Grayhawk Raptor Course

By Scott Behmer, Contributor

Scottsdale, Az - In the brief five year history of the Raptor Course at Grayhawk Golf Club it has already hosted the 1998 Andersen Consulting World Championship of Golf and the 2000 Williams World Challenge. These two high profile events have shown golfers across the country what a beautiful and challenging golf course awaits them in the Valley of the Sun.

Grayhawk's Raptor Course
Watch out for the water at Grayhawk's Raptor Course.
Grayhawk's Raptor Course
If you go

After attending the Williams World Challenge in January I couldn't wait to play the Raptor Course. I just hoped that it wouldn't hail again. Finally, last week I had my fun in the sun. From the moment I parked my car the service was impeccable. Attendants took care of every detail. I walked into the Pro Shop to check in and was surprised by the abundance of merchandise for sale, including clothing to match the desire of any golfer who'd step in the door. My favorite souvenir was a Grayhawk logo golf ball. The eyes and facial features of the hawk create the best logo I've seen on a ball.

Then, I hopped in my cart, with clubs already on board, and wheeled off to the driving range. The grass range has numerous markers, necessary for pre-round practice with the often gusty wind. After hitting some balls I walked down to the large, two-tiered practice putting green. The green speed matches the course's putting surfaces perfectly. Take note of the McDowell Mountains to the northeast, as all putts break away from them. Now I was ready to tee off.

With five sets of tees, players of all levels can find the proper one for their game. I played the Raptor tees, measuring the course's full length of 7036 yards. The round opens with a 413-yard par 4. Fairway bunkers positioned near the drive's landing area add pressure to find the fairway. Then you're left with a short-iron approach to a raised green with bunkers on the front left. Williams World Challenge Champion Tom Lehman called #1 "a good starting hole. It's good to get your round going early." Birdying #1 will certainly get you off on the right foot.

The front nine has three par 4's of 460 yards or longer, but it's the shortest hole on the outward nine that may be the toughest. Measuring 174 yards, the par 3 #8 is called "Aces and Eights." The tee shot must carry one of Grayhawk's numerous arroyos as well as four large bunkers that guard the front and right portions of the green. The severely undulated putting surface is very difficult to even two-putt, much less make birdie. However, at such a short distance, with a stellar shot birdie is a possibility.

The back nine begins much like the front with a straightforward par 4. Measuring 360 yards, it plays uphill and into the wind. Similar to #1, there's a good shot at birdie here. #10 also shows off the rugged desert terrain of the back nine. The entire course lies in desert surrounded by thousands of saguaros, palo verdes, ironwoods, and mesquite trees, and on the back side they really come into play. While creating a rustic beauty they add an additional challenge to an already demanding course.

One of the signature holes of the inward nine is the 211-yard, par #16. A small, beautifully blue lake lies in front of the green. The 40-yard long green bends around the left side bunker permitting numerous difficult pin placements. Fortunately, behind the green it's just short cut rough, so if your long-iron runs through the green you can still get up-and-down for par. No matter your score here, enjoy the pure beauty of the hole and its surroundings.

The course finishes with the 480-yard par 4, the third par 4 over 460 yards on the back nine. The drive's severely downhill with only a left side bunker to worry about. Next comes the most nerve-wracking shot of the day, a long-iron over a large lake that borders the left side and back of the green. The swing you'll need is Tom Lehman's magnificent approach on Sunday's round at the Williams World Challenge, where he stuck it seven feet from the pin and made birdie for the win. And if you're not putting very well, go with Phil Mickelson's chip on the green for birdie.

The Raptor Course is a true test of your golfing skills, requiring every club in the bag to be in top form. After the round head over to the 40,000 square foot clubhouse which offers a myriad of fine entrees, drinks, and even a shoe shine. While relaxing after the round think of what PGA Tour representative Howard Twitty says: "At Grayhawk enjoying yourself is what's important. What you score is totally secondary.

Rates are $150 Monday through Thursday, $180 Friday through Sunday. Grayhawk's located two miles north of the TPC of Scottsdale. For more information, (480) 502-1800.

Scott Behmer, Contributor

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