Friday, November 20, 2009

Grayhawk Golf Club Scottsdale AZ

Grayhawk Golf Club Scottsdale AZ

Today I played the Grayhawk Golf Club Talon course, in Scottsdale AZ. Their second course is called Raptor This is one of the premier public tracks here in the Phoenix area and many people come to play it. It was designed by Gary Panks and David Graham and is definitely one of the more challenging tracks in the valley. From the tips it plays nearly 7000 yards and is rated at 73.6 with a slope of 143. For comparison sake, the hardest slope the USGA gives out is 151.

Many PGA tour pros play and hang out here in “Phil’s Grill” Today I saw Gary McCord on the practice putting green, getting ready for his round. We played it from 6400 yards and it’s plenty challenging from that distance. The landing areas appear tighter than they actually are, which is intimidating from the tee box and the greens and collection areas around the greens are good sized with lots of undulations. The greens may be challenging but they are in terrific condition and putt true and beautifully. One saving grace on the scorecard is what they refer to as the local desert rule. If you hit it in the desert, play it as a lateral hazard rather than a lost ball. The holes have names like Bogle, Deception and Heaven or Hell which should give you a picture of the challenge that faces you at the Talon course.

The clubhouse here is one of the most inviting and beautiful of all the public courses in the Phoenix area. The proshop wins awards regularly and it is warmly laid out. It even boasts a locker room, one of the few daily fee courses to do so, with lots of Tour player memorabilia and a shower and towels if you have to clean up after sweating yourself through 18 holes.

The front nine blends beautifully with the surrounding McDowell Mountains and keeping your eye on Pinacle Peak in the distance will give you a big clue as to how your putts will break “down valley” on these multi-tiered greens. The back 9 is built around several box canyons, that love to gobble up ProV1’s.

For the last couple years they have hosted the open. Also it is home to the Kostis McCord learning school, a great place to tune up your game before trying this course out. For more info visit

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


San Antonio TX
Nov 9-14 2009
The stars at night are big and bright
Deep in the heart of Texas

So the song goes, I am deep in the heart of Texas. San Antonio is the second largest city nestled in the midst of our nations second largest state.
An earlier Spanish territory, fifty legendary missions settled in Texas. And five of these settlements are still standing in San Antonio. The most famous is the historic Alamo, still popular today for mans overwhelming desire for freedom at any cost, and Texas’ most popular tourist attraction.
As popular as it has been for tourists visiting the Alamo and the famed river walk, San Antonio is fast becoming a leading golf destination.

Westin La Cantara
A visit to the Westin La Cantera Hotel draws from the colorful bounty of Texas history. The lobby recalls a time when gigantic wooden doors, wrought iron gates, and oversized, leather furniture graced the homes of massive landowners such as the “Big House” of the King Ranch in Texas. Large, welcoming fireplaces are patterned after this million-acre estate. (just how big is one million acres?)The surrounding casita village also has design elements from other noteworthy ranches in Texas, with the brand of each ranch over the fireplace of each casita. The hotels multi-million dollar renovation features plush sleeping rooms, a 7600 square foot workout facility and spa, lost quarry pools, tennis courts and an extensive meeting space to satisfy both vacationer and business clientele. All this but it is the terrific golf courses that got my attention and that are starting to draw golf enthusiasts from near and far.

The Resort Course at La Cantera has hosted the Texas Open for the past 14 years. It is a Weiskopf-Morrish design that opened in 1995. The fairways and rough are in pristine condition with year round Bermuda grass. Over-seeding the tee boxes and greens with rye for the winter ensures a beautifully lush landscape. The elevation changes mimic a mountain golf course and add to the sprawling scenery.
Hole # 1 is an eye opener, over 600 yard long, downhill, “grip it and rip it” beginning, sure to super-charge even the longest of hitters. Number 2 is a virtual u-turn par 4; one shot out from the tee and turn back for your second shot towards the cup. Hole #7 is one of the more interesting holes on the course. Teeing off from the top of an old limestone rock quarry wall to a fairway 100 feet below, you aim your tee shot towards the top of the Six Flags Theme Park rollercoaster.
. Sporting many elevated tees, the course comes to life in the second half with it ‘s more private setting. In fact, the tee box on 11 is the highest point on the property. Number 12 is the former signature hole. Following an easy tee shot, the second approach shot carries over a ravine that beautifully guards the green. Hole #16 is a challenging 340-yard par 3 with pot bunkers all through the fairway. It looks like a minefield and is sure to rattle your grip.
The Resort Course at La Cantera is going to stay a great place even after the Texas Open moves next year. Steve Shields, his staff, and all of the employees at the Westin enhance your experience with friendly, courteous, Texas hospitality. It’s a perfect golf destination during its peak weather conditions in October, November, March, and April.

