Golfing Arizona's finest courses, 2013
Almost every single hole is spectacularly framed by the looming mountains of the Four Peaks and the Mazatzal ranges in the distance. It is a relatively flat course and if you can manage your game and stay out of trouble, you will do well here. I mentioned our playing partners earlier, because as a man I hadn't considered an issue facing women at this course. There are outhouses available only on the 5th and 13th holes, so you may want to plan accordingly. Dropping trou in the desert is highly discouraged as there are rattlesnakes littered throughout the region.
This course may be a secret, but it won't be for long thanks to its great views, staff and pleasant environment.
The Boulders South Course
34631 N. Tom Darlington Drive, Carefree
The drive along the Carefree Highway is stunning. Not far from the 101 you will find yourself surrounded by high desert, native art stands and locals selling all manner of sun-baked skulls, wagon wheels and antique signage reclaimed from the past. The cacti and native plants start to become much more abundant and a neat civic program has labelled them for quick identification along the roadside. As you continue your journey north toward Carefree, you begin to see the unique and fascinating topography that make a visit to the Boulders a must for the golf adventurer.
Huge boulder formations erupt from the desert floor and dominate the landscape where Jay Morrish found a way to wind two opulent golf courses over, under and through it. We returned one year after reviewing the North Course on this property in hopes of determining a favorite between the two, but this is a fool's errand. Like choosing between chocolate and vanilla or which Doublemint twin is hotter.
Whatever your standard for world class or destination golf is, The Boulders South exceeds. It is top notch from the practice facility to the grill to the pro shop. As with most courses, the golf carts are provided with four iced down bottles of water and towels.
The first hole sets the tone with a forced carry to a long, narrow sloping fairway. Snap it left and your ball is hopelessly unplayable, hit it too far to the right and have your second shot blocked by a boulder. The green is found at the end of an uphill dogleg to the right. It sits in front of a massive granite formation and is guarded by a lone saguaro cactus. The front nine is provocative visually and a stern test of your game. You will want to bring a camera along when you play, particularly for the seven tee. It measures 187 yards from the blue tees, but even if you are playing from shorter tees during your round, you'll want to make the trek up to the elevated tee box and hit from the shadow of Rosie's Rock. Rosie's Rock is a massive boulder that looks like it is precariously resting atop another elevated formation. It appears that you could almost shove it off the ledge, but it has been lying there for thousands of years.
The fifth hole is called the Boulder pile and is the second longest on the scorecard at 545 yards. Unless you can carry your drive 260 yards, you will want to lay up. There is a 20 yard wide band of desert and rock diagonally cleaving the fairway about 225 yards out. The green is guarded by a massive granite formation, and it is close to the Waldorf /Boulders Spa, so you begin to see much activity of the guests in the near distance. The day we played, resort guests were climbing the face walking and riding bicycles above our heads. A cycler may find this distracting, but I thought it was cool.
The South Course is not a long course, even from the blue tee tips it measures 6,726 yards with a 71.9/140 rating and plays as short as 4684 yards from the red tees 68.4/114, but it is a difficult test. It is target golf and you need to think long and hard about how to attack the course. If you are spraying your ball, it can make for a long day. The course isn't especially punitive or unfair, but there is plenty of desert to lose your ball in.
The greens, by and large, are large and receptive, and on the day we played, rolled an 11 on the Stimpmeter. Boulder has a Coyote Rule, which allows you to drop a ball from the spot where you reasonably believe the coyote grabbed your ball from, (which could make for a fun Al Czervik-esque type ruling during a betting round). The thing is, is that the Boulders is such a beauty, you won't really mind. You'll just be happy to be on the course.
Quintero Golf Club
6752 Carefree Hwy., Peoria
Quintero Golf Club is my favorite among all of the magnificent golf courses I have played in Arizona. It ranks among the most beautiful courses I have ever played. It is a formerly private course that was opened to public play in November, 2011. This course commands top dollar but it is worth every one of the many pennies you will shell out to spend a little time with it.
I had been told by my friend Jerry Rose at Communication Links in Arizona that Quintero was a must play, and though I was not familiar with it, we went ahead and booked a tee time.
As mentioned earlier, DO NOT use Google Maps to find your way out to their Peoria address. At some point, the temporary address being used during the course construction became the address used by the satellite service and it is several miles away from the actual location of the club. The day we played there was also construction on the two-lane Highway which compounded our nightmare. We arrived just in the nick of time, but were unable to take advantage of the excellent practice facilities.
Director of Golf Jerry Wilcox was shrewd enough to pair us up with Howard and Lori, who are married and members of Quintero, to help shepherd us through this Rees "The Open Dr." Jones designed beauty.
The course was in perfect condition the day we played. I chuckled to myself as I lined up my second shot from the first fairway because the grass didn't even seem real. It was so thick, green and lush that it seemed impossible amidst the mountainous terrain. It is a delight winding your way up and down and through and over all the foothills and valleys that Quintero is carved into. There are several breathtaking elevation changes including commanding views from the tee box.
The par three six tee boxes are elevated well a few stories above the target the green and you will want to stop your cart as you crest the mountain from five just to get out and look around. The sets of tee boxes trickle down the face of the foothills all with great sight lines to the bunker protected green.
Another example of Jones' inspired use of this piece of land are the two holes approaching the turn. Hole number eight is the most difficult on the course. It is a burly par five with many different approaches to attack. Standing on the tee box you view massive bunker complexes along the entire left side of the fairway landing area. The split fairway on the other side of a massive gully tempts you in to trying to hit driver, but it is much farther to the short stuff than it looks. You are best served hitting a club about 210 straight and trying to bomb your second up the hill past three more humungous bunkers on the right.
Upwards, in the bosom of two more large foothills lies the large elevated green. The ninth hole is a long downhill par three to a skinny green protected by a water hazard in front and a swelled rise in back. If the water scares you in to taking too much club, you then have to contend with a very dicey downhill chip which is almost impossible to stop on the slope coming back to the pin.
It is hard to break down Quintero hole by hole because it is such a memorable course, and every hole adds something to the experience. There are no clunkers among the 18, none where you say "Uh, that was OK." Every hole is picturesque and memorable. This is another track where you will want to bring a camera to record what you are taking in as you play. At 7,208 74.9/147 at its longest, Quintero is a formidable course to be sure. We played from the middle tees and found that it gave us everything we could handle, in fact, it beat our brains in that day. We didn't care at all though, because it was such a pleasure just to be there.
If you get the opportunity, make your way out Hwy. 74 and play this classic.
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