,100 feet in altitude making it a tad cooler in summer than Phoenix an hour away. The challenge comes in elevated, fast greens and many bumps and humps in the fairways with a sprinkling of bunkers and lakes.

No. 13 is considered one of the most challenging par 5s in the state at 605 yards. It has elevation changes along the route and the small green sits on an elevated plateau making accuracy difficult.

The layout features 14 of 18 greens with land that moves upward, so take more club than you think you need. And online you'll find tee times less than $100.

Innovation at Los Caballeros Golf Club

With a large group of ladies wanting to tee it up here, Ryan Labb, director of instruction, began thinking of ways to make it a better experience.

"I took some shot link data and came to the conclusion that most women and juniors hit the ball about 150 yards," Labb said. "So instead of the red tees being 5,264 yards I came up with an orange tee here that is 4,000 yards to make it more enjoyable for beginners, juniors and ladies."

The practice area at "Los Cab" is excellent and includes a large driving range, practice putting greens and short game practice area.

The Los Caballeros Clubhouse is decorated in the tones of the desert with a Southwestern flair. The Club Chef provides lunch from a fresh grill menu daily from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and dining is available inside the Clubhouse or on the patio overlooking the practice area and the Bradshaw mountain range.

One of the highlights of the day is the sunset running of the horses, that time of day when the horses get some exercise, and you can witness it while on the golf course.

Rancho de los Caballeros: Stay awhile for adventure

It is hard to believe that Rancho de los Caballeros, which included the Remuda Ranch at one time, was so rustic it didn’t even have TVs or telephones.

The swimming pool was hand dug in 1947, was the first non-rectangular shaped pool in Arizona and is heated to 78 degrees. Its pearl shape caused concern among architects who thought the shape was too daring. Over the years, the critics have been disproved, and the pool remains an example of sturdy construction, undergoing only its second resurfacing in 1990. An airstrip was built in 1951 to accommodate the private planes of early guests. The runway was 2,600 feet long and 120 feet wide and was once used by a DC3.

The corral holds a string of 100 horses, each with a different temperament and personality. It doesn't matter if you're an old hand at riding, or you've only been on a carousel horse before, ranch hands can give you the guidance you need and a friendly and gentle equine companion to make your horseback riding vacation in Arizona unforgettable. Beginner, intermediate and advanced rides are available, and with 20,000 acres of scenic Sonoran desert to explore, you're guaranteed a different trail ride every time.

Play tennis, cool off in the pool or perfect your shooting skills with trap and skeet. Tennis is offered at no charge, and balls and rackets are available at the front desk. Other activities include spa, nature horseback riding, team penning, jeep tours, ATV tours, saloon adventures, yoga, cook outs by campfire, hay rides, desert nature hikes, hot air balloon rides and the Caballero Kids Program.

Dining includes a full American plan of breakfast, lunch and dinner you add to your package.

Bunk down at Rancho de los Caballeros

Hand-crafted, Mexican-style furniture and an earthy palette of colors reflects the surroundings that make this Wickenburg ranch enjoyable. Each of the 65 rooms and 12 suites are appointed with comfort in mind. Panoramic views of the Sonora Desert await -- along with a window seat, a private sun patio that invites relaxation in the cool of the evening and a pristine starry sky you won’t see in a big city.

Want even more? Bird watching at the Hassayampa River Preserve could be on the itinerary, along with the Desert Caballeros Western Museum in town.

David R. HollandDavid R. Holland, Contributor

David R. Holland is an award-winning former sportswriter for The Dallas Morning News, football magazine publisher, and author of The Colorado Golf Bible. Before launching a career as a travel/golf writer, he achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force reserve, serving during the Vietnam and Desert Storm eras. Follow Dave on Twitter @David_R_Holland.

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