Some of you may remember the original Skins Game back in 1985 with Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and Tom Watson. You may also remember the incident that occurred when Tom Watson accused Gary Player of improving his lie. I had forgotten the incident until recently when playing.
One of the members in our group pointed out that this is the hole where Gary Player "turned over a new leaf". I thought that was funny. This course will probably always be remembered as the original Skins Game course. But if you ever get the opportunity to play this course, you will remember it as one of the best golf experiences of your life. Nothing is average about Desert Highlands in Scottsdale.
The entrance is private, multi million dollar homes scatter throughout the desert, aligning the fairways but not crowding them. The service is extraordinary. First, it is very private. You must play with a member in your group. Cash is not exchanged, members must sign for everything, which can be a little uncomfortable when the beer cart pulls up and you're dying for a snickers but hate to ask for it.
The starter informed us that if you are not a professional to not play from the Nicklaus tees. I walked up to the first tee box and had to see what a Nicklaus tee was. I climbed stairs through huge boulders to find a little pad of grass that was so finely manicured that I could putt on it.
Your instincts don't allow you to take a divot from a putting green and that's how you feel on the tee boxes. The first hole is about 320 yards long...sound easy? Let's make this clear: the starter told us that many famous pro's have hit 5 iron or less from this tee. The fairway is so small it looks like a green snake from the tee box with horrific desert on both sides.
You have to hit your ball about 160 yards just to reach the fairway. If you miss the fairway, I suggest that you just pack up and move to the ladies tee. Otherwise, you are in for a long afternoon. Each hole is breathtaking in its beauty, yet evil in its completely unforgiving design. When you leave Desert Highlands you will understand what standards are necessary for a golf course to be rated among the best in the world. You will also have a very clear understanding of how legitimate your handicap is. See you on the tee.