Saturday, February 27, 2010

A high end experience at an affordable price

I played Encanterra Golf Club today in Queen Creek AZ a southeast suburb of Phoenix, about 40 minutes east of Sky Harbor airport. I came for the golf but was most impressed by the people and the clubhouse.

The Tom Lehman designed course opened 2 years ago to great accolades, but the clubhouse, which they call La Casa (home in Spanish), made me want to open my wallet and join on the spot. It is 60,000 luxurious square feet that just opened in early Feb 2010. Do you have any idea how expansive 60,000 square feet is?
There is a ballroom that seats 288 with an adjoining brides and grooms dressing room. That was a new one on me, but they intend to be the wedding destination of the SE valley. It is Mediterranean in style; very colorful and warm. It has several private dining areas, a working kitchen to service the restaurants but also a more “public kitchen”/ party room, because everyone at a party wants to gather in the kitchen—the host can cook themselves or have the chef staff do the work.

There is a chef’s table that seats 10, adjacent to the kitchen so you can interact with the chef about what you want to eat and watch the kitchen action closeup. There are four distinct restaurants priced very reasonably so that members will return again and again without breaking the bank. A member can even keep a private wine locker in La Casa. And all the mailboxes for the community are in La Casa making the mail area almost a social gathering place. The elegant locker room has a barber chair, pool table and poker table—a huge spa and state of the art workout room and 3 outdoor pools and two indoors as well…. And it seemed like every room we were in, had walls that collapsed to open to the out of doors. What more could you want in a club.

Then we went to the golf course, first encountering the practice facility which is first class, there is plenty of room to practice every kind of shot and even has pro v-1’s as range balls.

This 2-year-old golf course has already hosted the Gateway tour championship and that event produced the course record of 60, but my game did not put the course record in any jeopardy.
The golf course is not your typical desert style golf course; it’s more like a northern parkland course. It has no desert surrounding the holes and all the homes are around the perimeter of the course.
There is water on over half of the holes and there is real rough, and I mean real rough surrounding every hole. The bunkers were in fabulous condition but make no mistake, they are penal. Quite a challenge. Many of the greens are raised with false sides and fronts and greens running at 11 on the stimpmeter. I loved these greens.

If you are a big hitter you can play it back to 7174 yards but there are 5 sets of tees so every level of golfer will enjoy this course. One thing I questioned was the next two sets of tees were 6734 yards and 6078. That is a big difference, but they told me there will soon be a set at 6350. Did I mention how walkable it is? Nearly half the members walk when they play golf.

I didn’t get to tour the model homes, there will be 2300 homes when the community is completely built out, but they are committed to being a “green development” Every home will have a 3 KW solar electric system which could cut a $400 monthly summer air conditioning bill in 1/2, low e glass windows, solar attic fans and many other green components.

This is a private club but the golf initiation is $25,000 and the dues is only $425 per month. For comparison sake a similar club in Scottsdale will be 4 times the initiation and twice the dues.

There are currently 100 golf members and 122 homes have been sold, so you can still easily choose your neighborhood with prices in the low 200’s to the high 300’s.
More information at:

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Half Moon Bay Award

Half Moon Bay Golf Links -- set against the dramatic cliffs of the Pacific Ocean just minutes from San Francisco and San Jose which I visited recently and wrote about in my previous post -received a "Gold Medal" rating in GOLF Magazine's 2010 edition of "Premier Resorts."

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Half Moon Bay come for the ocean stay for the golf

Half Moon Bay Golf Links
Memorable golf on coastal bluffs
less than an hour from San Francisco

I am back at that “city by the bay,” as Tony Bennett would sing. Well, almost. I’m actually at Half Moon Bay golf links, just 45 minutes south on Highway 1, but a world away from San Francisco with its soaring pyramid and urban feel. A couple of the holes at Half Moon Bay even run next to a farm.

On bluffs overlooking the Pacific, historic mansions with expansive ocean views line the highway. Surfers come to test their skills at Maverick Point, and the town of Half Moon Bay offers up a cultural hodgepodge of old hippies, good restaurants, coffee houses and eclectic shopping. In the right season, there is even whale watching.

Oh, yes, the golf. Half Moon Bay Golf Links has two courses—the Old course designed by Arnold Palmer, and the Ocean course by Arthur Hills. I played the Ocean Course, a links style layout with stunning sweeping vistas of the ocean and many other holes, which are separated by costal mounding and native fescue. On thirteen tee, I could see so many holes that I had to pay close attention to make sure I aimed at the correct fairway. The greens are poa annua, which most golf courses try to get rid of, but these babies putt straight, true and quick.

Number four is a 481-yard par five that usually plays down wind. It is followed by a 465-yard par four that usually plays into the wind. That made no sense to me till the pro explained that Arthur Hills’ strategy was to make four an easy birdie and five a tough bogie. He was trying to get a birdie-bogie sequence. That was a new one on me, but the more I thought about it, the more I liked it.

The great holes on the Ocean course are the signature finishing holes—16,17 and 18— that play along a bluff high above the ocean. If you hit it left, reload— you’re probably on the beach, at least a hundred feet straight down the cliff.

I stayed at the Half Moon Bay Lodge, a Best Western that is affiliated with the golf links. The Ritz Carlton down the road is the luxury spot, but it is the Lodge that offers the bargain “stay and play package.” My room was cozy and comfortable. A fire crackled in the real fireplace as I wrote this review. They put an easy to use Duraflame log in every fireplace. Add in the pool and fitness room, and this is a very nice Best Western.

February may not be the best month here. It was chilly and the course was soaked from previous rains, but come fall, spring or summer, it should be fabulous. Half Moon Bay Links hosts about 250 golf events a year—more than any other course on the west coast. All the staff I met were wonderfully helpful, including Al the ranger, who made a point of coming by when I was about halfway around to see if there was anything he could help with. Since he could not, help me with my swing, I declined with a smile.

If you go:
Rates: $180 weekdays and $205 weekends
Pro shop: 650-726-1800
To organize an event, contact Brett Armstrong, tournament director
Stay and play: