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|Four of the par 4s on the Padre Course at Camelback Golf Club play less than 400 yards, including the 375-yard 14th. (Courtesy of Camelback Inn)|
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Back in 2010, the Padre Course at Camelback Golf Club -- which is part of the Camelback Inn, a JW Marriott Resort & Spa -- was a dust bowl.
Something -- and course officials still aren't sure what -- killed almost all of the fairway grass (38 of 40 acres).
"And when I say dirt I mean dirt," Director of Golf Rob Bartley said. "It was unbelievable."
You wouldn't know it now by playing the 6,903-yard, par-72 course. The fairways are lush and green, and Padre is back to what it was: A Midwestern-style parkland course located in the middle of the desert.
Padre is one of two courses located about three miles from the Camelback Inn in central Scottsdale. While Indian Bend is a links-style course, Padre is all about the wet stuff.
Water comes into play on nine of the 18 holes. Water balls -- and a ball retriever -- are essential items.
"The water is spread pretty evenly throughout the golf course," Bartley said.
By today's standards, Padre is a pitch-and-putt layout. From the back tees, four of the par 4s check in at less than 400 yards, the longest par 5 is 553 yards and only one of the par 3s is more than 200 yards.
At first glance, birdies would seem to be bountiful. Like many resort courses, low scores are there for the taking. The fairways are wide and the greens aren't severe.
But Padre is a bit of an optical illusion. The holes that look simple based on their distance are often the hardest to navigate.
Take No. 12, a 326-yard par 4, for example. Long hitters can try to drive the green, but five bunkers protect it. Even the average duffer has to think about clubbing down on the tee because a drive into one of the bunkers turns what should be a relatively easy second shot into an adventure.
"In this industry architects have been trying to build tremendously long golf courses, and all the longer golf courses do it typically push average players back to tees they don't belong on," Bartley said. "That's why I think Padre is such a fun golf course. It's not tremendously long, but some of the most challenging holes are the short holes."
The best examples are Nos. 9 and 18. Both are par 5s, and at 518 and 547 yards, respectively, both are fairly tame by today's standards. But course designer Arthur Hills managed to turn them into twin terrors.
Players have to decide whether they can bang their second shot over water. Laying up short isn't a bargain, either. The landing area narrows, particularly on No. 9 as the lake juts out to the middle of the fairway. Then, the lakes on both holes run right up to the green. There's nothing to stop a shot that's hit just five feet to the left or right from rolling down the slope and into the water.
"That's the one thing I would change here as part of the master plan," Bartley said. "To be more fair the greens should be bulk-headed, so if you hit a good shot it will hold the green."
The Padre at Camelback Golf Club makes golfers think their way around the course, a quality often lost as course designers try to keep up with technology.
"It would be fun to play the golf course the smart way, the proper way for all 18 holes and hit irons and hybrids off the tee when you should, then take the big dog out, bust driver and see what you score," Bartley said. "You'd probably have a better round with the hybrids and irons."
In golf, longer isn't always better.
October 24, 2011
Scott Bordow is the golf columnist for the Arizona Republic. Follow him on Twitter at @sbordow.
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.
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