AZGA Arizona Golf Buzz: If you haven’t played Longbow Golf Club in the past 10 years, be prepared to experience a makeover worthy of a TV reality show. Architect Ken Kavanaugh was handed a “do over’s” for this property with a bigger budget and much more acreage and he made the best of it, turning what was regarded as a “nice little course” into one of the best public layouts in the Phoenix metro area.
Longbow is named for the Longbow Apache helicopter, a prominent military aircraft that is built across the street from the course; it would be a rare day if you didn’t see at least one of them hovering overhead during your round. Longbow was transformed from a par 70 of 6,750 yards to a par 71 of 7,003 yards with an almost entirely new front nine, a striking new clubhouse, revamped practice facilities, upgraded bunkering and amenities found at some of Scottsdale’s high-end facilities.
The re-design didn’t just add length, but combined it with strategic value and infinite shot-making choices. As a result of the myriad improvements, magazines have ranked Longbow as one of the top 100 resort courses in the country and one of the top 20 public courses in Arizona.
Longbow Golf Club has hosted the Winn Grips Heather Farr Classic for 12 years, an American Junior Golf Association event, which was named the AJGA Tournament of the Year in 2010.
What is great about the re-design, which was completed in 2003, six years after the course first opened, is the course became a more challenging layout for skilled players, yet remained just as playable for weekend warriors who don’t try to tackle it from the tips, where the rating is 72.7 and slope is 132.
There are four sets of tees here, with the shortest at 5,202 yards. Fairways in most cases are generous, but transition areas offer up penalizing lies and fairway bunkers are deceptively deep and contoured – avoid both and your scorecard look a whole lot better.
Longbow doesn’t include the striking elevation changes and scenery of courses in north Scottsdale but offers a refreshing core golf course layout devoid of homes and roads.
The highlight here is the finishing stretch. No. 13 is a 429-yard par 4 with an uphill tee shot into a left-to-right dogleg with a hidden lake on the inside corner, to a green squeezed by water on the left and a huge bunker on the right.
No. 14 is a long par 4 that features a fairway that slopes to the left, toward the desert, and a tough approach to a double-tiered green guarded by deep bunkers on both sides.
The 15th might be the best hole; a 420-yard par 4 that skirts a waste bunker on the right to a long green with a sprawling sand bunker and water hazard wrapping around the front, left and back of the green complex – no flat putts here either.
No. 16 is a pretty par 3 at 234 yards with a carry over both desert and sand.
Kavanaugh served up a drivable par 4 at 17, but the green complex has a prominent ridge that plays havoc with chips and putts.
The 18th, a 538-yard par 5, isn’t quite as interesting, but does provide a reasonable opportunity to finish with a birdie.
Practice facilities here are excellent and so are amenities in the new, contemporary clubhouse. Included are a spacious outdoor event patio with fans, heaters, misters, outdoor kitchen and bar, enormous fireplace, convenient drive-up snack shop, a cozy restaurant, and well-appointed golf shop.
Something else many golfers appreciate about Longbow is that yardages are well marked, including markers on the cart paths and 150-yard stakes that also serve as directional devices. One more nice twist is the pin placement sheets posted on the back of all carts.
Green fees are quite reasonable considering all that Longbow has to offer; this is one of Arizona’s best golf course values in a State full of them.