Cool Summer Fun: Arizona's Pinetop Country Club

By Scott Behmer, Contributor

Pinetop, AZ - Pinetop Country Club is everything that one looks for in high-elevation golf. Natural forest beauty surrounds the course, well-designed holes are accentuated by placid lakes, indigenous wildlife roams the fairways, and summer temperatures don't come close to flirting with triple digits. It's a marvelous escape from the fry-an-egg-on-the-sidewalk heat that's associated with Arizona golf. Here's a look.

Pinetop Country Club
Pinetop Country Club features plenty of water and trees.
Pinetop Country Club
If you go

Before playing here last week, I drove my golf cart to the driving range, which is across the street from the course. I was eager to see if the ball truly did fly an extra five percent farther here.

Disappointingly, the range is just a dirt lot with yardage markers down the middle so I could not be certain about my yardages. The ball does, in fact, travel the extra distance, though.

Then I drove over to the practice green for some last-minute work on my putting. Measuring nine on the stimpmeter, the greens roll consistently smooth and at a comfortable pace. I was ready to hit the links.

Pinetop Country Club measures 6218 yards from the gold tees, 6037 from the whites, and 5440 from the reds. These short distances make this an ideal course for all members in the group to play from the same set of tees. In my group we all played from the back.

The 373-yard, par 4 #1 introduces players to how the majority of the holes are designed. Pine trees line both sides of the fairway with a couple of fairway bunkers on the left. Be careful on your short-iron approach. The higher you hit it the farther the elevation causes your ball to fly. Two bunkers guard the small green's left side. Once on the putting surface you'll have a putt that appears flat, but as it loses speed it will break toward the southwest, away from the mountains.

A unique feature of Pinetop Country Club is that almost all trouble is on the left side of the holes. Most of the greens and fairways have bunkers only on their left, and the majority of the doglegs are to the right. So if you're a slicer you've found your dream course.

Pinetop's back nine continues with holes similar to the front, and opportunities abound for viewing the natural wildlife. You'll likely see squirrels, rabbits, chipmunks and perhaps deer.

My favorite hole is #11, a 109-yard par 3 over a sparkling blue lake. You tee off from the trees and hit across the lake to a green guarded by three bunkers. Wind often blows in your face so take more club and play a three-quarter shot to keep the ball low. This is also the prettiest hole on the course.

Surprisingly, this relatively short course finishes with a monster of a hole that is sure to test even the most skilled players. A straightaway par 4 measuring 421 yards is the number one handicap hole. From the tee this drive is just like the other 17 holes, with pine trees lining the fairway. But it's approach shot is probably the most demanding shot of the day.

You'll have a mid-iron attacking a pin surrounded by bunkers and a lake bordering the green's left side. A blocked shot protecting against the lake will end up in the trees with a fate no better than finding the water. However, hit the receptive green in regulation then make par and you'll likely pick up at least one shot on your playing partners.

Finally, kick back and relax in the spacious clubhouse right behind the green. Try out one of the delicious daily specials, enjoy the picturesque views, and compare your approach shot to those you see coming in.

Pinetop Country Club is a challenging course that, with solid shots, can still produce a low score. Combined with its perfect weather and beautiful setting you can't go wrong playing here. A single membership is $1700 and runs from April 1 through October 31. If you're looking to enjoy a cool, comfortable summer in Arizona this is the place to be.

Scott Behmer, Contributor

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