The Palmer Course at La Cantara

The Palmer Course at the Westin La Cantara opened in 2001, and it is my personal favorite. Sprawling vistas, sprouting rock outcroppings, and flowing waterways bedazzle even the most spoiled golfers. It boasts a higher slope rating than the Resort Course and adds about 8 shots to your scorecard.
Hole # 1 is an easy par 4 that invites a cheery disposition. You are then introduced to the beauty of San Antonio from the hilltop view from the second tee box. And from then on, you are guaranteed to be awed by the stunning sights below.
Number 4 is one of the prettiest par threes I have ever seen. It is here that Arnold Palmer pays homage to his loving wife Winnie with a hole featuring a tranquil pond, a flower studded island, a rock waterfall and an artful wooden bridge dedicated to her memory. Holes #8 and #9 are both uphill treks heading back towards the beautiful Spanish style clubhouse, framed by a stepped rock waterfall that feeds into a running stream in front of the green. It is here you may want to grab a cold drink and enjoy the splendid course design.
Then its back up a hill on #10 to a blind green that is sculpted into a grotto, and soon followed by #13, a down hill, 100 foot drop par three. It all finishes with an up and down par 4 that drops steeply to the green in front of the clubhouse. Wow! This may be Arnold Palmers best vision as an architect.
The scenic ride on the golf course is sure to spawn your appetite, so be sure to dine at the magnificent Francescos Restaurant in the Westin Hotel where we found the veal loin in a spicy mole sauce, a unique cornbread tourine, and a Ceasar salad with a Texas-style kick to make for an outstanding dining experience following golf.

Boudro’s Dinner Cruise along the River Walk
When the sun sets and golf has to stop, Take some time to explore the famous river walk of downtown San Antonio. And try a dinner cruise departing from Broudro’s Restaurant. The riverboat seats about 20 people and boasts a tasty menu of Texas ribeye, crab filled enchiladas, prickly-pear margaritas, and pecan coated ice cream treats. The entertaining guide on our boat explained the history of Texas and specifically, San Antonio. It would take a complete article unto itself to tell you the colorful history of the Alamo, San Antonio Cathedral, the waterways construction, and other aspects of life in San Antonio. So I will just leave this to a qualified tour guide.
We met with just such a charming city guide, named Sissy the next day who detailed the unique lore of San Antonio and a few local landmarks. Aside from the ever- popular Alamo, San Antonio features a Mexican Mercantile (with authentic Mexican vanilla), cobblestone courtyards, city parks, and an old brewery built by its German citizens a century ago. It explains why you might hear an accordion among the instruments of a serenading Mexican street band.
guest fees: $125 Mon thru Thurs $140 Fri thru Sun

The Quarry Golf Club
This is our last day in San Antonio and we are playing the Quarry Golf Club. It was built in 1993 and designed by Keith Foster, one of his first and a terrific track. It plays like 2 different golf courses: the front nine is links style and the back nine is through an old limestone quarry, that used to be the source for the Alamo cement company. There are no trees in play and maybe not a tree in sight, but don’t let that fool you, that just makes it easier for the wind to get you. If the wind isn’t enough, it has plenty of rock, boulders, water and ledges and fescue.

Unlike La Cantara it is all Bermuda grass. Not having been over seeded, the fairways run firm and fast. For a public course it was in wonderful condition. . It plays 6740 from the tips, short by today’s standards and to par 71.
Number One is a welcoming opener and on number three water starts coming into play on a beautiful par-three. Number 5, called watery grave, is the only par-five on the front 9 and has water on both sides. And plenty of fescue surrounding the fairways. Be careful here!!

As you pass through the tunnel to number 10 a whole new world of golf opens up as you enter the old quarry. You can see every hole on the back 9 from the 10th tee box. These holes back here are the most interesting and challenging as you wind your way through quarry walls rock outcroppings and water that fills in the deepest part of the old quarry. Numbers 13 and 16 are by far the most unique as you hit around the water and tee off from an old rock ledge down to the old quarry floor.

Annie liked how the course sets up for women, and the Callaway clubs we used today were wonderful. In fact I may like the irons better than my own

The service was outstanding from the proshop to the starter and beverage girl. But on #7 the pro even showed up to take a lunch order for the turn. Now that’s service!!
For more info visit
Rates this time of year are $65.00 Sun – Thurs, $95 on Fri and Sat. and $49 twilight

Pete Dye Golf Club at French Lick

Last summer I wrote about the new Pete Dye Golf Club at French Lick (see old posts May 2009) and told you it was the longest course I have ever seen and it turns out to be one of the very longest courses in existence at 8102 yards.

It's latest accolade comes from Golfweek magazine, . The new Pete Dye course, which opened this year, is ranked No. 27, and will be the host site of the 2010 PGA of America's Professional National Championship.

It is interesting that at the PGA Championship, I had a conversation with Pete Dye and he very clearly took a stand on the fact that the USGA needs to better regulate the golf ball so that it does not go so far. He talked about how the length of golf courses today is getting ridiculously long, well beyond the capability of the average golfer and requires too much land and subsequently too much maintenance. All this after building an 8102 yard golf course.