The Legacy Golf Club in Phoenix: Birdies, bogies, and buckboards

By Ray Bangs, Contributor

PHOENIX, AZ. - In a time where courses are getting more outrageously challenging, more ridiculously over-scenic, and resultantly, more expensive, it's refreshing to find a course which is, in the best sense of the word, boring. I realized at the turn that I was delightfully under-stimulated and I couldn't have been happier. The 18-hole layout at the Legacy Golf Club definitely makes a strong case that boring is grand!

Golf can be a tough game, but as long as you shoot a straight ball most of the time, you will do okay. If you are able to not only hit it straight but control the distance as well, you'll be even better off. End each hole with an effective short game and you can really score. While it seems many courses require you to hold advanced degrees in geometry, trigonometry, golf ball aeronautics, and mind reading just to get through the round without abandoning every Titleist in your bag, the Legacy course is more like a professor gracefully lecturing on philosophy and history.

Golf requires that you do your best as an individual; bottom line, it's only you and the course. Even in "team" events, before any strokes are tallied, you first pit yourself one-on-one against the course and next, against your "inner demons", as Kevin Costner's Tin Cup character liked to talk about. For me, my inner demons are that I think too much about each shot; on courses that are regarded as more challenging, in the traditional sense, I either play well or I choke... there is no middle ground. With sand traps, lakes, ravines, trees, cactus, and a dozen other obstacles to consider just from the tee-that is, before I even think about club choice, grip, stance, take-away, backswing, tempo, release, and follow-through-my inner dialogue on some courses sounds like a crowded bar on a Friday night.

These exceedingly difficult layouts present a mystique or uncertainty about how to proceed; sure, you'll have a pretty good initial plan or idea of what you should do, but that doesn't always mean it's right or that you can even pull it off. While some golfers seek out and enjoy this type of challenge, those inner demons always seem to crawl right out from the dark corners of your mind and laugh as you punch away at the keys of a calculator to tally all the penalty strokes accumulated after going for it.

The Legacy lays it all on the line. Opening in October 1999, the first golf resort to open in Phoenix in more than 10 years, the thinking seems almost backwards to the bigger, better, faster, and more stuff attitude a lot of new courses like to emphasize. Here, what you see is what you get and that's perfect. If you do not play one of your better rounds here, you'll know that you were not able to overcome and triumph. Just forgetting about even half of the million things you think about before your shot allows you to better concentrate and execute. The layout is not overly challenging so the intimidation factor is solely internal. You'll probably impress yourself. The Legacy is a modern yet traditional pure golf experience.

In March 2000, the integrity and character of the Legacy were carefully put to the test when the course hosted the LPGA Tour Standard Register PING Tournament. Despite being open for less than a year, the Legacy rose to the challenge. Not to worry though if your game is, literally, not up to par. Even if your unprofessional-looking drives veer away from center fairway, you'll probably be okay here. The landing areas are forgiving, but the best part is that because the Legacy is in such prime condition, the rough is even better than the fairways of other courses. Cruising around in my maroon-colored cart, the conditions were so great that I felt like I was at the driving range, hitting off the artificial turf mat; I graciously welcomed the resultant ease of play.

Others appreciate the opportunity to enjoy a game free from all those distracting obstacles as well; the Legacy is a popular course for Arizona Cardinal quarterback Jake Plummer, and Michael Jordan often squeezes in a round when he visits the Valley of the Sun.

The Legacy plays quite forthright. The approach shots to the greens are usually not too deceptive, and unlike the characteristically Arizona hard-as-concrete putting surfaces which often ricochet your ball 50 yards past the pin, the greens at the Legacy are sticky. A couple times I felt like a pro because my ball hit and I actually got a little backspin. For duffers like me, there is no more redeeming feeling in the game.

So I hope you're not asking, well, if the course is so easy, why should I go? The Legacy Golf Club presents a different kind of challenge. You won't see boulders the size of houses to distract you or elevation changes as if you were playing against the Dalai Lama in the Himalayas.

What you will see is an opportunity to go for it. You'll see very clearly what needs to be done to score. You just have to do it. The fear factor is not so overwhelming simply because you don't have to worry as much about tricky scenarios or a bunch of over-embellished hazards that seem to have been put there purely for your frustration. For most people, merely hitting the ball well is hard enough. Sometimes, you just want to swing away because going for it is what golf is all about. If you can build the confidence to go for it on courses that don't punish your enthusiasm too terribly, then eventually, as your skills grow, you'll have the courage to challenge those courses that do.

Besides the open-armed invitation to play some of your best golf, the other prominent feature you will experience at the Legacy is a rich history, which is incredibly unique and interesting, especially since the Legacy course itself is so new. The modern ambiance is well tied into the history of the land and the people who once worked it. In 1897, Dwight B. Heard, one of the founders of the region and well known with the Heard Museum, moved from Chicago to the foot of South Mountain to escape the blustery and cold winters and to preserve his health. His 7,500-acre cattle ranch was successful and even innovative for the time; Heard was good friends with President Theodore Roosevelt, so in order to help his pal Teddy get the Bull Moose Party going again, he purchased the Arizona Republican newspaper, now known as the Arizona Republic!

Old buckboard wagons from the days of the cattle ranch grace the 1st, 10th, and 18th holes-their presence is just a subtle reminder of what the land where the Legacy lies once was. Three grain silos, built in 1902, stand just off the 18th fairway and are still in remarkable condition; it's almost hard to believe that these were once, at only 30 feet, the tallest buildings in the Phoenix area. Architect Gary Panks, who has built over three dozen courses including the Raven at South Mountain just a couple miles east, preferred the course's originally planned name: The Ranch. The Legacy fits just as well. Adding even more character, horseshoes and branding irons cradle your clubs as you warm up at the practice range.

The Legacy clings to its history, but screams of modern amenities which reward family travelers as well as the hard-core golfers seeking to be pampered after a morning (and afternoon) on the links. Over 300 stylish suites and four meeting venues make the resort a prime location to balance business with pleasure. A more than adequately equipped fitness center, a swimming pool with poolside cabana and two whirlpools, tennis courts, sand volleyball, and numerous other activities keep your body and mind going strong. Best of all, the resort is only minutes from Sky Harbor Airport and it's central location is perfect for exploring the Phoenix area.

If you are looking for a great golf experience with wonderful views of the various Phoenix peaks, pristine course conditions, and an opportunity to relax and become one with the game, find your way to the Legacy Golf Club. You just might happen to find your way to pure golf enlightenment as well.

The Legacy Golf Club
6808 S. 32nd Street
Phoenix, AZ 85040

Ray BangsRay Bangs, Contributor

In addition to being a frequent contributor to several publications, Ray Bangs is the author of "52 Great Weekend Escapes in Arizona." He is also the co-publisher and senior editor of Arizona Explorer Magazine, a regional publication focusing on active travel, leisure, and recreation. Ray's motto is simple. "If you're way too busy to go fishing and golfing once in a while, you're way too busy!"

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