Have 10 bucks? Get on course at Scottsdale's Cypress G.C.
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - Turn the other way on McDowell Road, away from all the developments and blanketing strip mall shopping areas, and you're in big rig country. As the trucks roll past, you might look over and catch sight of a low level building with a nondescript sign reading Cypress Golf Course.
It looks like an out of the way, worn down golf spot you'd have to be in the know to find. Yet the parking lot tells a different story. There are cars with Wisconsin and Minnesota license plates, almost as many out of towners as Arizonans.
Which goes to show what paying $10 to golf means in a land where $100 courses can be considered reasonable and $200-plus courses are not that unusual. That's right, Cypress Golf Course gives you golf for 10 bucks late in the day. In Scottsdale.
What's next? Oprah goes on Dave Letterman? Oh wait ...
The unexpected sometimes eventually does happen.
In the case of Cypress, that means a 3,393-yard Long Nine par 36 or a 1,474-yard Short Nine par 29 for less than what some people drop at Starbucks in a day. The first time anyone shows up at Cypress and is asked for a mere 10 bucks to play there's often a lot of blank stares.
You can pay more to ride a cart, but you don't need it. More often than not, the guy behind the counter is going to wave for you to go ahead and use one of pull carts stacked on the side for free.
Now you're not getting
Troon North for an Alexander Hamilton. Or anything close. Cypress isn't going to wow even a beginning golfer who's only seen a few courses. It is in much better shape than the beloved Coronado Golf Course, for example, though.
The conditions are not the challenge here like at many bare bargain courses. Cypress lets you hit fair golf shots with more than decent lies. The greens roll true. It's not close to perfect proven high-end resort course conditions, but it's much more than 10 bucks worth.
"I stumbled on it one trip, just flipping through the phone book in the hotel room," Wayne Hrdziak of Minnesota said. "And now I come out here at the beginning of almost every trip. It's a good way to get the winter rust off.
"You spend two hours playing the Long Nine and you're pretty much ready to go."
Laughing, Hrdziak's buddy, Cole Bryar, said, "Yeah it's saved me shooting many a hundred."
Cypress is ideally used like antifreeze. It's protection from long layoff game corrosion. Or a quick stop to get in a few swings late in those long Arizona winter days.
But it still pays to know it's there when you're on that vacation. It's always useful to have a golf version of that neighborhood dive bar that's not such a dive.
The Long Nine is the most wide open, level golf look you're likely to ever see in two golfing lives. Iowa cornfields would think Cypress Golf Course was flat. This isn't just playing golf in a wide open field. It's swinging in a plain that looks like an alien spacecraft landed and uniformly flattened it.
On the first hole, it's so straight ahead it's hard to even see the pin when the sun's shinning bright. No contours or elevation changes of even a few feet can make a 495-yard par 5 look as long as a mile. If a golfer doesn't look at the kid sketch scorecard, he's liable to become convinced the hole must curve at least a smidge and send a shot whizzing onto the adjacent Short Course No. 7.
That's the only really major quibble with Cypress. It's about as well marked as a backwards dirt road in rural Virginia.
Not that backtracking is any great trouble as long as Cypress isn't crowded. Most of the holes are close together.
Which doesn't mean you're in much danger of hitting another hacker or even having to shout, "Fore!" Cypress fairways are so wide, you could be excused for thinking they were designed for those nearby big rigs to roll down.
It's possible to hit it off your fairway certainly. But that would probably take extreme effort and a lucky bounce. On this late afternoon, no one even came close to managing the trick. This with a mother and son combination playing ahead of our group that had trouble standing getting out of their golf cart, beer cans in hand.
Cypress Golf Course is one of those fun finds, a place where guys in flannel shirts driving pickup trucks and guys in polo shirts driving BMWs take equal delight in paying $10 to golf.
The Long Nine isn't without its interesting features either. There's a little tree in the middle of that forever stretching first fairway. No. 2, a 165-yard par 3, has a tall grass marsh area running along the left side and two bunkers guarding the green. No. 5 throws a dogleg left look at you.
These are nine holes of real golf. Five of them measure over 450 yards, including the mammoth 601-yard par 5 third.
The price comes across as a joke. The course itself will not.
A lot of golf course owners talk about competing with entertainment as low-end accessible as movie theaters. Cypress actually delivers, goes lower.
No $6 small popcorns or $3.50 bottles of waters here. Just decent golf.
If you're playing Cypress, you might want to try one of Phoenix-Scottsdale's bargain gourmets like the Village Tavern.
The greater Old Town Scottsdale area is home to many of the best restaurants in Arizona. Chef Nobuo Fukuda works wonders with his counter side tasting menus at Sea Saw ((480) 481-9463), producing dishes every bit the equal of New York's more famous Nobu at a third of the cost.
For a happening, mingling spot, you only have to go down the alley behind Sea Saw and open the unmarked door to the Kazimierz World Wine Bar ((480) 946-3004). Sure, this forced, faux mysteriousness is a little cheesy, but once you get inside the comfortable place where the Phoenix area's young professionals relax with a selection of 1,800 wines to choose from, you'll forgive it.
Stay and play
There could be nothing more clashing than playing a round at Cypress and staying at the super luxe Fairmont Scottsdale Princess ((800) 257-7544). This sprawling AAA Five Diamond resort offers huge pool complexes that are open 24 hours a day. No more fitting your schedule around the pool schedule.
The Pointe Hilton Squaw Peak Resort ((602) 997-2626) is far enough away from the hustle and bustle to provide a relaxing getaway retreat and close enough to easily reach all the areas you want to visit. This sprawling complex includes a meandering, slow-raft-lounging pool and a putting practice course. There are half a dozen golf courses within a 10-minute drive.
For all its low key, barebones ways, Cypress actually has a huge golf shop with a large collection of used clubs available for sale.
January 17, 2006