Orange Tree Golf Resort an inexpensive, enjoyable diversion in Scottsdale
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Orange Tree Golf Resort was built in 1957, long before course designers decided the way to leave their mark was to build the biggest, baddest layout possible.
Narrow those fairways. Elevate those greens. Build steep bunkers and leave little room for error.
It's funny. So many folks complain about pace of play, but the real culprit -- the difficulty of the golf courses themselves -- is often overlooked. It's hard to complete a round in four hours when you're spending a few minutes on each hole looking for your ball in the desert.
Thank goodness, then, for courses like Orange Tree, which is located in Scottsdale but has little in common with some of its more famous neighbors like Troon North or We-Ko-Pa.
For one thing, Orange Tree, designed by Lawrence Hughes and Johnny Bulla, isn't a desert course. Hit your drive 40 yards right and the toughest predicament you'll encounter are the mature trees that line every fairway.
Also, Orange Tree is relatively tame in terms of length. From the tips, the par 72 plays 6,775 yards. Three of the four par 5s check in at 501 yards or less and only one par 4 is more than 410 yards.
Finally, the fairways are extremely generous -- you could land a 747 jumbo jet on most of them -- and there's easy access to the greens. Golfers will play more bump-and-run shots than they will flops, a rarity in this day and age.
Given those facts, Orange Tree Golf Resort probably isn't the best destination for the scratch golfer or low-handicapper. They'd likely find it too simple, too straight and too old-fashioned. But for the majority of golfers who still don't know where their ball is going from one shot to the next, Orange Tree will do just fine.
That doesn't mean Orange Tree is a pushover. Yes, birdies and pars are more plentiful than they are elsewhere, and average-length hitters often will have a short iron in their hand on approach shots.
But Orange Tree compensates for its distance with two other characteristics commonly found in older courses: small greens and well placed greenside bunkers.
Fifteen of the 18 holes have bunkers on both sides of the green. Given how small the greens are, it's easy to find sand and turn what should be an easy two-putt par into a bogey -- or worse.
The greens themselves don't have a lot of undulation, but they slope from back to front, making it imperative to leave your ball under the hole, even if that means coming up just short of the green.
The best holes at Orange Tree are the finishing holes on each side. The ninth is a 376-yard par 4 with water right that narrows the fairway and will drown any misguided shots. The 18th, however, is the queen bee at Orange Tree. A well placed drive of 250 yards still leaves golfers with a blind second shot because of a huge marsh that hides the green from view. When the pin is on the left side and completely out of sight, it's one of the scarier approach shots in the Valley.
Orange Tree Golf Resort: The verdict
Orange Tree Golf Resort doesn't pretend to be one of the Valley's elite courses. The range balls are yellow and the price reflects the course -- summer tee times range from $20 to $40. But it's a terrific compromise for golfers who don't want to play the local municipal but aren't quite ready for a place like Troon North.
An added bonus: The Orange Tree Golf Resort features 160 suites with private decks, and several stay-and-play packages are available. Also, the John Jacobs Academy provides lessons on the range.
All in all, Orange Tree is an inexpensive and enjoyable diversion. That's not such a bad thing.
June 11, 2012