Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Blackstone Country Club a wonderful private reciprocal experience

Blackstone Country Club
Peoria AZ
If you are a member of a club anywhere in the world, and are looking for reciprocal play in the Phoenix area, then you have to look at Blackstone CC.

Blackstone opened in 2005 and is a private club within the master-planned community of Vistancia. (There is also a public course in the development).

This course was designed by Jim Engh and if you have not heard of him, you certainly will. (http://www.enghgolf.com ) He is getting accolade after accolade for his designs, being named Golf course architect of the year in 2003 by Golf Digest Magazine should be enough to get your attention. Several years ago, on my quest to play the Top 100 I played the Sanctuary just north of Denver and just loved that course, just like I love this one.

My wife Annie and I played today with Todd Cernohous the Director of Golf on one of their busier days of the year with 70 rounds, that is less than 20 foursomes. Just for comparison sake, a public course can send that many off in two hours.

The practice area is wonderful. First of all the range is stocked with Titelist Prov-1’s and the targets are plenty and well marked. Not only that, but as you finish hitting a club on the range one of the rangers comes up and cleans it for you before it goes back in your bag. Now that’s service.!! Right next to the first tee is the short game area and practice putting green and the green is contoured similarly to the course, so you know what lies ahead. Today the greens are running at a speed of about 11, which is quite fast. But I love this speed.

Blackstone is par 72 and can be played anywhere from 7089 to 4738
Yards. I played it from 6400 which was plenty for me.
If you play this course and pay attention to the design, you will know the next time you set foot on a Jim Engh course. There is water on only 2 of the holes, and after a few holes you will see that he loves bowl shaped greens (my wife called them toilet bowl shaped) some of which sit down below the fairway and many of which are surrounded by substantial mounding. Usually this means that if you are just off the green you are going to have a fast running downhill chip. Most of his bunkers are very small, but they are hidden in mounds so they can collect balls from a pretty broad radius. Having said that, there are only 70 bunkers on the entire course.

Jim Engh sets his courses up much differently from a visual perspective than most golf course architects. The landing area are generous, but the mounding and bowling of the greens can trick your eye, Annie called it visual trickery. To me this is what makes this course visually exciting. Jim Engh said “ I know 4 out of 5 players will love this course and the fifth will not like it at all”. It’s that different.

There were a couple holes, that I would design differently, par-5 number 9 a double dog leg, has a short approach to a postage stamp green surrounded by lots of trouble. (although I did get up and down there which Todd later told me was next to impossible) You have to hit your very best shot here. On the par-3 number 17 the entire green surface and the entire flag are hidden from view by high mounds. You have to be careful that the previous group has left the green. At this point Todd told me he has never had a hole-in-one. I said “wouldn’t it be ironic if you get one here and we can’t even see it?” He didn’t get one but his ball mark was 4 inches right of the hole and his ball had come to rest 5 inches left of the hole. It had to roll right over the hole.
On the next hole I asked Todd about the course record. “65 held by Jeff Quinny” but later he sheepishly admitted he has also shot 65 there. I am not sure how many birdies Todd had today but it was a lot.

The 30,000 square foot clubhouse, which they call the Hacienda, is stunning and the food is outstanding. Annie loved the potato chips which are made daily right on premises. It turns out everything that comes out of the kitchen is fresh made on site.

Blackstone is also an Audubon certified golf club, which means it keeps use of pesticides and herbicides to a minimum.

It was $75,000 for an equity membership but that was recently reduced to $15,000 and a non-equity membership is $7500 all with monthly dues of $675. They currently have only 66 members so there is plenty of room for you to join, and when the development is built out there will only 200 homes.

They are promoting reciprocal play with other clubs at $125.00 per round. If you are headed to Phoenix, this course should be on your list. Have your head pro call to set it up.

If you go : www.blackstonecountryclub.com
Phone 623.707.8700
They are located approx 45 minutes north west of Sky Harbor airport in Peoria