Golf Course Review - The Boulders (North and South Courses)
By Philip Sokol, Director of Operations
Carefree, Arizona (Sports Network) - FACTS & STATS: North Course Architect: Red Lawrence (1969), Jack Snyder (1974), Jay Morrish (1985, with renovation work in 1999). Year Opened: January, 1985. Location: Carefree, Arizona. Slope: 137. Rating: 72.6. Par: 72. Yardage: 6,959.
1 - Par 5 513 Yds 10 - Par 4 451 Yds
2 - Par 3 195 Yds 11 - Par 4 445 Yds
3 - Par 5 548 Yds 12 - Par 5 525 Yds
4 - Par 4 404 Yds 13 - Par 4 457 Yds
5 - Par 4 425 Yds 14 - Par 3 183 Yds
6 - Par 3 142 Yds 15 - Par 5 483 Yds
7 - Par 4 347 Yds 16 - Par 4 424 Yds
8 - Par 4 356 Yds 17 - Par 3 220 Yds
9 - Par 4 417 Yds 18 - Par 4 424 Yds
Par 36 3,347 Yds Par 36 3,612 Yds
Awards Won: Rated four stars by Golf Digest's "Places to Play" (2000-06), Named by Golf Magazine as a Gold Medal Resort (1998-2004), Named by AAA as a Five Diamond Resort (1990-2004), Named by Golf for Women as 50 Best Courses for Women (2002-03), Ranked 13th by Golf Magazine in best State-by-State Access (2004), Number 2 U.S. Golf Resort by Travel + Leisure Golf (2005). Rated No. 10 by Golfweek - Top-20 courses in Arizona (2011).
South Course Architect: Jay Morrish (1983). Year Opened: January, 1983. Location: Carefree, Arizona. Slope: 140. Rating: 71.9. Par: 71. Yardage: 6,726.
1 - Par 4 421 Yds 10 - Par 3 221 Yds
2 - Par 3 150 Yds 11 - Par 5 601 Yds
3 - Par 4 413 Yds 12 - Par 4 321 Yds
4 - Par 4 409 Yds 13 - Par 4 429 Yds
5 - Par 5 545 Yds 14 - Par 5 532 Yds
6 - Par 4 355 Yds 15 - Par 3 151 Yds
7 - Par 3 187 Yds 16 - Par 3 198 Yds
8 - Par 4 455 Yds 17 - Par 4 420 Yds
9 - Par 4 404 Yds 18 - Par 5 514 Yds
Par 35 3,339 Yds Par 36 3,387 Yds
Awards Won: Rated four stars by Golf Digest's "Places to Play" (2000-06), Top 80 Golf Resorts - Conde Nast Traveler (2010), Rated No. 18 by Golfweek - Top-20 courses in Arizona (2011) Gold Medal Resort - Golf Magazine (2012-13), No. 1 Resort in the United States - Harper's Hideaway Report, No. 6 - Top 10 golf courses in Arizona - Gold Channel (2011) No. 47 - Best Golf Resorts in U.S. - by Golf Digest (2011).
HISTORY: Designed back in the mid-1980s by Jay Morrish, the golf courses at The Boulders, a Waldorf Astoria Resort, have developed into a world-class experience, for both the serious golfer and for the laid-back social afternoon outing with friends and family.
Morrish crafted the North and South Courses with designs built right into the desert foothills, featuring time worn saguaros that stand guard around each and every hole. The natural beauty of the land is complemented by nothing less than amazing rock formations, which accentuates the difficulty and the spectacular experience of the courses.
For almost 60 years, Morrish has been in the golf design business. First with the legendary Robert Trent Jones and then for 10 years with the Jack Nicklaus design team, before embarking on his own and then with Tom Weiskopf to craft over 20 courses.
Some of his most spectacular work with Weiskopf included Troon Golf & Country Club, Scottsdale TPC and Forest Highlands in Arizona.
It was his work however at The Boulders, Morrish's first solo designs that brought him into the forefront of golf course architecture. "Designing the Boulders really helped launch my career," said Morrish. In fact, The Boulders is one of only two Gold Medal resorts in the Scottsdale region, as rated by Golf Magazine.
Back in the late 1960s, Red Lawrence designed the original nine holes, with an additional nine added a few years later by Jack Snyder, but it was Morrish who put The Boulders on the map.
"The Boulders afforded me a chance to create a sort of desert Pine Valley with a lot of forced carries for the good players," Morrish continued. "This wasn't very common at the time we built the course. Of course, now everyone does it. I had great support from the owners who loved the concept."
Morrish gave the South Course a complete overhaul in 1983 and remodeled and renovated the North just two years later, returning on occasion for a facelift every now and again.
"For the original owners, I returned once or twice a year to tweak things," Morrish added. "Mostly this consisted of lowering vegetation in front of the tees that had grown during my absence and blocked views."
Nowadays, all golf course architects are ecologically conscience, and with good reason, but back then most designers were given carte blanche to mold and shape the landscape.
"The environmentalists had not descended upon the desert as they have of late," said Morrish. "We just used common sense in the design and construction, so that as much of nature was left as possible. I am not exactly a minimalist, but the land really lent itself to using the natural terrain. This also worked well for the housing around the course."
HOLE-BY-HOLE REVIEW (NORTH COURSE): Usually, when a course opens with a par- five the better than average golfer tells himself that this is a great way to start out - with a birdie lurking down the fairway. It's possible, and nice to dream but beware. The first hole on the North Course requires pinpoint accuracy off the tee, not to mention a 200-yard carry over the desert. Thoughts at this point are starting to turn to making par. The first hole is indicative of what's in store as this is target golf at its best. There is no doubt that the green is reachable in two; however, your second shot must carry numerous bunkers en route to the putting surface. If you're going to miss, do so to the left, setting up an easy pitch to the narrow green.
The second is a nice par-three that can stretch from 120 yards to 195 from the tips. A swale in front of the green and a bunker in the back define the precision of this one-shot approach. The putting surface slopes back-to- front but, being a resort course, it's usually not that slick so go with your normal follow- through.
The par-five third is a dogleg left of 548 yards and, realistically, not reachable for mere mortals. A tee shot down the center will set up a simple layup to the 100-yard mark. From there, attack as anyone with a sand wedge in their hands should be able stick this one close.
The fourth is right in front of you, a wide fairway leading straight up into the beautiful foothills that are worthy of a photo opp. Your approach will play slightly uphill to a two- tiered green. With a solid drive, the fourth can be had.
At 425 yards and doglegging to the left, the fifth presents yet another interesting challenge. At the outset, your tee shot must be long and favor the right-center of the fairway. Second, your approach will be uphill to a very difficult green that slopes from back-to- front. Finally, bunkers right and back with a guarding tree left will make this your hardest challenge on the outward nine.
A thing of beauty. That's what the sixth is. Just 142 yards from the back buttons, this par-three features three of the most difficult bunkers on the course...front, back and left. They are deep and menacing. Choose your club wisely or else bogey looms large, maybe even a double.
The seventh and eighth are definite birdie chances at just 347 and 356 yards, respectively, in length. Both holes dogleg to the left and require just a three-metal or long- iron off the tee. Don't make the mistake of hitting driver as that will cost you dearly. After your tee ball on the seventh, just a wedge will remain to a well- guarded green. A back-left pin could cause trouble but go for the gusto while you have the chance. More of the same on the eighth but you must play to the right off the tee to avoid the gully and rock croppings that guard the corner of the dogleg. The putting surface is well flanked by numerous, deep bunkers that mandate some careful reading and navigation, especially if the wind is blowing. The green does slope from back-to-front and left-to-right, so stay below the hole to have a shot at birdie.
The front side closes with a majestic, dogleg left par-four, that takes you downhill to the fairway and uphill to the green. Usually into a breeze, this 417-yarder plays much longer than the yardage indicates. You will love the view of the Sonoran desert and, if you're playing in the late afternoon... well, just use your imagination. However, back to golf. Playing uphill, your second shot club selection will be quite demanding, particularly with a back- left pin placement. This is one of those holes where a par is a great score and something to remember.
The teeth of the course are to be found at the opening holes on the back nine. At 451 yards, the 10th is a brute, playing as a dogleg left and uphill. A huge tee shot is needed to have a prayer at reaching the green in two. Miss left off the tee and you'll have to contend with desert brush and bunkers guarding the corner. A long-iron or fairway-metal will be needed to reach the putting surface. This is where you start thinking bogey and, with it, a sense of accomplishment. Miss right and you'll lose your ball, not to mention your mind . One bright spot - the green is not protected by sand, a small, but welcome, consolation.
Next up is the dogleg right 11th. This 445-yarder puts a premium on driving accuracy and length. The fairway is quite ample but try to cut off to much on the right and you'll make double-bogey. After a successful tee shot, a medium- to long-iron will be left to a putting surface guarded, both left and right, by sand. If someone told me that I could have par and move on before I played the hole, that certainly would have been my choice.
Although the 12th is a definite birdie chance, it is not without its difficulties. A big tee shot down the left side of another dogleg left will put you in the "go-zone" for the green. What makes this par-five arduous is the green. Sloping severely from back-to-front, the two-tiered surface is protected by deep sand and right by a large mound, obstructing your view. You only live once so go for it.
Hard to believe that any hole could play harder than 13. When played from the tips, this hole is a challenge you will love and hate at one and the same time. Ample fairway will be your only saving grace. That leaves you with a difficult approach over a desert canal to a wide, but narrow, green. Be short and your ball will land in a collection area; long and a deep menacing bunker awaits. Making par is certainly one's goal here followed by moving on rapidly but the fact of the matter is that bogey is not so bad.
Looking directly into the Sonoran sky, the 14th is quite picturesque. Entirely over water, this par-three is all carry to the green. Bunkers protect the backside of this diabolical green that slopes towards the water. A front pin will be nothing less than formidable but use the incline to get it close with a very delicate touch.
The 15th should be played as a par-four, since it's just 483 yards, but the scorecard says par-five so play it as a three-shotter since you will need every advantage you can muster. Bending slightly to the right, your tee shot should favor the right side leaving you with a reasonable chance to get home. The green is fairly open but sand does await the errant shot to the right. If all else fails, play to the left, chip close and make a four. Then get out of there.
The 16th is a solid par-four, straightaway and stretching 424 yards. A good tee shot will leave a medium- to short-iron to a difficult green. What makes this hole tough is the desert gulch that must be cleared in order to reach the uphill green. The putting surface is very undulating and guarded left and long by sand. This is not the time to fool around with shots you thought you could make. Go for the ones you know you can since there are still two difficult holes left.
The longest par-three on the course, the 17th can stretch to 220 yards from the tips. Although it's long, the hole plays downhill to a fairly large green with a huge bunker, featuring a boulder in the center, guarding the right entrance to the surface. If the hole doesn't inspire you, then the sunset will.
It's time to head home and the 18th is the sharpest dogleg on the course, snapping 90-degrees to the right. Cut the corner and you're left with a short- to medium-iron to a fairly small green. A perfect finish to a wonderful layout.
HOLE-BY-HOLE REVIEW (SOUTH COURSE): The South opens up with a wonderful, but tough par four that doglegs to the right. From the tips, you'll run out of fairway at the 310 yard mark, so you should be able to blast away. Avoid the trio of traps down the right side of the landing area and you're home free. Well, sort of. A medium iron remains to a slightly elevated green with bunkers left and rocks right. Be wary of a back-right pin, as this will bring plenty of trouble into play.
The par three second is the shortest hole on the South at just 150 yards in length. Distance control certainly is critical, as the putting surface is just 26 paces in depth and fronted by a trio of deep bunkers. Just a word of caution, missing long is no bargain either.
Another sharp dogleg right, the third is one of seven par fours on the South over 400 yards in length. The fairway is generous, but very undulating. Aim for the 20 yard bunker at the end of the landing area, as this will set up a medium to short-iron approach. You might need an extra stick, as the green sits above the fairway. The putting surface is small with plenty of movement, so try to stay below the hole for your best result. Miss long and you might end up in a nasty pot bunker.
Next up is the 409 yard, par four fourth. The landing area off the tee is generous and you'll need a 300-yard plus drive to reach the pond at the end of the fairway. With a successful tee ball, just a short iron should remain to an uphill putting surface that is the longest on the course at 46 paces. Although it's long, the green is quite narrow, so pinpoint control with your approach will be needed.
The first par five on the course is the fifth, which reaches 545 yards from the back markers. There is no doubt that this is the signature hole at The Boulders. This beauty features a split fairway for the tee shot. Playing down the right will give you a better angle, but little in the way of an advantage. The best play is towards the left landing area, thus leaving a medium to long iron for a layup. The key is by-passing the traps down the right side. Your approach to the minuscule green will be a short one, but again, you'll have several bunkers to contend with. The putting surface is split into three segments, but it's the beauty of the landscape that will keep you occupied.
