Grand Canyon University GC, Phoenix. William F. Bell (1961) with renovation by John Fought (2015).

Formerly the Maryvale muni, GCU put $10 million into renovations and a new clubhouse that turned this from a rundown course choked by trees into a real gem for the city and university (the city retains ownership while the course is managed by the school).

Fought retained the Bell routing but otherwise moved a lot of earth to create some movement in the fairways and dig out some imposing bunkers. I miss the U-shaped trench bunker in front of the old 9th green (now the 18th hole), which made you reconsider trying to get home on the short par 5 in two, but that bunker was gone even before Fought’s work.

The 4th hole here is a highlight, a short par 4 that borrows some design principles from the famous 10th at Riviera. This hole is a bit longer and not really reachable, but the key is the angled and narrow green.

The back nine also has a good short par 4 in the 14th, which again at 337 yards isn’t quite reachable. Here a bunker cuts in to the right side of the fairway at 240-260 yards. There’s room to drive left of it, but this leaves a poor angle over a deep bunker to a shallow green. Long hitters may try to carry it but even if they succeed the best you’ve likely done is leave an awkward half wedge. The best play is probably a lay up short of the bunker but really who wants to lay up on a short par 4?

The locals seem to love the new layout and many of them walk. Lots of trees (a third or more) were removed, but the tree-lined look remains one of the course’s dominant features, which is unique in this part of the world.

Arizona 4th Decile [2019]

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