Northern Arizona Show Low

Torreon Golf Club – Tower Course / Cabin Course

Arizona Golf Courses — Torreon Golf CLub

The late Robert Von Hagge worked as a commercial artist before he became a golf course architect and liked to sketch his projects before they became reality. Many who have played Torreon’s Tower and Cabin courses say he created a masterpiece here, but then, he started with a pretty awesome canvas that lies in the heart of the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest.

torreon-golf-club-cabin-course-photoVon Hagge, who died in 2010, has always been considered an eccentric designer. But his course designs at Doral’s Blue Monster and Tucson National are traditional classics, and he was completely captivated by the topography he found at the Torreon site amid the natural beauty of the White Mountains in northeastern Arizona.

“It’s beautiful, rolling country with stands of Ponderosa Pine you wouldn’t believe,” he said while he was designing the Tower Course, which opened in 1999. “We have some spectacular open meadows and marshlands, so we have all the natural elements we need to create a premier, world-class facility.”

Tower is the first of the two golf courses built at Torreon, a private club located in the White Mountains community of Show Low. At the wish of Desert Troon of Scottsdale, which spearheaded this project, Von Hagge created holes that were both memorable and distinctive. His design embraces the landscape with seven lakes bringing plenty of water into play, and each green seems to have its own personality. Forced carries approaching several greens add to the challenge. The Tower Course has five sets of tees ranging from 5,195 to 7,134 yards and is rated at 72.3 with a slope of 143 from the tips.

Highlights of the layout include the eighth, ninth and 15th holes. The par-5 eighth is the longest hole on the course at 593 yards and features a double dogleg that can be shortened slightly by attempting to carry the first bunker complex along the right side. From there, it plays downhill and to the left, requiring a shot over a series of pot bunkers to cut off a little more length.

The ninth is a 424-yard par 4 that doglegs right, around a tree-lined corner to a green situated between two ponds and surrounded by wetlands. No. 15 is a 181-yard par 3 that leaves little margin for error, although there is some bailout room on the right side. The putting surface is a medium-sized target but is protected by a small pond in front and three bunkers around the left side. Tower also has a delightful risk-reward finishing hole; the 377-yard par 4 plays through more wetlands to a green in a serene postcard setting.

The Cabin Course, completed in 2007, has a little more of a wilderness feel. It is set among a thick pine forest and travels over hilly terrain with a lot more change in elevation than the Tower Course. With elevated tees on virtually every hole, and small greens with subtle undulations, it presents some terrific downhill approach shots and some challenging uphill climbs, with par-3 offerings being the strength of the layout.

Von Hagge was joined by his longtime partners Michael Smelek and Richard Baril in this design, and it’s routed in the classic manner of nine holes out and nine holes back to the clubhouse, with the popular namesake “Cabin” located at the turn. This unique rustic building serves as a snack bar during golf rounds and a delightful dining establishment in the evenings.

The Cabin Course has five sets of tees ranging from 5,348 to 7,148 yards, with a rating of 73.5 and slope of 138 from the back tees. The front nine presents some interesting routing with three par-3’s, three par-4’s and three par-5’s. The Cabin’s par-3 collection plays at 172, 211, 237, 162 and 222-yards, and they leave quite an impression on first-timers to the course. The ninth is the longest of those and features a penalizing wash that runs from the front of the tee area down the left side of the hole; a high draw is the shot required to avoid a bunker and wash to reach the green.

No. 12 is the shortest of the group and is a deceptive hole with a green framed by water and fronted by a small pot bunker. With the elevation here, you can afford to take one club less than the yardage suggests and that will help in avoiding the water behind the green. Some consider the fifth to be the signature hole, however. This par 4, which plays at 416 yards from the tips, requires a tee shot over a ravine and an approach over another ravine to reach an elevated green.

Very few homes encroach upon the Cabin Course property, which presents views from the highest elevations of the sprawling White Mountains, a landmark engulfed by the wondrous playground that is known as the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest and spans 2.63 million acres. Once inhabited by Native American tribes and pioneers, it now serves as a wonderful summer respite for residents of the often-sweltering deserts of Arizona.