Number six is another course favorite. Just 355 yards long, this gem bends to the right with water guarding the fairway on the same side. The more you decide to cut off, the more the lake will come into play. Since it's such a short hole, play down the left and you'll be left with a 120-yard play to a long and narrow putting surface. This is where accuracy will pay off, as the back of the green is pinched tight between sand.
A medium lengthened par three awaits at the seventh. Most players will stop and pull out the camera on this beaute, thanks mainly to the enormous balancing boulder to the left of the blue tees. The backdrop of the green is not too shabby either. A medium iron should suffice, unless the pin is on the back tier of the putting surface. If that's the case, add another club or two to reach the flag. Right or left and you'll be swallowed up by sand, which will make for a difficult up and down.
From an elevated tee, the eighth can be stretched to 455 yards. The longest par four on the course, features the widest fairway, so lock and load and bomb one out there. Even with a big tee shot, you'll have a long iron or fairway metal approach to another small green. In addition, your approach must clear a wash 40 yards from the putting surface. How tough is the eighth, it plays as a par five for the women...and me too.
If you want to take it on, then 255 is your number on the ninth. That's right, a tee shot of 255 or more in the air is required to clear the bunker on this slight, dogleg right. The more conservative route will be to aim towards the left-center of the fairway, with the saguaro in the distance standing tall in a fairway bunker. From here, it's a medium iron to a two-tiered green that slopes from back to front. A back flag brings extra trouble in play, so play to the center of the green if the pin is up top.
Number ten is the longest par three at The Boulders, stretching 221 yards from the tips. Although it plays from an elevated tee box, this lengthy hole is all you can handle. Bunkers guard three sides of the putting surface, which reaches 35 paces and split from left to right by a ridge. Bail out left if you must for your best shot at par. Better yet, choose the right set of tees for a real chance at three.
From the longest par three to the longest par five, as you stroll up to the 11th tee box. From the back markers, you'll need a 200-plus carry just to reach the fairway on this 601-yard monster. Avoiding the traps off the tee and then again with your layup will be key. Favor the right side of the fairway for the best angle to the pin and beware of the bunker laying in the center of the landing area, just 60 yards away. The green is large with a steep ridge in the middle and sand all around. There's good reason why it's rated as the second most difficult hole on the course.
Depending upon which tee box you're playing from, the 12th is a reachable par four off the tee. There is plenty of risk if that's your play, as the fairway tightens considerably as you near the green. The heart-shaped putting surface boasts three distinct sections and is quite small at just 26 paces. The best play is a fairway metal off the tee and a wedge to the green. Making birdie the old fashioned way is quite acceptable.
You'll need to crack a tee shot on the 13th just to reach the fairway of this 429 yard par four. Playing straightaway, you must avoid the 40-yard trap down the left side, otherwise, you'll have little chance of clearing the wash that fronts the green, not to mention the large mound. The green is long and undulating, making this one of the most difficult holes on The South.
Birdies might be hard to come by on the closing holes, so you'll need to play 14 and 15 in an aggressive fashion. The 14th is a medium-lengthed par five, reachable in two, especially after a successful tee shot. Playing from an elevated tee, everything is right in front of you, just a wide open fairway. It's the second shot that will have you guessing. The landing area near the green is guarded by several crossing bunkers to keep you honest. If you're able to reach the two-tiered putting surface, hope for a front flag, as the long and narrow green runs from back to front. Miss long with your approach and you'll have the saguaro's to contend with.
Although the 15th plays uphill, this little par three can yield a birdie or two. Just 151 yards in length, the key here is pin position. The two-tiered, 31 paced green boasts two distinct pin positions. A front pin has attack all over it, unless it's tugged close to the left pot bunker. A back-left flag brings additional sand into play, so pick your stick and go for it.
It's not often you have back-to-back par three's, but that's what's in store at the 16th. This time around, it's a robust 227 from the back markers, not to mention a forced carry from tee to green. A draw from the tee is the play, unless you overcook your approach and end up in the left, greenside bunker. The putting surface is long with several undulating features, so stay right and who knows, maybe you'll sink a long bomb for birdie.
