Stone Canyon – Gated golf wonderland in Tucson’s Oro Valley

Categories: Arizona, Travel Destinations
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It is not often in my columns that I write about private golf courses and gated communities. On rare occasions, such as Stone Canyon in Tucson, it is necessary to make an exception.

Typically my travels take me to the better resorts and public or semi-private links that are open to all golf and travel connoisseurs. Many of you have read my stories on Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill, Puerto Vallarta and the like. Well here is your chance to get inside the gates at one of Arizona’s premier golf communities. It features a stunning and award winning Jay Morrish designed desert masterpiece.

My host for this trip was Todd Huizinga (PGA Professional) who is Director of Club Operations and one hell of a nice guy. Todd leads perhaps the best trained staff I have encountered anywhere during my golf travels. From the moment we arrived at the fortress like iron gates to the time we left the property, we were welcomed like family.

The Experience

Pulling into Stone Canyon involved driving up a scenic entry road leading to a stone gate-house from which emerged a friendly gent in dress shirt and tie. After giving him my name and tee time we were welcomed with “Nice to meet you Mr. Ginsberg and Mrs. Ginsberg, enjoy your day at Stone Canyon”. And off we went.

Next up was Dennis. He met us at the entrance to the parking lot and amazingly, greeted us by name, showed us to a parking spot and once parked, welcomed us and took my clubs. I went inside the clubhouse to meet Todd who offered me a brief history of the club as well as an overview of the course, the facilities and the community as a whole. More about that later.

As I headed out to the range there was Dennis. He showed us to our cart and led us to one of the most beautiful practice sites you can imagine. With Titleist golf balls and giant iron cauldrons for cleaning your clubs, this seemed more like a driving range for Roman nobles than mere mortals.

Dennis stayed with us on the range giving us tips on the course, saying hello to members by name, cleaning my clubs as I finished hitting each one, offering putting tips on the practice green (the greens here are bentgrass, very fast and break away from the mountains) and eventually leading me out to the first tee. While this may not be an everyday occurrence, it certainly was a level of service I will never forget. Dennis, you are the best!

The Golf

The course is very simply a masterpiece of design. It is set on a piece of land like no other desert layout I have seen and I have played quite a few. In Morrish’s own words he says of Stone Canyon “It’s the most remarkable desert site I’ve ever seen. It has everything but an ocean – changes of elevation, beautiful rock formations, desert flora. It’s an awesome piece of land.”

The course starts innocently enough with a 390 yard Par 4 dogleg left that is fairly flat with minimal trouble off the tee and a generous green. It ends with a heroic 420 yard (503 from the tips) Par 4 that starts with a tee box perched in the heavens with an endless view of the Tucson area valley and a distant green at the end of a narrow ribbon of fairway too pretty to be believed.

In between are a mix of long and short, straightforward and deceptive, dry and water guarded holes of every imaginable shape and design. Yet there are some startling and consistent features to this layout. First and foremost, the views. Many of the holes are played from elevated tees that offer superb vistas not only of the hole at hand but of the entire surrounds as well. Second, nearly all of the interior holes are lined with hills seemingly made up from nothing but gigantic boulders. It looks as if some kid piled rock on top of rock on top of rock until a mountain was made. Spectacular, weird, eerie and the reason no doubt for the name…Stone Canyon.

The Par 3 6th is only 131 yards but plays across a desert ravine to a smallish green with a steep false front with trouble left, right and behind. Did I mention the 80’ tall waterfall cascading over a field of boulders just short and left? Just a minor distraction.

The Par 5 10th is a demanding risk/reward hole like few others. A good tee shot brings you near the edge of a lake across which lies the green; a mere 200+ yard carry over water. A small peninsula extends from the green into the lake and offers about the only safe landing spot should you go for it in two. For the timid and/or shorter hitter, a crescent moon shaped layup area skirts the entire left side of the lake. While this is dry ground it is also very narrow and quite difficult to hit in its own right. Par here…amazing!

