Smart people wanted: Strategy needed at tricky Tatum Ranch Golf Club in Scottsdale

By Scott Bordow, Contributor

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Here's what golfers won't find at Tatum Ranch Golf Club in north Scottsdale: Forced carries, elevated greens, deep-faced sand traps and holes so long they require a compass.

Tatum Ranch Golf Club - 14th
Avoid the water -- and the fountain -- on 14 at Tatum Ranch Golf Club.
Tatum Ranch Golf Club - 14thTatum Ranch golf course
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Tatum Ranch Golf Club

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Tatum Ranch Golf Club sits on the edge of Scottsdale, surrounded by the beauty of the Sonoran Desert. The course offers a variety of different shot-making opportunities thanks to the rugged desert terrain, which tumbles across a range of elevation changes.

18 Holes | Private golf course | Par: 72 | 6856 yards | ... details »

Here's what they will find: A 6,856-yard par 72 that's several steps up from the local municipal but not as difficult as some of the desert courses found in the Valley.

"It's a desert-style course that is forgiving and very playable," said General Manager Steve Leonard. "There's not a lot of forced carries or blind shots. The golf course is right there in front of you. If you hit good shots, you're rewarded; but if you hit it off line, you don't get beat up a lot for it."

Well, that's not exactly true. The desert lining every hole is mature and substantial. Most balls hit into the cactus and cholla either will be lost or require a drop and one-stroke penalty.

But the difference between Tatum Ranch and other desert courses are the size of the fairways. In that respect, Tatum Ranch is a plus-size model. Shots have to be hit way off line to find trouble.

Tatum Ranch Golf Club: The course

Tatum Ranch is not a bomber's golf course. From the back tees, only one of the par 5s is more than 540 yards. Five of the par 4s are less than 400 yards, including the devilishly delicious dogleg-right 12th hole, a 305-yard par 4 in which the green is invisible from the tee box and bunkers line the left side of the fairway.

It's one of those terrific, short par 4s that are all the rage in golf-course design.

Where Tatum Ranch gets its bite is around the greens. The putting surfaces are fairly small, many of them have severe undulations and the greens are surrounded by swales and pot bunkers. (There are only 50 sand traps on the course.)

Leave an approach shot on the wrong side of the hole, and chipping becomes extraordinarily difficult. Hit a chip just a couple feet off line, and it can catch a swale and roll off the green or leave a long, difficult par putt.

"It's a second shot and short-game golf course," Leonard said. "If you're short-sided, it can make for a long day. There's a lot of strategy involved."

The most interesting hole is the 151-yard, par-3 11th. It's a desert version of the infamous 12th hole at Augusta National Golf Club. The size and shape of the putting surface is similar -- more horizontal than vertical -- bunkers creep up to the back edge of the green and a bank abuts the front of the green.

There's no Rae's Creek -- this is the desert after all -- but balls that hit the bank will roll back down into a wash.

All that's missing are the magnolias.

Tatum Ranch Golf Club: The verdict

Because the right leave is so important, Tatum Ranch Golf Club is one of those courses that require repeated play. First-timers will think they've hit a good approach shot but discover that they've left themselves with a chip Phil Mickelson might struggle with.

One small gripe: There aren't enough yardage markers on the fairways. Not everyone carries range finders.

On the other hand, the service at Tatum Ranch is extraordinary. In the summer, two coolers -- one filled with iced towels, the other with green apples -- sits just off the first tee. An employee drives around, handing out free ice cream sandwiches. And clubs are cleaned before golfers leave the 18th green.

It's private club treatment for the public golfer and a great sales tactic. Tatum Ranch Golf Club is a private club, but it's offering limited public play in an effort to increase its membership.

"Once they get here and experience it, they'll want to come back, and they'll want to join," Leonard said. "It's all about the golf here."

Scott BordowScott Bordow, Contributor

Scott Bordow is the golf columnist for the Arizona Republic. Follow him on Twitter at @sbordow.

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