Saddle up for a rolling round at StoneRidge Golf Course in Prescott Valley, Arizona
PRESCOTT VALLEY, Ariz. -- As the man said: "Buy the ticket, take the ride."
Saddle up tight in Arizona's cowpoke country for a buckin', rollercoaster ride of a round at StoneRidge Golf Course.
Featuring a continual round-and-roll of amply elevated play, the 2002 design from Randy Heckenkemper is mountain-style golf at 5,200 feet, dressed in desert clothing.
"The value of our course is in the conditioning, the playability and the panoramic views you can get from up here and see all the way to Flagstaff," said Tom Catanzarite, director of golf operations at StoneRidge.
Especially popular with the Phoenix set seeking a 90-minute north respite from the summer sizzle, StoneRidge poses an ongoing host of scenic -- albeit stated -- demands.
"You've got to be somewhat of a ball-striker, control your ball, and you've got to like the challenge; but once you've played here a few times, it's a very fun play," Catanzarite added. "If you're the type of player that just wants to whack it and find it, whack it and find it, this may not be for you."
StoneRidge: Don't cut the barber poles
Following a benign, opening hole, StoneRidge plays with continual demands throughout. Native vegetation translates to forced carry from back boxes on most holes, and manageable distance is nonetheless augmented by the attractive, active and undulating natural terrain that becomes more extreme over the duration of the round.
"We have a lot of forced carries, and people know that about us. But once you get over the visual intimidation, the carries from the forward tees aren't all that demanding," Catanzarite said. "It's not an overly long course, but the variety of lies out here make it a challenge."
Whatever your stance, there will be some limping across this roller coaster, with a few overwrought routings and some seriously swaled greens leaving many with some head-scratching moments.
"The green complexes also makes this golf course; there's hardly a straight putt out here," Catanzarite added. "And we cut them around a 9 (on the Stimpmeter), because, even at that speed, they'll still roll like a 14 coming down some of the undulations."
One's best bet for success is to play a tee forward and employ the opening nine to gear up for a demanding back. Using the perches of oft-elevated tees to aim for barber pole yardage marks proves crucial to navigation, as greed or cavalier play does not a happy round make at StoneRidge.
"The front side is a little more user friendly than the back nine," Catanzarite said. "The back is, well, like every architect, this is the land you get for a golf course, and I think (Heckenkemper) did a great job with the back nine."
With StoneRidge's collection of par 3s providing necessary respite from the rest of the hard card, players best buck up for a series of shot-making demands on the wealth of 4s and 5s.
After an engaging, opening nine is highlighted by a getable run on nos. 5-8, the latter side presents ongoing asks. "The stronger player, especially from a forward tee, can try and drive it on top of that hill," Catanzarite said of the 353-yard 13th hole. "But if you're anywhere to the left or right, you're done. There's not much room, and the green has a false front. Most people play toward the 100-yard marker."
Rounding home does present opportunity on 15 and 16.
"From the white tees (295 yards), people can cut the corner with a big drive and find the green; we've actually had a number of holes-in-one there," Catanzarite said of the dramatic dogleg right on the 15th. "But from the back tees, most people pop a three-wood to about 100-yards out, which still leaves an uphill lie and a tough wedge shot. It's a real thinking man's hole."
He called the 16th a very fun par 5 where you can get 50 yards of roll from the tee by playing left off the left-to-right slope. "But you need to avoid the bunker on the right and desert on the left from the tee," Catanzarite added. "But you keep it left-center, and you'll find that alley."
The final chapter at StoneRidge is penned with "S-shaped" curiosity -- until one learns more of its native history.
"When they were building the course, they found an Indian burial site there," Catanzarite said of the par-5 closer with a blind tee shot leading to a lay-up second. "So, that did have an impact on the design of the hole, which can be a little quirky. And the green is also a little quirky because that had to be moved for the same reasons."
StoneRidge Golf Course: The verdict
StoneRidge is the style of golf course that can bruise the delicate sensibility. With its continual embrace of mountainous topography, the grounds prove an attractive marriage of fun and frustration, leaving newcomers forewarned to arrive with a philosophy of club-down prudence and a few managed expectations.
Conversely, at around $50 for weekday play, the primo playing conditions and host of terrific vistas present an exceptional value, providing the mid-to-high handicaps with a day where enjoyment of scenery will usurp consistent scoring.