Raven Golf Club: Great Service and challenging golf as well

By Dave Thomas, Contributor

From the minute you pull up to the bag drop at the Raven Golf Club your golf experience begins. With a warm friendly smile the bag attendant takes your clubs, inquires about your tee time and swiftly takes your bag to the nearby range. As you enter the immaculate pro shop, you are greeted again with a warm smile and assisted promptly.

Unlike some clubs, range balls are included with your round, so given the time, you simply exit the pro shop and viola, the practice range. Full stocked with range balls, a large practice green and a chipping green all centrally located. This smooth transition from pro shop to practice area to first tee can be paramount to a relaxing, low scoring day.

Yet the day just keeps getting better. The service at the Raven is second to none as they have thought about everything to bring you the ultimate golf experience in the valley of the sun. You are escorted to the first tee where you are given general instructions about the course. More importantly you are handed a complimentary yardage book as well as extra tees, ball markers and a Raven ball mark repair tool. What could be better than this you ask? Well, each cart is equipped with its own cool mist system to help you stay cool on those hot summer days. Furthermore there is a water cooler attached to your cart to keep you hydrated. But if that isn't enough, there are employees on the course with coolers filled with cold, wet towels dipped in some type of mango juice-very refreshing on a hot summer day! Plus they have extra water for your cooler so you are never more than an arms reach away from a cool drink.

Yes, the service at the Raven is first class but so is the golf. Designed by David Graham and Gary Panks this non desert style track will surely bring you back. With four sets of tees this course measures from 5759 - 7078 yards. Offering bermuda fairways and bent grass greens, this is a definite players course.

The holes at the Raven are challenging, yet playable and offer a wide variety of looks. I can't think of one hole that was a carbon copy of the other. Each hole has its own personality and its own risk and rewards. With very little out of bounds, the course is more than fair and still keeps you on your toes. Playing from the back tees the par three 7th and 11th will definitely test your long irons and your putting. The greens are large and well kept, so a bad shot on the green can leave you in three putt territory so chose the right stick and get it close.

The par fives offer two reachable and two monsters. Unless you are absolutely crushing the ball the 4th and 17th are classic three shot holes measuring 596 and 593 respectively with 17 playing up hill. As if 593 yards wasn't enough they had to make this one up hill and into the wind! However, with the playability of the course you can spray the ball slightly and still find yourself in decent shape for your next shot.

The fairways are dotted with a number of well placed bunkers that are reachable and find the errant tee shot, so try to hit the boring straight ball. The rough is scattered with small to medium size pine trees that can cause some havoc for your second and third shots. But unlike some tree lined courses you are not in jail, so take a good rip at it from the medium length bermuda rough and you should be in pretty good shape.

The par fours at the Raven dictate your round. The 3rd hole measuring 477 will test just about annoys ball striking ability. With no bunkers on the hole it is your typical grip it and rip it par four. Playing slightly uphill, par is a great score!

The 5th and 15th offer a more sporty approach measuring 324 and 366. A long iron or a three wood on the 5th tee is the proper play to avoid the heavily bunkered landing area. Long left offers a great angle into the green where short right is sand world. Don't be fooled by the distance here. Put a good solid stroke on it and this is a birdie hole, if not you could be looking at an easy bogie.

The 15th is slightly longer but plays from a more elevated tee. This dog leg right calls for a long bomb drive over the fairway bunker or lay up in front or left of the bunker leaving you a wedge into the green. The hole sets up making you want to go right, but the shot you want is the easy draw or the power fade. This is another solid chance for birdie so take advantage of short par four.

The 18th is a great finishing hole completing a great golf experience. Playing 428 from the back tees you are faced with a ticklish second shot to the green guarded by water on the right. Avoid the three fairway bunkers on the left side and you have a good angle into the pin. Remember dry is good and going out with a par is always a good feeling.

There are a lot of courses that offer great golf, or great service or perhaps great food. The Raven at South Mountain goes one step further and provides you with all the above and more. This is a MUST play in the Valley of the sun!

Dave Thomas, Contributor

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