East Valley Bargains: Where to Play - Longbow Golf Club

By Shane Sharp, Contributor

MESA, Ariz. - Thirty six holes in one day is the golfing epiphany ... the ideal number of holes for a select group of rabid golfing addicts. A hidden gem in the Valley of the Sun, the East Valley of Phoenix can accommodate this noble addition without sending you out to look for that second job at the local restaurant or grocery.

Longbow Golf Club
Longbow Golf Club is one of the friendliest, fairest desert courses you'll find in the Valley of the Sun.
Longbow Golf Club
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While a number of courses in the East Valley can offer up this sumptuous combination, few can do it at the cost conscious level at which the Longbow Golf Club and the Apache Creek Golf Course can.

There is something to be said about making the best of what you've got. And that is just what renowned golf course architect Ken Kavanaugh has done with the Longbow Golf Course in Mesa. The course itself is named after a military attack helicopter - the Apache Longbow- that Boeing has developed across the street from the course at its Phoenix area headquarters. And you better bring your full arsenal to conquer this intriguing desert layout.

Some course designers are handed premiere sites set up against the base of mountains, or along dramatic coastlines or water features. Boeing, on the other hand, passed to Kavanaugh a site that could only make a mother proud - an empty lot next to the Confederate Airfield that was essentially undevelopable for any land use excluding a cemetery and, as fate would have it, a golf course.

Given some mediocre lemons, Kavanaugh and friends have made some tasty lemonade that sells for a very reasonable price. Longbow is one of the friendliest, fairest desert courses you'll find in the Valley of the Sun, but its length can be deceptive.

From the tips, Longbow plays to a seemingly conquerable 6,700 yards, while the championship tees offer of a deceptive 6,200 yard challenge. There are no less than six par 4's that play over 400 yards from both the tips and the championship tees at Longbow. The most intimidating of these being the 489 yard 5th hole that has no real excuse for not being a par 5.

Longbow leaves the astute golfer scratching his or her head as to from where the lack of yardage stems. One theory could be the existence of only three par 5's on the course. But the longest of the long walks, the 577 yard 8th hole, is as healthy of a runway as any of the par 5's in the Valley.

The incredible missing yardage caper aside, Longbow offers some memorable holes. The 9th Hole is considered by many to be the signature hole of the course - a regular Longbow irony considering that it is by far and away the shortest par 4 on the course. At 314 yards from the tips, the hole is "drive-able" for a wide variety of players.

But one of the few holes that has water in play, the 9th will come back to bite you if you pull the big dog and fade your tee shot like an old tee shirt.

"The hole is visually deceptive when looking out from the tee box," says Head Professional Cal Berreckman. "The first time playing it, you see another green (the 18th) behind it, and this makes the hole look longer than it really is."

The same style of water that comes into play on the 9th ( a surreal looking pond with waste bunkers surrounding the shores like a beach) comes into play on the par 5, 16th hole. One of the great holes of the back nine, the 16th sports an undulating fairway with a green that is protected by waste bunker on the left and backside. Any semblance of a snap hook on the approach shot could conceivably end up in the drink beyond the "beach".

If you are an airplane aficionado, or if you just want something to on which to blame you horrible play, Longbow's situation next to the Confederate Air Museum can make for an interesting side bar. On almost any given hole at Longbow, chances are some type of historic military aircraft is flying through your backswing at close range.

And speaking of range, Longbow sports practice facilities that would make David Leadbetter and Dave Pelz proud. The practice range is generous to say the least, with spacious driving stations and a number of flagsticks. In one of the great concepts in all of golf, soothing modern rock drifts from a speaker placed just behind the range.

The chipping and putting green is large enough to accommodate about four times the number of players that actually come out to the course during the summer months.

At $40 for 18 holes and a cart in the a.m., Longbow is one of the better deals in the East Valley. The only caveat is that the course is having a tough time bringing in the particular strand of Bermuda grass they are attempting to grow this summer. The greens are in rough shape, and roll fast but by no means true. Many of the fairways are burnt and tight lies are the norm not the exception.

But with service second only to Phoenix's premier tracks, and a layout that is as creative as Derrick Jeter on a routine ground ball, a few strands of burnt Bermuda can pass over as quickly as one of the historic airplanes over your tee box. For tee times, contact the pro shop at (602) 807-5400.

Tomorrow, the business end of the 36 holes continues with Apache Creek Golf Course, and where to stay, eat, and shop.

Shane SharpShane Sharp, Contributor

Shane Sharp is vice president of Buffalo Communications, a golf and lifestyle media agency. He was a writer, senior writer and managing editor of TravelGolf.com from 1997 to 2003.

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