View large image | More photos
|Gainey Ranch Golf Club's waterfall tends to attract weddings. (Chris Baldwin/WorldGolf.com)|
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - Walk around Gainey Ranch Golf Club as an outsider and it can feel like you're Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson in "Wedding Crashers." You could be discovered at any moment and tossed from the grounds.
Probably by that local county sheriff who made Mike Tyson wear pink underwear.
On a Sunday morning visit, two different cart attendants and one of the clubhouse guys stopped me all within five minutes. This is when you start thinking of great excuses or looking for an escape route ... Maybe, I could jump that lake.
Until, you remember you're supposed to be here.
Gainey Ranch is one private Scottsdale golf club where the public can find pretty easy access. Guests at the next-door Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Gainey Ranch get to play for a daily green fee. A good golf packager should also be able to get you on.
Which doesn't mean that Gainey Ranch's staff is going to tone down the private vibe. And you might appreciate that when you're breezing around the golf course on a day when other Scottsdale tracks are filled with foursomes who haven't played all winter.
There are 27 holes at Gainey Ranch - The Lakes, The Arroyo and The Dunes nine - and usually plenty of space to breathe. Gainey Ranch didn't go with a big name celebrity golf architect to draw outside attention. The club used Michael Poellot, the former chief architect for Robert Trent Jones II, and while there are definitely two holes showier than Nathan Lane on Broadway - including the wedding waterfall hole - Poellot mostly stuck with just good hardcore golf.
With 27 holes, you want some different looks and various 18-hole combinations with their own unique feel. Poellot pulls this off, while still not making Gainey Ranch seem like a disjointed mishmash of nines.
Still, you might remember the brides-to-be you see most of all.
They tend to be attracted to Lakes No. 9 like Pacman Jones is to strip clubs. This is the hole with the big multi-level waterfall behind the green. Some couples get their wedding pictures taken here, others actually get married where they can see down on the running water.
Remember, Scottsdale is still the Arizona desert. Water's no small deal.
"It's pretty beautiful don't you think?" location scouting bride Monica Crowers said. "I think it will be beautiful on a nice sunny day."
Thankfully, Crowers didn't ask each group coming off the green what they thought of the hole's wedding potential aesthetics. She would have come across some grumpy old members, guys who hit the ball in the water on Lakes No. 9 every which way, again and again.
When you're golfing, there's much more danger from the lake to the right of the green than the waterfall it leads to in back. The green's long, but it's model-skinny in parts, making splashdowns a distinct possibility.
If you actually launch one into the waterfall, you've butchered the hole like Jean Van de Velde at the 18th at Carnoustie.
Don't worry. If you're playing a Lakes-Arroyo combination (the best 18-hole combo at Gainey Ranch), you'll get another chance to tempt lake fate. Arroyo's closing hole features a peninsula green with towering twin palm trees at its backside.
And this time, a large flock of ducks and a few curious resort guests will likely provide an audience from just across the pond. Sometimes, you'll have tourists getting into the Hyatt's gondolas, too.
Most of Gainey Ranch is a more relaxed play through a golf home community. You can all but forget you're in the desert, with the sand rock areas that do come into play more fit for someone's backyard than any rugged adventure.
It's green and more green, made better by the fact Gainey Ranch is usually in good shape. The members aren't going to stand for anything less. That surely deserves a smile and a nod from you when they cast a stare your way. (And stare they will, with some seemingly not pleased that outsiders are here).
It's their course. But it can be your playground for a day. Water dodging included.
When you're looking for a break from desert golf that's as penal as nun who's been teaching since the 1950s, Gainey Ranch Golf Club is a good play. The course doesn't carry a high profile either, which gives it a different atmosphere than the usual tourist-dependent track.
Don't go in expecting to be wowed by scenery, though. You're smack dab in the middle of the suburbs and an office area. Some of Gainey Ranch's fairways run parallel, and at times it can feel squeezed in.
If you're staying at the Hyatt Regency on business, it's hard to beat the convenience, though. All it takes to get to the course is a quick walk across a bridge near the resort's pool grounds. You can hump over, carrying your own clubs if you want.
In a Phoenix-Scottsdale golf valley where half hour drives to courses are common, this is no small perk. Especially if you're trying to sneak away from a conference for a few hours (the Hyatt Gainey Ranch is a big corporate retreat hotel). The fact you can easily play nine holes at Gainey is another quick getaway bonus.
Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Gainey Ranch is not in the same league as its five-star brethren Fairmont Scottsdale Princess or the Arizona Biltmore Resort (ratings aside), but it's hard to beat the mid-Scottsdale neighborhood if you're looking for easy access to both the better Scottsdale shopping areas (including Kierland Commons) and the cutting edge restaurants of Old Towne.
Turn right or left at Scottsdale Road (which is about 30 seconds from the Hyatt), and you're on the way to one or the other.
February 14, 2008
Chris Baldwin keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.
Referred to by its hosts as a "hidden gem," the greens alone at Sterling Hills Golf Club in Camarillo, Calif. make this a stone worth turning over. Located an hour northwest of L.A., it's a pleasing, quiet and generally engaging round that will appease players of all levels.
... full article »