Wildfire GC at Desert Ridge, Phoenix. Faldo Course by Lee Schmidt and Brian Curley with Nick Faldo, 2002.

Flashy bunkers dominate the visuals on the Faldo course, as here at the 13th

Bunkering defines this course, much of it in a style that’s apparently trying to imitate the Australian sandbelt. Some of it is superfluous eye candy but plenty of it forms solid strategic options. Good luck getting through a round here without visiting your share of the hazards.

But if you’re not completely terrified of bunker sand then this is a fun course with mostly wide fairways, a good mix of short and long holes, and stretches where you can score balanced with stretches where you just need to hold on.

The finishing run is especially good. The 15th is a very long par 5 with desert left and bunkers right that requires three good shots for a chance at par. That’s then balanced by the 16th, a short par 4 where you can play an iron safely into the fairway to the right or take aim over the bunkers at the green to the left.

Options from the 16th tee: Challenge the bunkers to try for the green? Or play safe by staying short and right of all that sand.

The 17th is a short iron par 3 to an angled, sloping green. Good shorts can lead to birdie but if you misjudge, it can be difficult to get up and down. And the 18th is a solid finishing par 4, moving right to left just enough that you have to be sure of the line you choose off the tee.

Unfortunately, in what seems to be a quest to keep the course green (it is after all attached to a high-end JW Marriott resort) both the Desert Ridge courses are eternally over-watered and play very soft. Though it has some raised greens, this is a course designed to play firm and accommodate the ground game. Unfortunately, the conditions never seems to allow that.

Arizona 2nd Decile [2018]


Wildfire GC at Desert Ridge. Palmer Course by Arnold Palmer, 1997.

Like the Faldo course, this one tends to be overly soft. While that’s annoying, it matters less here on a course where the aerial game is the primary mode of attack. There are some decent holes here but not much character overall and the homes that surround the course detract from any ambiance that the site may have once had.

Arizona 6th Decile [2016]

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