Fred Enke Golf Course: Pure Desert Delight
Fred Enke Golf Course is one of the most enjoyable courses in southern Arizona. The creative desert layout allows nature to dictate the shape of each hole. Rewarding well-positioned shots and penalizing inaccuracies definitely makes this a ball-striker's course. Yet it offers one pivotal aspect that many desert courses don't include: a chance to atone for earlier mistakes. Make a careful selection among the four sets of tees, the longest measuring 6800 yards. Accuracy is extremely important to playing well, so don't try too hard from the wrong tees.
Fred Enke opens with a challenging 378-yard par 4. The tee-shot must carry over desert and land in a fairway that severely slopes left-to-right. Only a couple yards of rough separate it from water. Play the ball to the left to account for the sideways roll, but don't protect too much or you'll roll through the fairway into the desert. The short iron downhill approach demands precision accuracy with a high soft shot to hold on the small, firm green. Scared of flying the green into the desert, most missed shots are short, leaving a chip off one of the mounds to the undulating green. The greens are all fairly slow, so hit putts firmly to keep them on line.
The par 3 second hole is where playing from the proper tees is especially significant. Distance is 90 yards longer from the blue and gold, and a 229-yard par 3 over a wash is exponentially more difficult than a 137-yard par 3. Bunkers front and right guard this large green. Its back-to-front slope makes long approach putts fast even though the green itself is slow. #2 plays either as a birdie hole or a tough par depending on the tees you select.
Prior course knowledge is very helpful for the par 5, 528-yard #3. Lush desert left makes it impossible to find your last ball, but maybe you'll retrieve a few others. To be safe, play right off the grass slope, which will bounce your ball back into the fairway. A desert collection area short left is a very popular resting place on second shots. Take an iron and advance the ball no further than the hundred-yard marker. Beware, the fairway is very firm, providing lots of roll. Then you'll have a wedge to the green and a solid birdie opportunity.
The front side's other par 5 is the 566-yard #6. Again, it's not a smart plan on go for the green in two. Fairway bunkers left force the player right, into a downhill bottleneck fairway. 280 yards from the tee, the fairway is very narrow to hit into. The proper play is to lay-up off the tee and hit an iron to the bottom of the fairway. Exact yardage to the pin is difficult to determine because of the very large plateau green. Even though you have a short approach, you could have a very long two-putt ahead.
The front nine concludes with a 455-yard par 4. Originally #18, it plays as the toughest hole on the course. Long, uphill, and into the wind, it's more a challenge of strength than of accuracy. Fred Enke's widest fairway has two fairway bunkers on the left. The green's surrounded by a vast amount of thick rough with bunkers left and right and has several ridges to play havoc with long approach putts.
The back nine plays easier than the front, with seven true birdie holes. Fred Enke doesn't just give you the birdies, though. If you lose focus, it will negate one by capturing the errant tee shot.
#10 plays like a typical opening hole: straightforward, without any large obstacles. This hole just provides a breather before #11, a 573-yard par 5 downhill. The drive allows you to bite off as much desert as you can carry. Lined by desert, the fairway slants diagonally away from the tee. Don't hook or your ball will actually be turning away from the fairway. If you're a long hitter you can leave yourself a 200-yard second with a solid drive. An elevated green penalizes errant approaches with bounces off the side down into the desert. The green's long, though, assisting long-iron approaches. Play this hole correctly and you'll have a makeable birdie.
The back nine's three easy par 4's, holes 13, 16, and 17. each measure less than 400 yards. Fairway bunkers and desert penalize inaccurate tee shots, but by finding the fairways, you'll have a wedge approach every time. From the fairways, these three holes practically play as a hole-in-one contest.
Fred Enke gives one final chance to erase a bad hole with the 490-yard, par 5 #18. Sparse desert on the left and right is all that keeps you from having a chance at eagle. Short right of the green are deep bunkers that catch all short efforts. The green is open on the left; attack the hole from here. It slopes from front-to-back, demanding putts with the correct proportion of finesse and force. Keep in mind what Arnold Palmer says: "Never up, never in!"
November 29, 1998