Prescott Lakes Golf Club: Irwin Delivers a Public Treat
PRESCOTT, AZ - One of the newer places to play in the Prescott area is two-year-old Prescott Lakes, a 1,200-acre, master-planned community surrounding an 18-hole course that covers 150 acres all by itself. There are lakes, natural washes and wild grasslands here; views from the course take in the Granite Dells, Mingus Mountain and Thumb Butte - major local landmarks. Prescott Lakes is just a few miles away from StoneRidge Golf Course.
PGA legend Hale Irwin designed this par-72 private course that allows limited public play. "I think this could be one of the top courses in Northern Arizona where the public is allowed to play," says Mike Brechler, assistant golf professional at the course.
If you're interested in Prescott Lakes, it would be wise to play now rather than later as the eventual aim - probably in five or six years - is to turn it into a completely private facility restricted to members, residents of the development and guests at a resort yet to be built on the site. Although these two courses - StoneRidge and Prescott Lakes - are only about 10 miles apart, they have very different personalities.
You would never describe Prescott Lakes as a traditional course, but many holes do have very wide and open fairways. This course seems to favor the distance hitter, but accuracy is very important. There are many arroyos to cross and dry washes to avoid. On top of all that, there are several holes with serious water hazards and many fairway bunkers. Conditions here are superb, both on the fairways and greens, which are all watered with treated wastewater. The manmade lakes and waterfalls are pristine blue.
One unique feature about this golf/housing development is that the builder created several small parks filled with Indian petroglyphs found on site. Using this theme, a petroglyph symbol represents each hole on the course, as well as each of the six sets of tee markers. These are not the original "glyphs"; but they're realistic-looking replicas.
For example, the long hitters hit from the Black Bear tees at 7,216 yards; the short from the Roadrunner tees at only 4,724 yards. Mike Brechler advises players to pay close attention when picking which set of tees to use. "Play the teebox that suits your handicap because it will be grueling and tough if you play from tees above your skill level," he says. "Be especially careful when shooting for the greens and picking your spots," he adds. "The greens are very large and have a lot of undulation to them. It's better to be short of the hole rather than left or right or long."
The par 4, No. 2 hole, nicknamed "Horned Toad" (330 yards from the back tees, 226 yards from the forward), gives you a quick read on what you're facing here. All sets of tees offer shots across patches of desert to reach the fairway on this slight dogleg right. Your first obstacle is a fairway bunker about 200 yards from the back tees. The options are three: lay up in front of the bunker; play the left side of the fairway; or try to drive the green, which seems like a PGA Tour kind of shot. At the same time, avoid going too far left or you may splash down in the lake on the left side of the fairway. As you approach the green, be precise with your irons as the fairway narrows to about half its previous width and bunkers shield the green.
Many holes do resemble the format on desert-style target courses -- like "Wind," the par 5 No. 3 (554 yards from the back tees; 396 yards from the forward). Off the tees, there is open brush to cross to reach a narrow ribbon of fairway flanked by rocks and brush. To make par, skillful golfers may be able to hit a 210-yard second shot from the main fairway over a dry wash onto a second parallel fairway that gives them an easy approach to the green. Those with less courage will meander down the first fairway and lay up over the wash to the green.
Another par 5, No. 8, known as "Long Man" (601 yards from the back tees, 407 yards from the forward), actually has what looks like three fairways or maybe it's just one fairway, crossed twice by arroyos. If you don't watch your distance, it's easy to lose your ball. This hole is rated as the most difficult on the course and with good reason. No. 8 is the favorite hole of Dan Wickman, general manager of Prescott Lakes. "I think it's the best par 5 I've ever played," he says. "If you put the ball in the right place off the tee, you have a chance of getting on the green in two. I usually drive my ball to the bottom of the first fairway and from there it's a makeable 225 yards to the green. I have had an eagle there in the past and I've had a lot of double bogies."
Two of the most popular holes on the course are the par 3 No. 12 "Water" and the par 5 No. 18 "Snake" - both of which lay next to lakes with waterfalls on them. On No. 12, players face the longest forced carry over water on the course - 180 yards to the middle of the green from the back tees. The tee boxes are located on islands and you cross a bridge to get to the hole. But even if you stay dry, you face a challenging three-tiered green before you're finished. The many wooden covered bridges that cross over creeks and washes at Prescott Lakes are one of the trademarks of the course. They also serve as safe shelters for golfers during thunderstorms.
No. 18 (537 yards from the back tees, 393 yards from the forward), the signature hole, has a very narrow fairway that "snakes" along a lake and stream to get back to the clubhouse. Just as you get to the green, the fairway narrows down to a few yards and your approach shot can easily land in the bunkers that lie all around the green.
Distance: 7,216, 6,704, 6,275, 5,743, 5,299, 4,724.
Rating/slope: 72.7/132; 70.7/126; 69.0/121; 65.9/114; 68.8/128; 65.8/117.
Address and directions: Prescott Lakes is located at 315 Smoke Tree Lane, Prescott, AZ 86301. Take Highway 89 north two miles out of Prescott to Prescott Lakes Drive. Turn left and follow the road to Smoke Tree.
If you plan to visit Prescott
If you plan to play golf in Prescott, it's worthwhile to spend a night or two and take in some of the sights as well. Keep in mind that Prescott is especially crowded on weekends; so it's best to make reservations in advance. Possible motels are:
On warm Saturday nights, there is live entertainment and music at the town square surrounding the Yavapai County Courthouse on Gurley Street. Whiskey Row, just across from the courthouse, is a street filled with historic saloons. Learn a bit more about Arizona history with a stop at the Sharlot Hall Museum on Gurley Street where you can visit the first Arizona governor's mansion.
July 28, 2002