I could on to describe every hole but this is somewhere that must be seen to be appreciated.

The Community

As I mentioned, Stone Canyon is a premier gated community in Tucson, Arizona and is only open to play for property owners and their guests. Being from Minnesota, it was nice to find so many of my home state snowbirds living part or full time in Stone Canyon. Owners do not need to join the golf club and those who choose not to still have full access to the community’s Health and Fitness Facility. Here they can take advantage of state of the art fitness equipment, swimming pools, tennis courts, yoga, Pilates as well as specially trained health and wellness instructors.

For those seeking a retirement location or second home I highly recommend you check in to all that is Stone Canyon. They have an excellent website describing the golf, community and real estate options. If you are fortunate enough to visit, be sure to say hello to Todd, Dennis and the rest of the staff and tell them that Mr. and Mrs. Ginsberg say hello.

Spy on Golf: The Best (and Worst) of 2011

With 2012 nearly upon us, it’s time to bid adieu to 2011 – a topsy-turvy year in golf that managed to entertain, start to finish, with or without Tiger Woods on stage. Here are one blogger’s picks for the year’s best – and best forgotten – people, moments and assorted objects.

Putter of the Year: Long (by a grip handle over Belly)

Putt of the Year: Keegan Bradley, PGA Championship, 17th hole of the final round

Quote of the Year: “As long as it’s legal, I’ll keep cheating like the rest of them.” – Ernie Els on using a belly putter

Prize of the Year: Cured Spanish ham

Headline of the Year: Saltman wins body eight in ham for hole-in-one

Ben Crane

Ham of the Year

Ham of the Year: Ben Crane

Player of the Year, Men: Luke Donald

Player of the Year, Any Gender: Yani Tseng

Youngster of the Year: Lexi Thompson

Streak of the Year: Donald’s 449 holes without a three-putt

Meaningful Meaningless Win of the Year: Tiger Woods, Chevron World Challenge

Performance for the Ages of the Year: Rory McIlroy’s eight-shot victory at the U.S. Open

Cutthroat of the Year: McIlroy, who dumped his girlfriend and his agent in 2011

Gag-Inducing Celebrity Couple Nickname of the Year: Wozzilroy (McIrloy and his new squeeze, tennis star Caroline Wozniacki)

Resurrected Career of the Year: Tie -- Sergio Garcia and Thomas Bjorn

Celebrator of the Year: Open champion Darren Clarke

Guinness Stout

Beverage of the Year

Beverage of the Year: Guinness Stout

#$!*& of the Year: Steve Williams

Innocent Bystander of the Year: Adam Scott

Captain of the Year: Fred Couples (Presidents Cup)

City of the Year: Jupiter, Fla. (aka the “new Orlando”)

Amateur of the Year: Patrick Cantlay

Lowlife of the Year: John Daly (who has officially retired this dubious honor)

Instant Classic: Cleveland Golf Driver a Beautiful Behemoth

As a guy who grew up playing woods made of a strange substance called wood, I find many of today’s drivers unappealing to the eye. There’s only one form a driver should take, and that’s pear-shaped.

Cleveland Classic Driver

Drooling yet?

So my heart skipped a beat when I saw Cleveland Golf’s new Classic Driver, due out early next year. Mahogany finish. Brass-colored face “insert” and sole plate. The word “Classic” scrolled on the crown as an alignment aid. Even a black leather head cover in a shape the company calls “RetroBarrel.”

Cue Homer Simpson drooling sound.

In a word, this is one gorgeous golf club. But that’s the end of the Cleveland Classic’s similarities with its ancestors. (You know, the ones made from trees.) The Classic maxes out the USGA volume allowance at 460cc, about three times the size of a persimmon driver head. Its face is massive – the deepest on the market, according to Cleveland. And off-the-rack models are powered by an ultralight Miyazaki graphite shaft.

While it’s not yet for sale to the public, the Classic has already been tested on Tour. In fact, 2011 Rookie of the Year Keegan Bradley used it en route to winning (with Brendan Steele) the Franklin Templeton Shootout last weekend.

