Friday, November 10, 2017

Here is a link to the story I wrote about my visit to Vienna Austria  a couple months ago

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Victory at Verrado Buckeye AZ

In Buckeye AZ, in the west valley of Phoenix, lies the development of Verrado. It is virtually a town of its own and boasts two Tom Lehman Golf Courses.  The Founders Course which has been open just over 10 years, and The Victory Course which opened in Feb 13, 2017.  This may be the first new golf course in the Phoenix are in over 10 years.
There are no houses around this course yet, until you come to number 15 which is framed by homes.  Strangely enough the houses are set back far enough and placed in such a way that they actually enhance the attractiveness and the definition of the hole.

The views are dramatic, as you are almost cradled in the White Tank Mountains.  I expected a course with lots of elevation changes, but the  course is relatively flat with plenty of rolling fairways providing subtle  elevation changes,  That is until you come to 17 and 18— two wonderful finishing holes.  18 is the only hole with water in play and it is a challenging beautiful finish to a wonderful round of golf.

The fairways feature generous landing areas.  So for those of us who don't drive the ball  perfectly straight, its very forgiving,  There is plenty of challenge  from there in, however,  even though there are less than 25 bunkers on the course and water on only one hole.  If there is any rough, I can’t remember it.  It was quite windy the day we were there and with its proximity to the White Tank Mountains, I would guess that  wind is not uncommon.   We were  into the wind for 5 holes and on #6 we finally got a downwind break.

 Rock outcroppings and boulder fields, are clearly one of the defining points of Victory at Verrado, not only lining the holes but in the fairways as well— they definitely enhance the course, but be careful not to hit your ball behind  one  of them (especially on holes like number fourteen which turns a drivable par four into a real challenge).

This course would be a challenge to walk, there are some pretty substantial distances from  green to the next tee, but they do have concrete cart paths, some of which, were still dirt from green to the next tee.  (I assume that will change when the housing development is finished).

Bring you best putting game because the greens have plenty of movement in them with some very challenging pin placements on very large greens, the deepest being 51 yards  (that is at least a 3 or 4 club difference) To put that in perspective, there are  kickers in the NFL that can’t make a field goal from that distance.

There are 9 sets of tee boxes all the way from 7258 yards to 4646 yards.  All skill levels should find fun and challenge here.

Victory at Verrado is operating from a temporary clubhouse with the  new clubhouse  scheduled for completion in late fall of 2017.  They are not planning any GPS on the carts and the course is not fully   uploaded for our personal GPS devices-  Get a progress report when you book your tee time.  (The sprinkler heads are very well marked, however).

If you find airplane noise disturbing, this may not be the place for you. Luke Air Force base is no more than 10 miles away, and we heard the roar of jet engines over head at least 1/2 dozen times during our round.  However if seeing several formations of F-15 and the new F-35 fighter jets is exciting for you, then this may be exactly the place for you.  To me they were a treat to watch and a welcome distraction after a wayward golf shot.

Tom Lehman  has designed a very playable course here with wonderful mountain vistas—   Call them and check it out.


Sunday, January 1, 2017

A long weekend in Borrego Springs California

Borrego Springs CA

  Never heard if it? Neither had I, but 45 or 50 miles south of  Palm Springs sits the tiny, sleepy, peaceful,  town of Borrego Springs. So peaceful, in fact, that there isn't a stop light in or even near the town  (the closest stoplight  is over 25 miles away).

  The town is surrounded by  Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, the largest state park in California with over 500 miles of dirt roads and many wilderness areas, hiking trails, bird watching and is an International Dark Sky Community.  The almost black night sky is a star gazers paradise.

What to do here
There are thousands of miles of hiking trails  (the most popular is Borrego Palm Canyon)   a Desert Botanical gardens, hundreds of miles of off roading and 4WD trails.
And of course the many sky art sculptures of Ricardo Breceda.  And don't let me forget to mention the Golf because that is primarily why  I came in the first place.  

At the Warner Springs Airport you can take a gilder ride over this beautiful mountain landscape.  This is a dark sky community so the star gazing is superb and if you are lucky you will spot some big horn sheep in the park.

Family Activities in Borrego Springs

Borrego Springs is a hidden gem for the family. There are families who make an annual pilgrimage here  to unwind, get away and spend quality family time together.  You could spend days exploring Anza- Borrego Desert State Park,  A couple examples:  drive 4 miles off road to visit Fonts Point.  Its like standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon with an awesome view. 

The park has a Junior Ranger program for kids 7-12 with a classroom in the visitors center where they meet with park rangers and are given a junior ranger log book. They learn the secrets of the desert environment, about  animals that do and used to live here, The ancient Indians who used to live here. Fossils from prehistoric times when this park was under the ocean and much more.  There are also Ranger led hikes and talks in the park everyday.

La Casa del Zoro
We stayed at La Casa Del Zorro,which reopened in 2013.  Its wonderfully renovated 44 pool side guest rooms and 19 private casitas with multiple bedrooms  make it an easy place to bring the entire family. And if you really want to live it up rent the Happy Days house, the former winter get away for publishing magnate James Copley.

There are enough activities here that you may never want to leave the resort and it  also has an extensive kids club with Bocce ball, horseshoes, dive in movies, treasure hunts and much more— just contact the hotel for details.

All this and world class golf too
Rams Hill is a golf course gem in the most unlikely of destinations. 
This Tom Fazio designed course is one of the few in the U.S. that is open to public play.  Lakes, streams, waterfalls, elevation changes and vistas for miles into the  Santa Rosa mountains of the Anza-Borrego State Park make this a very special place.  Stretching from  7247 yards down to 5064 yards with 5 sets of tees, make this a wonderful place for all levels of golfers.  And if you don't like golf  your are still going to love the views that keep changing on each and every hole.

 Numbers One and Two start off up the hill from the clubhouse and then three levels out.  The 4 par threes are all spectacular and the view of Santa Rosa Mountain from  the downhill number seven almost makes you want to just sit down and soak it all in for a while on the tee box.

Rams Hill is in a housing development  but the houses are set back so far that  after a few holes you forget they are even there, and the fairways are so wide that most errant tee shots will probably find a safe place to land.

You wont soon forget number eleven  a 556 yard downhill par 5 with a stream running down the entire left side. and views of the surrounding mountains that seem like they go on forever.  Number seventeen is a classic  drivable par 4 but  when you look at all the bunkering that lays before you, you better think twice about where to put your tee shot.  Number eighteen, a par 5 around a lake is a serene finish to a wonderful day.
Having spent 3 nights here I can clearly say that if you are coming to play golf in the Palm Springs area  you should include a night or two down here.

Rams Hill is not the only golf in town—- if you want a simpler yet fun round head for  Borrego Springs Golf Resort.  It is desigined by San Diego golf architect  Cary Bickler. With his creative use of mounding he turns a flat piece of desert land into one with some interesting elevation changes.

Getting here

1 hour 15 minutes by car from Palm Springs  and less than a two hour drive from San Diego—  Its also just a 4 hour drive from the Phoenix airport.