Apache Stronghold

Apache Stronghold GC, Globe. Tom Doak, 1999.

The 5th green is a roller coaster

I try not to grade a course on its conditioning, but sometimes an exception has to be made. This would be without question the best public access course in Arizona if it weren’t for maintenance, but currently it’s simply not fair to try to grade this course against the state’s manicured top resorts. To be fair, they are trying. The course had all but closed, as I understand it, and was going back to the desert, but over the past years they’ve been working to bring it back. Where bunkers had once gone to desert hard pan they now have defined hazards full of sand. The tee boxes and fairways are mostly adequate. As for the greens, they either play well, or are dead, even sandy in some spots. These are large and wild putting surfaces so most holes offer pin positions and I doubt the course is getting enough play that wear in those areas is a concern, but it’s a shame nonetheless.

As for the course itself. the holes variously play over and around hills and down into valleys where washes cut through the fairways, but the routing mixes these experiences seamlessly. The 2nd plays next to and then over a wash, the 3rd to a beautiful green site in a bowl between hills, then the 4th around and to the top of another hill. And on and on. There’s not a dud of a hole here—even the 8th, a par 5 over the flattest ground on the course, uses width, an encroaching hillside, and a lone tree to great strategic effect.

It’s not near much of anything or even really on the way to anywhere, so you tend to feel like you have the place to yourself. That’s an awesome feeling in such an open area of desert and mountains, but also a shame—it’s hard to see how they will ever have the revenue to make the course as great as it can be.

Arizona 2nd Decile [2016]

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