StoneRidge Golf Course: Helping Prescott Move Forward

By Rebecca Larsen, Contributor

PRESCOTT, AZ - Pretty soon golfers may think they're back in Scottsdale when they visit the little town of Prescott (pronounce that "press-kit"), just 90 miles north of Phoenix. That's because the golfing opportunities have taken a giant move forward here in the past few years.

To get a grip on what's going on, we visited two newer courses - one that opened just a few weeks ago (StoneRidge) and the other two years ago (Prescott Lakes Country Club)- in the Prescott area.

Newest off the tee is StoneRidge Golf Course in Prescott Valley, designed by Randy Heckenkemper of Tulsa, Okla., not exactly a familiar name for Arizona golfers, but he's someone who has definitely mastered and fine-tuned the concept of target golf. Heckenkemper, a former associate of star designers Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish, ventured out on his own in 1985 and also designed a fairly new target-style course, Sanctuary, in Scottsdale. Sanctuary is operated by SunCor Golf, the same company that developed StoneRidge.

StoneRidge Golf Course

StoneRidge (7,034 yards from the back tees, 4,953 yards from the forward tees) is a hybrid of the desert- and mountain-course styles that winds its way up and down for miles through brush-tangled, boulder-dotted canyons and ravines at about 5,000 feet of elevation - all of which could add up to a nightmare round for the average golfer. But Heckenkemper has designed the course, hidden in the Bradshaw Mountains, so that a smart golfer can play the slopes and curves to their best advantage. The fairways may be narrow and the greens may be hiding around blind turns, but once you catch onto the concept, instead of fighting the course, you'll be conquering it. A key to successful play is downsizing with your clubs on the tees, playing your long irons many times instead of your fairway woods.

Although StoneRidge just opened, grass was planted there about a year ago. SunCor Development will be building a lot of houses in the vicinity eventually, so now is a great time to play while all the arroyos and ridgelines look wild and natural. A tip for out-of-state golfers: Although this course is only about 90 minutes from Phoenix, snow falls here in winter. So the best play is probably from May through October. In mid-summer, try to start by 10 or 11 a.m. or you may not finish due to later-afternoon thunderstorms. You'll find summer temperatures in Prescott 15 to 20 degrees cooler than in Phoenix.

In general, Susan Rakozy, the head golf professional at StoneRidge, advises players, "If you're going to miss it, miss it short, because the fairways get narrower as the shots get longer. The same is true with the greens. If you miss them in front, it's ok. But if you go over, you're in trouble. You're either going to have a close putt or a long putt here. There are no in-betweens."

Some of the best holes here are the par 3s. Consider the longish No. 3 hole (247 yards from the back tees, 158 yards from the forward tees). You start out as on many of these holes, firing away from elevated tees, with each pad surrounded by brush. Depending on the tee, you have to pop your ball from 100 to 150 yards of scrub oak to a half-hidden landing site below. Unless you hit the upper part of the green, you won't know until you drive down to the hole whether you made it or not. The good news is that the green is in the middle of a bowl-like area and there's a good chance that your ball will roll the right way.

In fact, a lot of greens on this course will slope toward the hole and a lot of the stony walls that line the fairways will push your ball toward the middle of the turf. This didn't just happen; the architect planned it that way. In press material for the course, Heckenkemper says, "A lot of times on mountain golf courses, the shots are too difficult, which makes a course lose its appeal. That's why we were careful to examine the layout of each hole on this course and make adjustments that would help StoneRidge be more player-friendly."

Another blind hole that calls for finesse and strategy before you strike your ball is the par-4 No. 5 (383 yards from the back tees, 260 yards from the forward tees), a severe dogleg right. You start out hitting over a canyon to get to the fairway. You can't see the green off to the right; don't try to cut the corner across the brush because it's a nearly impossible shot. Instead, pick a club that can get you as close as possible to the 150-yard marker. At times, as you move toward the pin, it's going to seem to you as if the green is wider than the fairway. Accuracy with irons is more important than distance here, as it is on many of the holes.

Susan Rakozy says that her favorite hole is the signature hole, No. 12, a par 3 (230 yards from the back tees, 101 from the forward). Stony ridges and boulders surround this hole and serve as a backdrop for your target on the green. "My second favorite is No. 13. You're up in the hills all by yourself and you can't see any civilization there," Rakozy says.

Distance: 7,052; 6,463; 5,915; 4,953.

Ratings/slopes: 71.2/132; 68.1/124; 65.9/118; 66.9/125.

Rebecca LarsenRebecca Larsen, Contributor

Rebecca Larsen is a former features and assistant features editor for the Marin Independent Journal, a medium-sized daily paper located north of San Francisco. She has also worked for the Milwaukee Journal and for a Chicago public relations firm. She has a bachelor's in journalism from Northwestern University and a master's from the University of California at Berkeley.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • stoneridge

    Paul Andersen wrote on: Jul 30, 2009

    Besides We Ko Pa, Stoneridge is the best course in the state! From the people in the pro shop to the ranger you feel like a member of a private track.