Dove Valley Ranch

Dove Valley Ranch GC, Cave Creek. Robert Trent Jones Jr, 1998.

Aside from Pacific Grove, I’m not sure I’ve ever played an 18-hole course with such distinctly different nines. Actually, it’s the holes across the road (11-17) that are the outliers. Those are true desert golf holes, unlike everything else where homes and lakes mask the original landscape.

To be blunt, I’ve never found a lot to love about this course. Even the best holes have rough edges that take a bit of the shine off.

The 11th is the longest par 4 on the back nine at 450 yards and clearly designed so that the brave driver who hugs the wash running down the left side of the fairway not only shortens the hole somewhat but also opens up a better angle to the green. But the wash has become so thickly overgrown that anything in the left third of the fairway may actually have the view obscured.

The same problem plagues many of the inward holes, nowhere more so than at the 12th. This is a classic split fairway par 4, with a longer path—but wider fairway—to the right of the wash, or a more direct route to the greenbut a longer carry and narrower target—to the left. Except again the wash is thickly overgrown with desert scrub and mesquite trees and so neither option is well presented. Most first time players have little idea the left fairway even exists and can’t tell that the right fairway runs out.

On #12 the wash that divides the fairway is so overgrown that it overpowers the design of the hole [Credit: Dove Valley Ranch]

I’m not sure awkwardly turning holes like the 14th or 16th were ever great, but they were surely better when the views were more open. Old aerials show that the wash was much more open 20 years ago so a healthy amount of trimming could go a long way to making this section of the course a lot better.

Unfortunately, there’s not a lot that’s going to help the ten holes on the north side, most of which aren’t bad or hampered by overgrown brush so much as they are just aggressively mediocre. There’s nothing wrong with the seventh hole at Dove Valley …or the sixth, or fifth, or eighth, or ninth, or tenth, or first, or 18th, etc. They’re just golf holes. They’re just there.

More than most courses this is the type of place you can play many times and just never remember any of the holes.

It’s not good. It’s not bad. It’s fine.

Arizona 6th Decile [2019]

#11 (left) and #16 (right) [Credit: Dove Valley Ranch]