Bradley, who strikes me as the traditional type, instantly fell for the club’s old-school aesthetics. “When I looked at the new driver, honestly, I loved it,” he gushed. “I love the gold face on it… You look down at the face and the thing that you focus on is the sweet spot. I think it’s brilliant. I think it’s gonna change the way drivers are made.”

Of course, Callaway, Ping, TaylorMade et al will have something to say about that. In fact, TaylorMade just introduced its new wood lineup, which carries a decidedly non-traditional name: RocketBallz.

May the best club win.

 

 

Spy on Golf: Countdown to 2012

Could 2011 have ended any better for golf fans?

All signs point to a thrilling 2012, and beyond, as the stars aligned in spectacular fashion during the latter stages of this season. Here just a few recent developments that signal a looming golden age:

  • Tiger Woods regains winning form at the Chevron World Challenge.
  • Luke Donald cements No. 1 ranking by topping the U.S. and European money lists.
  • Wunderkind Rory McIlroy follows up his U.S. Open triumph with another victory (Hong Kong Open) and six top-sixes in his last eight starts.
  • Sergio Garcia claims two titles in his native Spain.
  • Young Americans Webb Simpson, Dustin Johnson and Bill Haas dominate the FedEx Cup playoffs.
  • Jim Furyk goes 5-0 to pace the U.S. Presidents Cup effort.
Luke Donald

Luke Donald aims to keep his No. 1 ranking.

I could go on, but you get the picture. Professional golf is flush with great players in or entering their prime, aging stars with gas left in the tank, and emerging lads with big games and matching personalities.

Never has golf’s international talent pool been this deep or wide. For proof, here’s a breakdown of current standouts by age group:

Young guns (under 30): Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Jason Day, Alvaro Quiros, Rickie Fowler, Webb Simpson, Martin Kaymer, Charl Schwartzel, Nick Watney, Hunter Mahan, Keegan Bradley, Bill Haas, Ryo Ishikawa, Matteo Manassero

Prime-timers (30-somethings): Tiger Woods, Luke Donald, Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Matt Kuchar, Graeme McDowell, Justin Rose, Ian Poulter, Bubba Watson, Zach Johnson, Geoff Ogilvy, Aaron Baddeley

Elder statesmen (40-plus): Steve Stricker, Phil Mickelson, Jim Furyk, David Toms, K.J. Choi, Thomas Bjorn, Miguel Angel Jimenez

Getting excited yet? Me too.

Tough stuff

Kiawah Island Ocean Course

Grrrr... The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island.

Back in the day, Golf Digest’s list of America’s toughest courses was its de facto list of the country’s top courses. When folks stopped equating difficulty with quality, the magazine introduced new criteria – like design balance and shot values – and changed the rankings to America’s best courses.

Now it’s doing both. Golf Digest is out with an updated list of the 75 toughest tracks in America, and it is indeed a Murderers Row.

No. 1 is the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island, and I can vouch for its nastiness firsthand. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same about the remainder of the top five: 2. Pine Valley GC (N.J.) 3. Oakmont CC (Pa.) 4. Spyglass Hill (Calif.) 5. Bethpage Park, Black Course (N.Y.)

Others of note include TPC Sawgrass (7), Pinehurst No. 2 (10), Pebble Beach (14) and Augusta National (31).

Of course, tackling any of these courses is even tougher when you’re paired with one of Golf Digest’s 18 Most Annoying Golf Partners, whose aggravating ranks include our personal No. 1, the Cart Girl Schmoozer.

If the cart girls at these places are as mean as the courses, methinks our buddy would incur a rather harsh penalty.

Spy on Golf: Let’s Overanalyze Tiger’s Victory

Most of Tiger Woods’ wins take one of two forms: epic blowout or last-hole Houdini act. His latest victory fell squarely in the latter category, appropriate since it saw Woods finally escape the clutches of mediocrity.

Tiger Woods 2008 U.S. Open

Tiger was almost this happy after winning the Chevron.

