Scottsdale's New Sanctuary Provides Eco-Golf Experience

By Joan C. Fudala, Contributtor

Scottsdale's newest 18-hole, daily fee golf club - the Sanctuary Golf Course at WestWorld - lives up to its name. The 6,624-yard, par 71 Randy Heckenkemper -designed course is a sanctuary for wildlife, as well as for golfers trying to escape the ever-rising greens fees at Phoenix/Scottsdale-area golf courses.

Sanctuary Golf Course
Sanctuary Golf Course has a stunning mountain backdrop.
Sanctuary Golf Course
If you go

The first golf course in Arizona to gain Audubon Signature Status, its eco-sensitive layout was actually built under the supervision and regulations of the Audubon International Institute.

To achieve this rare certification, the course was built to take advantage of the natural terrain and vegetation, and to manage issues such as wildlife habitat, water quality, conservation, and waste reduction. At present, only six other courses in the U.S. and 16 others in the world have earned this Audubon designation.

Its 80 acres of turf, 55 sand bunkers, and one large water feature lie primarily within the City of Scottsdale and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation storm water retention area in the foothills of Scottsdale's signature McDowell Mountains.

The Sanctuary is just east of WestWorld, Scottsdale's equestrian and special event venue and adjacent to the upscale McDowell Mountain Ranch residential community.

A Suncor golf property, the Sanctuary provides a country club-style golf experience for very affordable prices in this market. Peak season rates are $98 (one to seven days in advance) or $108 (for tee times eight to 30 days in advance). Although golf carts are optional, the rates include the $13 cart fee. Summer rates are as low as $40. Twilight, walking and junior fees are also available.

From elevated Sheena Drive, you enter the parking lot with an awesome view to the west, encompassing Camelback and Mummy Mountains and the expanse of Scottsdale and East Phoenix before you.

Many of the holes offer the same view. The 10,000-square-foot stone and stucco clubhouse includes a well-provisioned and well-staffed pro shop, snack bar, and multi-use pavilion that accommodates up to 150 guests.

When you check in at the pro shop, you are given a vibrating pager, which summons you from the practice range, putting green, or snack bar to let you know you're next up at the tee.

This welcome relief from the traditional loud speaker system is your first indication that the Sanctuary is indeed a tranquil place to play.

Each hole offers a choice of five tee boxes with varying course/slope ratings: black (71.7/135), blue (69.1/125), white (men's 67.2/115 and ladies 71.5/126), green (ladies 68.1/118), and gold (junior/senior 61.5/104).

Although total yardage from each tee, at first blush, appears short, the course offers many challenges.

The front nine is links-style golf, with plenty of fairway landing area; the back nine becomes more desert, target-style golf with carries over rock-strewn washes that require accuracy and distance.

The course is very walkable; skipping the use of a cart is becoming a popular option, according to Director of Golf Jay Haffner.

Hole number one is a par 4 dogleg left, providing a sweeping view west across the Valley from the elevated tee boxes. The downhill shot is into a narrow fairway, aided by downhill slopes to the center on both right and left sides.

Mid-fairway there are large bunkers on the right and left. The undulating green offers even greater challenge with right and left-side bunkers.

Northbound holes two through four parallel the Arizona Canal, separated by a wide rocky wash and high berm to the left of the fairways. Hole two is a split fairway with a carry over a natural vegetation wash.

Proceed carefully to the center or slightly right on your approach shot to the second green -- a shot to the left will take your ball deep into a rocky flood basin.

Many of the somewhat narrow fairways slope toward the middle, which is forgiving. Throughout the course, the green, or ladies tees, give the golfer an appropriate yardage advantage without taking away the challenge of the hole.

With only a few minor exceptions, the forced carries over washes or natural areas from the green/ladies tees provide the same challenge as do the carries from the other tee boxes.

It's amazingly quiet on the course. You might expect noise from nearby Scottsdale Airport, but we heard none (even between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. on a Friday).

You are constantly impressed with the natural beauty of the course - this is no manicured "Disney desert," but a tribute to nature's own Sonoran landscaping.

Throughout the course you play among the ironwood and acacia trees, cacti of all varieties, wild daisies, and other native flowers. We even saw three large tumbleweeds blow across a fairway, adding to the environmental experience.

Holes six through eight head south, paralleling holes two through four, but are separated from those fairways by a natural vegetation area. The large sixth green slopes back to front with bunkers in front and back left, and a big ravine to the right.

Number eight is one of two signature holes on the Sanctuary. A par three, the course's large lake extends along the entire right side of the hole, from the junior/senior gold tee box to well past the green.

The black, blue, and white tee boxes require an over-water shot to the green. The length is deceptively longer than it looks.

The par four ninth hole is one of only two holes with houses nearby. The backs of homes in McDowell Mountain Ranch extend up the entire left side of the fairway. It plays dogleg right with a cluster of three bunkers mid-fairway on the left and another trio of bunkers guarding the left approach to the green.

When you reach the turn, you drive by the clubhouse on your way to the tenth hole, so a rest stop is possible. The marshall will also be interested in your pace of play.

Hole 10 has a sizable wash to carry as you approach the green - no avoiding it. This par four plays downhill, with a slope left-to-right at the 150-yard marker. The green is surrounded by small undulating hillocks.

Holes 12 through 14 also parallel the Arizona Canal, with the canal's high, rock- and bush-covered berm running along the right side of each fairway. Hit high and right, and you kiss your ball goodbye.

The par five thirteenth hole is the longest on the course, 533 yards from the blue tees and 454 yards from the green tees. There is a 75-yard wash to carry from the green tees. It's not a particularly hard par five, just long.

Holes 14 and 15 are both hard doglegs left, with big bunkers at the bend.

Both sides of the fourteenth are protected by rocky wash - definitely club-breakers if you dare to hit rather than take a drop. There is a huge bunker guarding the entire front side of the fifteenth green and another, smaller trap at the right of the green. It's a big, two-tiered green; you're in trouble if your ball rolls down the steep, mid-green slope.

The short, par three seventeenth hole is target golf all the way. The blue tees play 163 yards, the green tees play 94 yards.

There is a deep, rocky wash to carry, extending from tee to green, especially deep to the left, so you may want to compensate from the blue tees if you tend to hook. The green is well-protected by sand traps on the right side, which is your aiming zone. Accuracy is everything here.

The home hole is the second signature hole of the course, a beautiful par five hard dogleg left, with views into the towering McDowell Mountains. It's almost like playing two holes.

Your first shot takes you to the bend of the dogleg, which is marked by a transition area; then you start "part two," which is still a healthy distance to the well-bunkered green.

Although the beverage cart makes numerous sweeps through the course, and there are water containers at numerous holes, it's hard to resist stopping after the game in the comfortable clubhouse. The snack bar/lounge area has a menu and ambiance which attracts not only golfers but nearby residents also.

The Sanctuary opened in November 1999; at the present, there is no league play established, but leagues are in the works. The teaching staff (two PGA and two LPGA instructors) offers individual lessons and clinics, and there is a John Jacobs Golf School on premises. They also offer a year-round junior golf program. Tournaments are welcome.

Jay Haffner is the director of golf; Richard Wright is the head golf professional. Jeff Davis serves as golf course superintendent.

The Sanctuary Golf Course at WestWorld
10609 E. Sheena Drive
Scottsdale, AZ 85259
(480) 502-8200

Joan C. Fudala, Contributtor

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