Southern Dunes

Ak-Chin Southern Dunes, Maricopa. Brian Curley and Lee Schmidt with Fred Couples, 2002.

The par 3 4th play to an angled green set between deep bunkers

This was built as a private men’s club, but that went under and the course is now owned by a local casino and open to the public. That makes this the rare modern, public access course that’s all about golf and completely walkable. This is a windy site but the course plays well with it—only two holes have water and the “desert” areas are generally just wispy high grass where you have a good chance of finding your ball.

The 14th is a reachable par 4 (the green is toward the tallest mountain in the center right of the photo) but drives must carry plenty of sand to reach the perched green. Laying up is no simple matter as many options for “safe” plays abound on this short hole.

The major features on the course are the bunkers—big, flashy, and all over the place (I counted 102!). The fairways are wide enough to play in the wind or to have some comfort on a conservative line, but being aggressive means flirting with trouble.

The 16th is a great, snaking par 5. The drive is downhill to a fairway that twists left past a nest of bunkers. A safe drive to the corner sets up a lay up to the next corner, where the fairway snakes back to the right, to a narrow green set between a dune left and a long bunker on the right. But the tee shot tempts you to carry the bunkers at the corner. And if you succeed then you may be able to carry the bunker on a line to the green and reach in two. It’s very treacherous, though you probably won’t lose your ball.

It’s a flat part of the desert but they moved enough earth here that the holes go up and down and some of the best holes do this to great effect with big swales and humps affecting play, as at the 9th, 12th, 14th, and 15th.

It’s a lengthy drive from anywhere in Phoenix, but this one is worth it.

Arizona 1st Decile [2019]

15 is a long par 4 playing downhill and then back up and to the left. Drives down the left side shorten the hole but must contend with the bunker left of the fairway and the centerline bunker. There’s plenty of fairway out to the right, but it may be difficult to reach the green if you play your drive safely out in that direction.

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