Central Arizona Chandler

Ocotillo Golf Resort

The Buzz: Located in Chandler, where cotton once was king, Ocotillo Golf Resort is the only layout in the Arizona desert where water comes into play on 23 (some say 24) of its 27 holes. Created by the late Ted Robinson, an architect known for his elaborate water features, Ocotillo sports three distinct nines – the Gold, Blue and White. Don’t try to figure out which one is best because the reality is all three are as solid as a bar of bullion, although the locals (here’s your tip) seem to have the most affection for the Gold-White combination, or Gold-Blue as second-best.

water feature hole on the Ocotillo Golf Resort in Chandler, AZ
Water Features Abound at Ocotillo Golf Resort

The signature hole seems to be the relatively short, par-4 fifth hole on the Blue Nine, where water must be negotiated twice in order to arrive safely at the green. In every way the hole is a work of art, with palm trees, two fingers of water and an elegant waterfall making for the exotic “WaterWorld’’ feel guests only get at Ocotillo. Don’t be afraid about dunking a few shots, as the tees are positioned so that high handicappers get to move up and avoid most of the H2O. Besides, to experience water-laden Ocotillo is to have a little fun with the courses’ motto: “Do you have the balls to play Ocotillo?’’ Chances are most players won’t find the wet stuff as much as they’ll just enjoy being around it.

And the same can be said of its 19th hole – Bernard’s – where the friendly service and outstanding food and drink make for a perfect ending.

Central Arizona Chandler

Lone Tree Golf Club

Arizona Golf Courses — Lone Tree Golf Club

As you survey the 14,000 trees that were planted around Lone Tree after it opened in 2001, you might wonder how it got its contrary name. The answer stands near the ninth tee in the form of a massive cottonwood, which was the only tree on the course when it was built on the site of a former potato farm. The trees, and the course, have matured splendidly on this semi-private course, where the majority of weekend play is by public golfers; the members are Monday-Friday golfers.

Lone Tree Golf Club photoDesigned by Darryl Wilson of the CMX Group, this desert-style course is accented by elevated tees, open, rolling fairways leading to fast, undulating greens and has a reputation for excellent conditioning.

The par-71 plays at 6,895 yards from the tips with water on five holes and offers picturesque views of the nearby San Tan Mountains. While it is a player-friendly course that appeals to the average golfer, Lone Tree also stands the test of elite players, evidenced by the fact that, since 2002, it has been a pre-qualifying site for Phoenix Open, a PGA Tour event played annually in Scottsdale.

Both nines end with risk-reward par-5s at 551 and 572 yards from the tees, but the signature hole is the 12th, a tough, 185-yard par-3 to an island green with an inverted-bowl shape that slopes toward the water in all four directions.

Practice facilities include a double-ended driving range and the clubhouse features the Lone Tree Grille, which specializes in lighter fare, such as sandwiches and burgers, in a laid-back setting with views of the 18th green, water features and a cozy fire-pit area.

Central Arizona Chandler

Ironwood Golf Club

Ironwood Golf Club

The Buzz: Ironwood is one of two golf facilities in the IronOaks Community, which is one of five such enclaves in Sun Lakes, a master-planned development for active adults southeast of the Phoenix metro area. Its sister facility, Oakwood CC, offers three nine-hole layouts that are played in 18-hole combinations at championship length. Ironwood, on the other hand, is a “power executive” course with 18 holes, which plays to par 67. The two courses are owned by their members but public play is welcomed, mainly on weekends.

Courses here are known for a friendly atmosphere, which is a reflection of golf director Dennis Allan, a Scotsman who has been at IronOaks since 1998. Allan cut his golf teeth at famed Carnoustie Golf Links and later was a club pro at Southern Hills in Tulsa, Okla. But if you ask him if he is a full-blooded Scotsman, he will tell you, “No, I’m half Scotch and half water.” You gotta love a club pro with a great sense of humor.

The round at Ironwood starts and ends with par-5 holes, at 515 and 508 yards from the tips, and has seven par 3s and nine par 4s sandwiched in between, giving it a little more kick than most executive layouts. Keith Foster designed this course, which opened in 1997, making it the newest of the Sun Lakes facilities, and it has become particularly popular with women’s leagues because of its playability. The traditional layout, with smallish greens, has three sets of tees at 5,163, 4,585 and 3,939 yards, with a rating of 64.1and slope of 99 from the back tees.

The highlights are the par-3 holes, which offer a nice variety and range in yardage from 134-198. “What I tell people is that if you play the par 3s well on this course, you’re in for a good round,” Allan said.

Water comes into play on three holes and they are among the best on the course. The ninth is a 333-yard par 4 with a shot over water to reach a small green that is partially surrounded by a lake. No. 10 is a par 3 at 151 yards with the same lake running along the right side. The 15th, another par 3, might be the signature hole at 178 yards with a shot across the corner of another lake.

Ironwood CC has a putting and chipping green, but shares other practice facilities with nearly Oakwood CC and, like Oakwood, offers annual and seasonal memberships, which are popular with winter visitors. Sun Lakes is an age-restricted development with more than 4,000 homes and each of its five communities offers a wide variety of activities and facilities, such as tennis courts, swimming pools, hiking and biking trails and fitness centers.

The Poolside Café is a popular spot for breakfast, lunch and socializing, and a handsome clubhouse offers dining, dancing, special entertainment and other social activities.

Central Arizona Chandler

Bear Creek Golf Course

The Buzz: Built in 2000, this facility includes an 18-hole championship course called the Bear and an 18-hole executive course dubbed the Cub. Those names are a salute to the Golden Bear, Jack Nicklaus, as both were created by Bill O’Leary of the Nicklaus Design Group.

The facility was a joint partnership involving a private developer, the city of Chandler and Maricopa County in an effort to create a quality course at affordable rates for players of all levels. Along with the two courses, the facility includes full practice areas and a learning center. A new clubhouse, which opened in 2007, includes a bar and the Bear’s Den restaurant that serves up lunch daily and a popular fish fry on Friday nights.

The Bear course has some bite with its subtly contoured greens and ominous bunkering, and annually hosts the Chandler City Amateur Championship and Arizona Golf Association qualifying events. The par-71 layout has four sets of tees at 6,825, 6,418, 5,978 and 4,990 yards, with a rating of 71.6 and slope of 122 from the back tees. Its five par-3 holes range from 154-228 yards and there is a risk-reward drivable par 4 at 299 from the tips.

Signature holes are the only two with water in play – the par-3 fifth and the par-5 18th. No. 5 plays at 179 yards from the back tee, which requires a carry over a lake to reach the green but offers bailout area to the left. No. 18 is a sweeping 558 yards, making it the longest hole on the course, with an approach shot around a lake on the left side to reach a green with a bunker left between the hazard and the green.

The Cub course has two sets of tees at 3,501 and 2,991 yards and plays to par 59 with a rating of 57.3 and slope of 83. It is simple, straightforward, and was created to allow beginners and high-handicappers enjoy the game on a player-friendly layout. It has five par-4 holes and 13 par 3s, with water in play only on the 18th. The finishing hole, a 129-yard par 3, requires a shot over a lake guarding the right side.

Bear Creek is known for its junior and family programs, which includes a special set of tees on the Cub course for beginners of all ages. Both courses are considered value plays with their reasonable green fees.