The Buzz: Red Mountain Ranch is one of several private clubs in Arizona that began allowing limited public play during the recent economic recession, which came as great news to golf enthusiasts who appreciate excellent course design. Pete Dye, who only created a couple Arizona courses, is the architect of Red Mountain Ranch and it measures up to the designs for which he is highly acclaimed. Quite simply, this is a classic golf experience featuring Dye’s signature mounding and bunkers, reinforced with railroad ties and contoured greens. It sits below scenic Red Mountain and features dazzling rock formations amid Saguaros, mesquite trees and native desert landscape.
Make sure you check all the numbers on the scorecard because if you go strictly by yardage, you will be fooled. Take some advice and don’t reach for the driver on every par 4 and 5. This course has seven tee combinations and plays at just 6,653 yards from the tips, but is rated at 73 with a slope of 146. Move up one set and play it at 6,389 yards and the slope is still 144. The shortest tees are set at 4,796 yards with a rating of 66.8 and slope of 124.
The “Dye-abolical One” left ample room in the fairways but put a premium on play around the greens with difficult up-and-downs. Raised green complexes and fast, sloping putting surfaces place an emphasis on accuracy and high wedge shots that land soft. Water comes into play on six holes and there are 58 bunkers strategically placed around the greens and in primary landing areas.
While there are many excellent holes, the par 3s are truly special and memorable. No. 6 plays at 164 yards from the back tee to a peninsula green with the only opening on the right-front corner and a massive bunker wrapping around the back-left. If you take aim at a left pin, you better be on target. No. 11, at 201 yards, is visually stunning with its mountain backdrop but the tee shot is over a lake that wraps to the front, right and back of the green and large bunkers rest between the green and water. Stay left on this one. The par-3 15th also plays at 201 minus the water, but has mounding, bunkers and undulations creating a challenge typical of Dye’s designs.
The 18th is a beautiful finishing hole. The par 4 is just 354 yards, but features a dogleg right with a lake that starts about 70 yards shy of the green and wraps around the right side of a well-bunkered putting surface that is fronted by a wood-walled pond. The temptation to hit driver is great, and if you do, you better keep it left and place it in a narrow strip of fairway.
Members still receive preference here, but public golfers with flexible schedules are able to snag tee times on Internet sites at rates that are a bargain for a course of this quality. Red Mountain is home to a John Jacobs Golf School, practice facilities are excellent and country club amenities are first rate, including a fitness center, Olympic swimming pool and quality dining.