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The Prospector at Superstition Mountain Golf and Country Club east of Mesa, Arizona: A tour-quality course you can (finally) play

Scott BordowBy Scott Bordow,
Superstition Mountain Golf and Country Club - Prospector - hole 1
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Now offering public play, Superstition Mountain Golf and Country Club in Apache Junction, Ariz. still maintains its private-club standards. (Courtesy of superstitionmtngc.com)

APACHE JUNCTION, Ariz. -- Ted Lindsay stood on the 18th tee at Superstition Mountain Golf and Country Club, the pin 527 yards away, and thought of one thing:

This is where LPGA star Lorena Ochoa hooked her drive into the water during the 2005 Safeway International, costing herself the tournament.

"I mentioned it to the guys I was playing with," Lindsay said. "They remembered it, too."

Back then, Superstition Mountain was a private golf course that opened its doors to the public just once a year, when the LPGA came to town. But like other private golf courses in Arizona - the Rim Club in Payson, Seven Canyons golf course in Sedona - Superstition Mountain Golf and Country Club has been hit hard by the economy and a dwindling membership roll.

The result: One of the Valley's most exclusive clubs is now open to public play.

"Eighty percent of the people who walk in have seen the LPGA here," Director of Golf Pat Tyson said. "They're so excited to be able to play the same layout."

There are two courses at Superstition Mountain Golf and Country Club: The Prospector course, where the LPGA was held annually, and the Lost Gold course. In order to satisfy its 335 members, the courses are open to the public on alternate days. Even if one course has, say, just 15 members playing that day, it will remain private.

Tyson said the goal of new owner James Hladky is to build the membership above 500 so Superstition Mountain can become private again. But that day is a long time coming.

"He doesn't want to bleed out hundreds of millions of dollars a year," Tyson said. "The public helps us get where we want to be."

Now public, Superstition Mountain maintains LPGA-quality conditions

As you might imagine for a golf course that annually hosted an LPGA event, the Prospector is in immaculate condition. The fairways are perfect, the greens true. The scenery? Well, the Superstition Mountains lie as a backdrop to all 18 holes. They're so close you almost feel like taking a detour and trying to find the Lost Dutchman gold mine.

"The cool thing is we've never cut back on the conditions of the golf course," Tyson said.

Superstition Mountain's Prospector course, a 7,225-yard, par-72, was designed by Jack Nicklaus. Many of Nicklaus' golf courses feature elevated greens and ridiculously narrow approach areas. But he softened things up on the Prospector.

The fairways are generous. The landing areas around the greens are relatively flat, so weekend hackers don't always have to attempt 30-yard flop shots over deep bunkers. The trick is figuring out the greens.

The natural inclination is to play for putts to break away from the Superstition Mountains and toward the Valley. But Nicklaus had a trick up his sleeve.

"He knew how everybody would read the greens, so he tilted some of the greens toward the mountains," Tyson said. "Some putts will track toward the mountain and you'll wonder, 'How exactly did that happen?'"

The toughest holes on Superstition Mountain's Prospector course may be the four par 3s. From the tips, they're all at least 184 yards. No. 8 plays at 246 yards if the pin is in the back of the green.

The hole you'll remember most, though, is No. 18. A huge lake runs along the left side of the fairway all the way up to the narrow green. It's tempting to go for the green in two but also dangerous.

Then again, if your ball finds water, at least you'll be able to say you have something in common with Ochoa.

Superstition Mountain Golf and Country Club's Prospector course: The verdict

Superstition Mountain Golf and Country Club's Prospector course isn't the most memorable layout in the Valley. There aren't holes that take your breath away. But the service is terrific, the course is always in great shape and it's a kick to play the same holes that sometimes bedeviled Ochoa and other LPGA stars. Just one thing to remember: Superstition Mountain still maintains its private club standards, so you better tuck in that shirt.

Stay and play at Superstition Mountain Golf and Country Club's Prospector course

Planning an Arizona golf vacation? Here's an idea: Xona Resort Suites in north Scottsdale is close to all the great courses in the Scottsdale corridor but the resort also will book your tee times up to 60 days in advance at Superstition Mountain and arrange ground transportation if needed.

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Superstition Mountain Golf and Country Club - Prospector - hole 16Superstition Mountain - Prospector course - 18th greenSuperstition Mountain - Prospector course - hole 18

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.

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