Woods’ breakthrough at the Chevron World Challenge, where he birdied the final two holes to spear Zach Johnson, ended two years of winless, meandering golf. Of course, now everyone wants to know what comes next.

Check that: Everyone wants to predict what comes next. It’s a pointless exercise for sure, since only time and Tiger will tell. But it’s worth analyzing using the evidence from Woods’ recent play, going back to his solid efforts at the Australian Open and Presidents Cup.

Let’s break it down into three parts:

Tiger’s swing: I’m having trouble adjusting to Woods’ new, Sean Foley-crafted action; his hands are lower than before, and he has to rotate the arms abruptly on the backswing to get the club on plane. So I can only imagine how tough it’s been for Tiger to integrate these new positions and moves.

But darned if he doesn’t seem to have it almost down pat. The spectacular shots have returned and, more importantly, he’s making the routine shots look routine again.

Tiger’s health: We have to go by our eyes and Tiger’s words, both of which assure us his Achilles and knee are A-OK. No telling if they’ll stay that way, but for now, we pronounce Tiger fit as a flagstick.

Tiger’s mind: It all boils down to this, doesn’t it? I have a personal theory, based on one enlightening semester of introductory psychology, that Tiger felt something completely foreign in the wake of his sex scandal: shame. His self-loathing subconsciously undermined him on the golf course, telling Tiger he didn’t deserve to win. The result: Poor play, especially on the greens, any time he got into contention.

Or maybe he just wasn’t releasing the blade properly. Either way, it appears Tiger’s finally licked the issue.

Golf Gifts: From Socks to Simulators

What do you get the golfer who has everything? Something non-golf-related, of course.

Since no actual golfer (except maybe Donald Trump) has literally everything, we’ve prepared a list of holiday gift ideas suitable for just about anyone who plays the game. Our picks cover the budgetary spectrum, from affordable stocking stuffers all the way to “in their dreams.”

Straight from St. Andrews Claus himself, our picks for 2011’s best golf gifts:

BIG-TICKET ITEMS

Miura Forged Black Blades

Miura Limited Forged Black Blades

Golf vacation of a lifetime: We won’t tell you where to send your favorite golfer; suffice it to say, Scotland, Ireland and Australia/New Zealand merit serious consideration. Your best bet is to book through an experienced, respected golf tour operator like Perry Golf. They’ll take care of every detail, right down to fixing your pitch marks. Price: $1,500 and up. Way up.

An in-home golf simulator: These are all the rage among golfers with the space and disposable income to install one. P3ProSwing is one of the more affordable suppliers, and its packages allow you to “play” famous courses and analyze your swing. Price: Starting at $599; most popular package is $1,228.

Black beauties: Master clubmaker Katsuhiro Miura -- principal of Miura Golf -- is renowned for the look and feel of his luscious forgings, as his Limited Forged Black Blades attest. The appearance is so striking, in fact, your recipient may choose to display them rather than play them. Price: $2,200 (3-iron through PW)

MID-PRICED GOODIES

Major ducats: Every golf fan dreams of attending the Masters, but Barack Obama will be elected president of the NRA before you’ll score passes to that event. Your golfer will have to settle for the U.S. Open, played next year at San Francisco’s splendid Olympic Club. The USGA is currently running a holiday special – jump on it before Jan. 2, 2012 to grab some extra goodies. Price: $450 for individual Weekly Grounds Ticket.

Walk this way: We believe the game should be played on foot, and that those feet should be comfortable on their 5-mile journey around the course. Every major manufacturer makes lightweight, comfy shoes these days, so you can’t go wrong with FootJoy, adidas, Ecco, or any of the big brands. But we’re partial to upstart TRUE Linkswear, whose ultra-low-profile, spikeless kicks have made a big impression. Price: Starting at $129.

