Character-filled Prescott Golf & Country Club a treat for seniors and women

By Chris Baldwin, Contributor

DEWEY, Ariz. - One of the first things you see at Prescott Golf & Country Club is a man in psychedelic-patterned pajama golf pants that would make Jasper Parnevik cringe. And no, there doesn't seem to be any orderlies giving chase. This pajama man appears to be in charge of a tournament, signing in a cast that's obviously played with each other a time or two.

One of the first things you hear about atPrescott GCC is the fruit trees that golfersare encouraged to help themselves to during around. Dennis Gallas, your large, loud,gregarious host on this visit, tells how heoften comes home from the course with his shirtsplattered with pear and apple juice.

"The first few times, my wife asked, 'Wherewere you?'" Gallas said. "I'd say golfing andshe'd just look at me with a, 'Yeah,right.'"

It's about this time, you realize PrescottGolf & Country Club stands as close to astuffy, stereotypical country club asAmerican Idol host Ryan Seacreststands to a true talent. This place is countryclub in name only. It is a semi-private club,very open for public play and its membership isabout as exclusionary as that old "We Are theWorld" song.

Of course, trying to break into the man withthe pajama-pattern pants' weekly Thursdayscramble is the equivalent of putting your nameon the Green Bay Packers' season ticketlist.

As Gallas sums up, "Somebody pretty much hasto die for you to get into thistournament."

Getting onto the course is an entirelydifferent matter. They'll let you play PrescottGCC to your swing's content. This isn't thecourse you go to for attitude. This is thecourse you go to for a low-stress good time.Being a little out of the way, Prescott GCCdoes not get as crowded as Antelope Hills , Prescott - and Arizona's -be everything tournament home. Yet, it doesharbor the same kind of fun-loving vibe.

The course isn't spectacular, but it isn'tspectacularly difficult either. It is the typeof track women and seniors love, providing avaried, decent test without feeling the need towow with anxiety-producing bells and whistles.Prescott Golf & Country Club measures 6,675yards from the back tees and a friendly 5,732from the fronts. The course takes a lot ofpride in keeping all its tees maintained to thesame quality, making sure the shorter hittersare not shortchanged on conditions orstrategy.

On No. 16, for example, all the tees givethe golfer the same type of test on thiscurving 391-yard, par-4. The forward tee testis 63 yards shorter than the back test, but itstill incorporates the best of the hole. Thisis typical throughout Prescott Golf &Country Club, a 34-year-old design that harkensback to a time when no-name architects (MiltCoggins in this case) concentrated on winningthe hearts of the average duffer rather thanputting together a course that looks better inglossy magazine photos than it plays.

There are no signs of a six-figure designerhere, no trace of ego on display. This is aboutas old school as old school gets.

Perhaps that's why you find so manyno-nonsense golfers at Prescott GCC. There aremore women-only foursomes out here than youfind on most courses. On this day, Gallas iseager to get out onto the course well before aregular 10 a.m. women's group tees off.

"Thoseladies like to play fast,'' Gallas said."They'll be speeding around the course andif you're right in front of them, slowingthem down...they'll let you know it. Youdon't want to be the group delaying theirround."

Gallas laughs. That scene from Sideways isn't so funny to most manlymen when it's a woman hitting down their neck.Rather than charge back down the fairway, withiron raised, a la Thomas Hayden Church, it'susually slink forward, with head tucked low inshame.

This is a course you can play quickly. Thebunkers are far and few between. Water onlyreally comes into play on two holes (No. 7, aforced carry on a par 3; and No. 18, wherethere's a decent pond tucked to the side of thegreen). There are not a whole lot of places tofind trouble or obsess over club selection.

And many golfers like it that way.

"It's a fair test of golf," Prescott localChuck Shumway said. "It has very goodconditions and there's a great group of peopleto hang out with. What more would youwant?"

Some golfers make their way to Prescott GCCafter finding more than they could handleelsewhere. Gallas, a club member who startedselling memberships after getting bored inretirement, tells of guys who bought intoPrescott's one-of-a-kind, forced-carrieschallenger Stone Ridge only to end up spending most oftheir time at Prescott Golf & CountryClub.

"Stone Ridge is just too much for them,"Gallas said. "They have the membership and thehouse on the course, but it's too much forthem, so they play us as their more regularcourse."

Prescott GCC does have one irregular holethat adds some character. The par-5, 510-yard18th has an oak tree smack dab in the middle ofthe fairway that plays with your mind onapproach shot. The branches are just enough of an nuisance to force most golfers to aim forthe left part of the green, right where thepond with a shooting fountain beckons. Getting to No. 18 is like stumbling upon an eccentricuncle after meeting perfectly normal family member after perfectly normal family member.

It's a little like, "Where'd this come from?"

Of course, then you're back at the club house, talking to the guy in the psychedelic pajama pants.

"A lot of people don't get these pants," Tom Conner said. "But I don't get a lot of people."

Sort of like Prescott Golf & Country Club. A lot of people don't get too excited about it. But those who do, swear by it as they swing away, day after day after day.

The Verdict

Prescott Golf & Country Club doesn't provide the sheer wonder of the nearbyPrescott Lakes Golf Club. It does not carry the kind of myth-making, ball-gobbling reputation of the nearby Stone Ridge Golf Course. Yet, somehow it might have an even larger, loyal following than both those Prescott ground breakers.

This is a course that strikes a blow for simplicity. If you want your golf basic but interesting, if you want your golf sans stress yet still somewhat strategic, this is the place for you. Prescott Golf & Country Club isn't going to dazzle, but it's rarely going to disappoint either. Coggins put in just enoughto hold your interest in his design,particularly on the back nine where there is more undulation.

The $45 non-resident greens fee ($35 after11 a.m.) explains a lot of Prescott GCC's popularity, but not all. This is more than a well-kept course in a temperate climate for a great price. It also carries a relaxed, almost family-like atmosphere. Hang out with some of these characters for an afternoon and you're apt to leave with your own nickname.

Not everyone's going to love this course.Some might think it's a bore. But those who do fall for the place usually fall hard.

Places to Eat

The best place to find grub with character is Prescott's downtown Whiskey Row. Murphy's((928) 445-4044) is just one of the places on the National Register of Historic Places in this Old Wild West area. Nearby, Rose Restaurant ((928) 777-8308) is supposed to have the most creative menu in town, heavily Italian. Rose is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, though.

For something more familiar there is a nearby mall with the usual suspects in a food court.

Chris BaldwinChris Baldwin, Contributor

Chris Baldwin keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment