Tom Lehman Renovates Home Course, Upsets Architect

By Rebecca Larsen, Contributor

PHOENIX, AZ - Five years ago, the DC Ranch housing development in North Scottsdale opened its Country Club course, a private club where initiation fees now cost $135,000 and dues are $525 a month.

The course was designed by a prominent Scottsdale architect, Scott Miller, who also created the acclaimed We-Ko-Pa Golf Club on the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation and the Golf Club at Eagle Mountain, both very popular public courses in the Phoenix area.

Now suddenly, the design firm of John Fought-Tom Lehman is renovating this young Club Course, where the mesquites are probably still mere saplings. Lehman, PGA player and winner of the 1996 British Open, lives off the 10th green and also serves on the board of the country club. Fought and Lehman also recently designed a private club near Tucson - The Gallery at Dove Mountain.

You can read a lot between the lines of the press release that was issued about this renovation project, and a number of people have been wondering what's going on.

Michael Daswick, the director of golf for DMB, the firm that developed the 8,300-acre subdivision, tried to explain what might be considered an embarrassment for Scott Miller. Daswick insisted the renovation has nothing to do with how Miller designed the course.

"Scott Miller built a wonderful course that never got the accolades it should have gotten," Daswick said. "And he gave DMB exactly what it was looking for.

The developers didn't want a punishing, punitive, target kind of course. It was supposed to be a course suitable for the young families moving into the area. But as the club grew and Tom Lehman became an active member and then they started designing Silverleaf (a second private course on the property) up in the hills, the board said, 'Let's make a great course even better.'"

Besides all that, Daswick said, the buffalo grass that Miller had chosen as part of the landscaping plan was supposed to grow up in different shades at different elevations, but it "never really took and then it didn't look right."

The explanation for the changes has upset the original architect, Scott Miller. "I'm not in the least bit happy about it," he said about DC Ranch. "It was a perfectly good course, and some people say it was even a great course. There was more money than sense involved. A lot of ego is driving the boat. I think Drew (Drew Brown, the developer of DC Ranch) and Tom wanted to have their own little toy to play with."

Miller said that a number of members at the Club Course had called him to complain about the changes and the level of difficulty being added to the course. "They're upset," he said, "because it used to be a great place to take their wives and friends, and now it won't be anymore."

The Country Club course has been closed for the summer while Fought and Lehman re-contour the greens and make the bunkers more challenging. According to Miller, Fought-Lehman may be adding up to 40 bunkers to the course. The course is scheduled to reopen in October.

The new course on the property, Silverleaf, which also costs $135,000 to join, was designed by Tom Weiskopf. It had a "soft" opening in April, Daswick said, and will have its grand opening in the fall.

Reservation golf rising in stature

The new list of Top 100 public courses in Golf Magazine features two new entries from Arizona this year, both of them courses built on Indian reservations: Talking Stick Golf Club's North Course, built by the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community in 1997, and the Apache Stronghold Golf Course, built in 1999 near Globe by the San Carlos Apache Nation. Talking Stick was designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw. Apache Stronghold, which has racked up a number of other awards, is the creation of architect Tom Doak.

The par-70 Talking Stick North (7,133 yards from the back tees, 5,530 yards from the forward) is on the fringes of Scottsdale and probably is fairly familiar to regular visitors to Phoenix. But Apache Stronghold, par-71 course (7,519 yards from the back tees, 5,535 yards from the forward), is probably less familiar as it is located about 90 miles from Phoenix.

Eventually, we expect to see another Arizona Indian course on the list - We-Ko-Pa Golf Club, which opened in December 2001, on the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation in Fountain Hills, near Scottsdale. Scott Miller of Scottsdale was the designer of this par-72 course (7,225 yards from the back tees, 5,337 yards from the forward).

We-Ko-Pa has already won other honors. Sports Illustrated picked it as one of the Top 10 new public golf courses in the world last December; Golf Inc. magazine named it the 2002 Development of the Year.

What players love most about all three courses are their pristine scenery and mountain views, unspoiled by housing developments nearby. Tribal leaders have promised that the land will be free of housing for eternity.

For more information about these courses, take a look at the following Web sites:

Resort rushes to open

The Westin Kierland Resort in Scottsdale, a 735-room, 10-story hotel, has moved up its opening date to Nov. 3, five months ahead of schedule. Originally the resort, next to the Kierland Golf Club, was supposed to open in the first quarter of 2003. Address for the Westin: 6902 E. Greenway Parkway, Scottsdale. Phone: 480-624-1000. Web site:

The new opening date will put the hotel on track to keep up with two other mega-resorts about to open in the Phoenix area:

The Sheraton Wild Horse Pass on the Gila River Reservation, south of Phoenix, will open Oct. 1. This resort, next to the Whirlwind Golf Club, has 500 rooms. Address: 5594 Wild Horse Pass Blvd., Chandler. Phone: 602-225-0100. Web site:

The JW Marriott Desert Ridge in northeast Phoenix has set its opening for Nov. 30. Desert Ridge, with 950 rooms, is next door to the Wildfire Golf Club. Address: 5350 E. Marriott Drive, Phoenix. Phone: 800-767-3574. Web site:

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.

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