Clicgear golf cart

Cligear golf cart

Push it good: Sticking with the theme, toting a bag over the shoulder for 18 holes can really wear you out. A push cart makes things so much easier. Aficionados adore the folding 3-wheel models made by Clicgear, available in nine colors with a bundle of accessories. Price: $199

STOCKING STUFFERS

Scotland’s Caddies: This charming film, available on DVD, delivers 69 minutes of old-school Scottish loopers spinning yarns about everything and everyone. Caddies from St. Andrews, Troon, Dornoch, Turnberry, Gleneagles and other classic courses tattle on celebrities like Jack Nicholson and Sean Connery. They take on cheaters, too, as well as Americans and the dreaded French. The scenery is spectacular. Price: $19.95

Sock it to ’em: Socks are socks, right? Wrong. Kentwool uses super-fine Merino wool to make a sock so comfortable, the company says it can boost your energy and make you play better. Some sock, huh? Pros like Matt Kuchar and Bubba Watson think so. Price: $24.95 for a pair of Tour Standard models.

Belated Thanks for Golf’s Great Pleasures

Boy, did Thanksgiving come and go in a tryptophan-induced haze. Got buried so deep in turkey and stuffing, I neglected to post this article in a timely fashion.

Having scarfed the last scrap of leftovers, here are a few of the thousand things that make me thankful to be a golfer:

St. Andrews, Scotland - Old Course

No. 1 on our bucket list.

Walking a deserted course, solo, first thing on a Sunday morning.

A three-and-a-half-hour round.

Courses where you can’t possibly plunk a house off the tee.

A foursome without one of the guys who top this list.

Playing partners who know when to call off the hunt for a lost ball.

Hybrid clubs.

Launch monitors.

Clubfitting.

The golf equipment geeks who hang out here.

Friendly starters and marshalls.

Old-school Scottish caddies, like these guys.

ShotLink, the all-knowing PGA Tour stat-keeping tool, for those occasions when I just have to know which player is most likely to bunt a drive less than 240 yards, or score the lowest with a late second-round tee time going off the 10th tee. (Seriously, it’s all in there.)

Rory McIlroy

Thing o' beauty: Rory McIlroy's swing.

David Feherty.

Mike Keiser (visionary founder of Bandon Dunes and Cabot Links).

The town of St. Andrews, Scotland – No. 1 on my bucket list of places to visit.

Minimalist design and the architects who practice it.

Firm, fast conditions.

19th holes that serve local microbrews.

Pull carts.

Stand bags.

Rory McIlroy’s swing.

Matt Kuchar’s smile.

Tiger Woods’ glare.

Luke Donald’s putting stroke.

GolfClubAtlas.com

Seaside golf.

Handheld GPS devices and rangefinders.

The USGA’s Mike Davis, whose U.S. Open setups emphasize shotmaking and imagination over hacking out sideways from ankle-deep rough.

Street-style golf shoes.

Caddyshack quotes. Some of the best are short: “Don’t sell yourself short, Judge, you’re a tremendous slouch.” Others, classically long: “So we finish the eighteenth and he's gonna stiff me. And I say, ‘Hey, Lama, hey, how about a little something, you know, for the effort, you know.’ And he says, ‘Oh, uh, there won't be any money, but when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness.’ So I got that goin' for me, which is nice.”

It sure is, Carl. It sure is.

 

Golf Claps & Silent Treatment: Presidents Cup

All together now: USA! USA! USA!

Feels pretty good once every two years, doesn’t it? Put another way, it’s a good thing America has the Presidents Cup to stir up some pride in between Ryder Cup whippings.

Tiger Woods at 2011 Presidents Cup.

Tiger Woods celebrated in style.

The United States once again took the International team to the woodshed, winning the 2011 Presidents Cup by a more-dominating-than-it-sounds 19-15 margin. And this was supposed to be the year the Internationals -- an Aussie-heavy squad playing on home turf -- broke a five-match victory drought.

Instead, the Americans succeeded where they so often fail against Europe’s Ryder Cuppers: on the greens. The U.S. squad made miles of twisting putts across Royal Melbourne’s diabolical, wind-whipped surfaces, continually snuffing any spark of a comeback.

