Orange Tree

Orange Tree Golf Resort, Scottsdale. Johnny Bulla and Lawrence Hughes, 1957.

I can get pretty tired of desert golf and the extreme penalties that come into play for any missed shot. On the surface, Orange Tree looks like an alternative–a tree-lined parkland style course that’s been here long enough to actually look the part. Unfortunately, every hole is lined with out of bounds, usually on both sides, and though the corridors for the holes are wide enough that you probably won’t be banging too many balls off the nice homes that line this course, it still measurably takes away from the experience of a golf course.

As for the golf, there’s very little memorable here. The greens are small and round and the bunkers are all showing their age. The fairways are generally wide and there’s not much strategic interest. The only real quirk of note is the resort’s decision to allow reeds to grow up high in the ponds that abut the ninth and 18th greens and thus make those greens blind. Water features that make the greens blind! This is obviously deliberate because it’s been going on for years, the reeds are kept clear at other portions of the ponds, and the course has purchased extra tall flag sticks for these greens to help players find them. It’s … certainly not something I’ve seen anywhere else.

I do get tired of desert courses, living in Phoenix, but this is among the closest alternatives to my house, it’s reasonably priced, and I’ve only played it twice, which tells you all you need to know. When you realize this is what was being built in the desert before Red Lawrence came along and created Desert Forest, you’ll fall on your knees and thank the golf gods that we moved past these awkward attempts to make Phoenix look like the Midwest.

Arizona 8th Decile [2019]

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