Torreon, another word for fortress, is a private club with three membership levels, for property owners and non-owners. Members have access to first-rate dining facilities, a fully equipped fitness and aquatic center, spa, tennis facilities, an equestrian center and family recreation center. This area of the White Mountains is an outdoor activities paradise with more than 600 miles of streams, more than 40 lakes and a 200-mile trail system, that offers some of the best hiking, biking, canoeing, fishing, horseback riding, and of course golf, in the Arizona.

Northern Arizona Show Low

Silver Creek Golf Club

The Buzz: Back in the days when cowboys roamed the grounds that became Silver Creek Golf Club, you could see herds of cattle for miles and miles. There still are traces of the Bourdon Ranch, which was spread out over 10,000 acres. But today, once you get to the end of what’s now Bourdon Ranch Road near Show Low, there are 18 holes of splendid golf to bring your mind back to the present. Then again, it’s hard not to think about the fact that John Wayne once owned a ranch in the area near the little town of Eagar.

Silver Creek comes at you like “the Duke,’’ with a tough par-5 right out of the chute that rambles for 550 yards straight up the hill with a few twists and turns. It is the shape of things to come, as Silver Creek constantly keeps you on your toes. A super-lush layout the majority of the year thanks to ever-present afternoon showers, Silver Creek boasts the unusual combination of rye fairways, bluegrass rough and bentgrass greens. An early effort Phoenix architect Gary Panks – some consider it among his best work – Silver Creek fits right into the category of “hidden gems.’’ With rolling fairways and wide-open spaces that often bring big winds roaring down the plain, Silver Creek can often play 10 strokes more difficult from morning to afternoon, when the storms and winds and – egad! – lightning can strike.

Like all good golf courses, Silver Creek just keeps getting better and better, with its most storied stretch being the 12th through 15th holes, dubbed by the locals “Amen Straightway.’’ The par-3 12th is a 244-yard brute; the 13th is a demanding dogleg that rolls on for 440 yards; the 14th is a par-5 that plays up the hill some 533 yards; and the 15th is a par 4 that some might think is a par 5 at 484 yards. Difficult and demanding, only the wildflowers and multiple water features –most notably the namesake Silver Creek — keep the peace (and tranquility) at Silver Creek.

Northern Arizona Show Low

Bison Golf Club

The Buzz: As a college star at Arizona State, a U.S. Public Links champion and multiple winner on the PGA Tour, Billy Mayfair has excelled at the highest levels of golf, but takes a practical approach to what the game represents. “The golf experience,” Mayfair says, “is fun, fair and provides an enjoyable experience to players of all levels and abilities.” That’s what he had in mind when he tackled Bison, transforming the course originally designed by Jack Snyder that opened in 1960 as Show Low Country Club.

Bison Golf Club in Show Low, Arizona Billy Mayfair Makeover
Bison Golf Club in Show Low, AZ

Bison Homes purchased the property in 2005, along with 360 adjoining acres of heavily wooded, undeveloped land. Some new holes were created and a driving range was built in the new acreage, while the existing holes were redesigned. Luxurious cabin homes were artfully built within the pine trees along the fairways of the new holes and the overall master-planned community, Bison Crossing, opened in 2007 along with the rechristened golf facility. The recession has slowed development plans but it has a good start on facilities that call for 200 single-family homes, 84 duplex homes and a common area that features retail shops, condominiums, a hotel and an activity center. Situated high in the majestic White Mountains, the semi-private course offers stunning views with holes meandering through tall pines and across a spacious meadow.

Mayfair’s first design effort in Arizona was solid, blending the new holes into the surrounding environment and enhancing the existing holes with unique redesign touches. Every hole is now distinct with premiums placed on approach shots and distance control, and Bison’s bentgrass greens are fast and pure. Then there is the new signature hole, the par-5 18th, which is called “Thunderbeast.” Mayfair isn’t known for his length off the tee, but he stretched this baby out to 626 yards from the tips. The hole snakes narrowly through some of the tallest pines on the property and ends at a small, well-protected green. Reach it in two shots or finish with a par and you have reason to celebrate with a cold drink or one of the tasty dishes served up nearby at Bison Café Restaurant.