With Uncle Sam’s finest pushing their all-time record to 7-1-1 against the Internationals, a question lingers: Why don’t the Americans play like this in the Ryder Cup? The Europeans have claimed four of the past five and six of eight since 1995.

Who knows? And for now, who cares? America’s golf community should enjoy the moment.

After all, the next Ryder Cup is just 10 months away.

The Presidents Cup produced a bevy of heroes and goats. We singled out these for polite applause and tacit disapproval:

Golf Claps

Royal Melbourne: Talk about living up to the hype. The Alister MacKenzie-designed masterpiece delivered compelling theater each day, the constantly changing conditions only highlighting the layout’s brilliance. And somehow, the setup crew kept things fair despite green speeds in excess of 14 (!) on the Stimpmeter.

Jim Furyk: Coming off his worst season since his rookie year, Furyk didn’t figure to make a big impact. Surprise! By going 5-0, Furyk paced the Americans and became the first player over 40 to win all his Presidents Cup matches.

Fred Couples’ captain’s picks: To the chagrin of many, Freddie followed rule No. 1 in making his captain’s picks: Never, ever pass up Tiger Woods. While Woods’ 2-3 record was nothing special, he played well in team-match defeats and even better in singles. For good measure, Woods clinched the Cup with a 4-and-3 beatdown of Aaron Baddeley on Sunday. Couples’ other choice, Bill Haas, was solid in splitting his five matches.

Ryder Cup

The Ryder Cup: Still golf's best.

While Woods’ and Haas’s combined 4 ½ - 4 ½ record may seem pedestrian, it compared quite favorably with the International captain’s picks. Which leads us to…

Silent Treatment

Greg Norman’s wild-card selections: Baddeley was bad, posting a 1 ½ - 3 ½ record. Robert Allenby was worse, putting up a big, fat doughnut against four defeats. That’s a combined score of 1 ½ - 7 ½, making Norman’s pre-Cup criticism of Couples ring rather hollow.

The Presidents Cup’s standing alongside the Ryder Cup: Sure, it’s fun to win. But until these matches become more competitive, the Ryder Cup will remain golf’s biggest biennial affair. By a longshot.

Golf Claps & Silent Treatment: Another Tiger Tease

In case you missed the Australian Open – which you probably did, considering it took place a gazillion time zones away from the U.S. – Tiger Woods came thisclose to winning his first tournament since 2009.

Tiger Woods Australian Open

Tiger Woods tantalized Down Under.

He didn’t, finishing third thanks to a Saturday 75 that cost him the lead. For most of the event, though, Woods had the Aussie crowds and international golf media buzzing. His drives were straighter than usual, the irons old-Tiger crisp, the putter showing more than occasional flashes of sizzle.

Following his third-round flop, Woods charged back with a final-round 67, falling two shy of Greg Chalmers’ winning score of -13. The display left most everyone impressed, if not quite ready to declare Tiger “back” just yet.

Left high and dry by too many Tiger teases the past couple years, some wags noted that he finished behind two journeyman types (Chalmers and runner-up John Senden). More importantly, though, look at the guys right behind him: Adam Scott, Geoff Ogilvy, Jason Day and Nick Watney. They’ve played some decent golf lately, haven’t they?

Bottom line: another non-win for Woods – still the only golfer for whom a third-place finish against a world-class field is regarded as a disappointment. But it bodes well for his – and America’s – chances in this week’s Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne.

We’ll be staying up for that one.

Golf Claps

The Presidents Cup: As if the controversies surrounding Fred Couples using a captain’s pick on Woods and Steve Williams’ foolhardy remarks about Tiger weren’t enough to spark interest… The matches got a further boost from Woods’ performance and that of International team members Scott, Ogilvy, Day et al. The Ryder Cup still reigns supreme when it comes to biennial team competitions, but the Presidents Cup continues to catch up quickly.

Oh, and we can’t wait to see Royal Melbourne, one of golf’s most revered sites. Architecture geeks rejoice!

Silent Treatment

John Daly: After intentionally drowning a half-dozen balls before walking off the course midway through his first round, Daly proved yet again that he’s a complete waste of a sponsor’s exemption. The man needs help.

Barton Creek Resort and Spa – Austin, Texas Hill Country Gem

Barton Creek Resort and Spa is one of Texas’ top rated golf resorts and for very good reason. This beautiful property, just minutes northwest of downtown Austin, lies in the rolling wooded Hill Country of Texas and boasts access to four great golf courses. Two Tom Fazio designed championship layouts anchor the golf experience and are backed up with a Ben Crenshaw track and an Arnold Palmer designed course as well.

Just outside the front door of the resort lie the Tom Fazio Foothills course and the Ben Crenshaw Cliffside layout. Just a 5 minute free shuttle ride away is the second Fazio gem named the Canyons. A bit further out is the Arnold Palmer Lakeside course along beautiful Lake Travis. Combined, these four layouts provide an ever changing and challenging test for golfers of all abilities.

This trip I played the Foothills, Canyons and Cliffside courses which share the rolling landscape of the Barton Creek area. This wooded and hilly terrain is reminiscent of the interior holes of Spyglass Hill near Pebble Beach as well as the mature northern forests of Minnesota’s Grand View Lodge or the amazing Lake Tahoe layouts of Coyote Moon and Schaffer’s Mill.

Tom Fazio Foothills and Canyon gems

The Fazio Foothills and Canyon courses feature remarkable elevation changes, fairly tight fairways, lightning fast greens and an array of hazards whose beauty belie their danger. Dry creek beds, running water, arroyos, canyons, limestone cliffs and caves, waterfalls and ever changing terrain are just some of the natural challenges Fazio has incorporated into his layouts.

While the two Fazio tracks share similar feel and terrain the courses play quite differently. Head Golf Professional Justin Kutz probably explained it best when he said “The fairways of the Canyons course tend to fall off on the sides while those on the Foothills course tend to filter the ball back onto the fairway.” I found this to be exactly right. Wayward shots on the Canyons course often rolled off the short grass and down into canyons, creeks, trees or worse. The Foothills layout was more forgiving in this regard but I found the fairways felt a bit narrower.

Both tracks featured numerous greens fronted by water requiring all or none carries to the safety of the putting surfaces. These watery hazards took the form of small running creeks, deep natural gorges cut from limestone and even distracting waterfalls tumbling alongside the greens. Two of my favorite holes were the 8th and 9th on the Foothills.

The Par 5 eighth hole starts at an elevated tee high above a fairly wide fairway protected on the left by a large pond and on the right by the ever present woods. From here the hole narrows considerably with a creek running down the entire left side and trees pinching the right side all the way to the green. If you have safely made it this far in two, your approach shot to the green must avoid the deep chasm left of the green where the creek falls into a deep abyss. This is a great golf hole. The Par 3 ninth is probably the signature Par 3 of all the courses. Again, an elevated tee gives you a great view of the hole and its many challenges. A smallish green angles away from you and is guarded on the front and left by a waterfall that tumbles into the same chasm that guards the eighth green. Amazing!

Crenshaw Cliffside course

The Crenshaw designed Cliffside course could not be more different than the Fazio layouts. Here the fairways are very wide with generous landing areas and fewer hazards. It is more of a links style. Yet, whatever advantage is gained off the tee is taken away by some of the largest and most undulating putting surfaces you will ever play. Finding the wrong part of these greens makes two putting heroic, three putting common and four putts not out of the question.

The Resort

Besides the four golf courses, Barton Creek Resort and Spa features every amenity you would expect from a world class resort. A full fitness center with an indoor pool, running track and exercise rooms are a great way to start your day. The full service spa offers treatments of every kind. In addition, there are numerous dining options, an excellent tennis center, nature trail, miniature golf and first class rooms and service. Be sure to give Justin Kutz and his golf staff a warm hello and tell them I look forward to seeing them again soon.

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