Club selection off the tee is crucial to conquering the 17th hole, as the fairway runs out at the 270-yard mark. Although this hole is over 400 yards in length, a three-metal might be the play. It will leave a slightly longer second, but, better safe than sorry. Your approach must clear another wash that's 80 yards from the green. The putting surface is long and narrow, reaching 38 paces, with three distinct tiers. Just getting on this green does not guarantee par.
Water certainly does not come into play much at The Boulders, but it most definitely stands out on the closing hole of The South. A wonderful par five that reaches 583 yards in length, the 18th is a true three-shot hole. Avoid the bunkers down the left off the tee, not to mention to trap on the right with the tall saguaro stationed in the center. Your layup must negotiate the 100-yard bunker and the water on the right. Play out to the left and leave yourself a wedge to this diabolical green. Fronted by water, reminiscent of Bay Hill's 18th, the putting surface is 39 paces wide and very shallow, so you better be precise. A back-right pin looks great, but can be costly if you push the envelope.
FINAL WORD: It comes as no surprise that The Boulders has been rated a Gold Medal resort by Golf Magazine and a five diamond facility by AAA for years.
And with good reason.
Let's start with beauty. If the millions of year old boulder formations that mark the landscape don't do it for you, then how about the spectacular sunsets, maybe the amazing vegetation or how about the stunning saguaros?
There's also tennis, hiking, horseback riding and, of course, the piece de resistance, the world renowned Golden Door Spa, complete with massages, facials and mud body wraps.
The amenities alone should keep you coming back for more, but if that doesn't do it, then golf certainly will.
First of all, you know you're in for an interesting round of golf when the scorecard reads; "Coyote Rule - If there is reasonable evidence that your ball was taken by a coyote and isn't found, place a ball on the spot from which the ball was moved, no penalty." YIKES!
Back to the matter at hand. Thirty-six holes of golf, set up for all levels of play, featuring five sets of tees ranging from 4,900 to just under 7,000 yards. In addition, The Boulders has just launched two short courses on both 18s, ideal for the golfer on the go with limited time or the young and inexperienced player, who's not ready for a full 18. Called the "Pebble Tees," the courses feature holes ranging from 60 to 200 yards.
"There's an assumption that you must play 18 holes of golf, and new golfers sometimes are discouraged that the game is difficult and they have to make this big commitment to braving it out for hours on the course," said The Boulders' Director of Golf Operations Tom McCahan. "The short courses make it less stressful, more fun and easier to get into the game."
Yes, this is a resort layout, so it comes complete with beautiful villas and recently renovated casitas dotted throughout the property, but not infringing upon the golf courses.
Not to be overlooked is the Golf Academy and practice facility. Recently expanded and renovated, the driving range is complete with all the latest technology, while the instructors at the academy are some of the best in the country. In fact, Director of Instruction Donald Crawley, a Class A PGA and British PGA member, has been rated as a Top 100 Teacher in America by Golf Magazine for years. In addition, Crawley, a two-time PGA Teacher of the Year, is recognized by Golf Digest as one of the top-10 teachers in the state of Arizona and has been voted the best instructor in the valley three years running. "We teach GolfSimplified, keeping instruction simple, practical and personalized," said Crawley.
Year after year The Boulders continues to be rated as one of the top destinations in the country, but that certainly does not deter them of resting on their laurels.
Whether its refurbishing every bunker on the courses, or re-seeding each fairway or as simple as replacing every golf cart on the property, the powers that be will continue to refresh this wonderful retreat to maintain its top status. "There is constant year-round maintenance to keep the bent grass smooth and the 419 bermuda base fairways plush," added Crawley.
There are differences in both courses.
"The North course is longer and features several subtle dog leg holes," continued Crawley. "A more traditional layout with generous fairways, but the back nine is the most challenging. The more advanced players and I prefer the North: score on the front, hang on to finish strong on the back."
If it's the pretty look you want, well maybe the South is for you.
"The South course is most scenic, no forced carries (over desert) from the forward tees, but narrower fairways," added Crawley. A true 'target golf'. The visiting guests prefer the South because of it's beauty."
What makes this place so special is the coupling of the courses with amenities that are second to none. When it comes to hospitality, you'll be hard pressed to find a more courteous and helpful staff.
The Boulders will ease your mind and senses and will stimulate your heart, regardless of your passion. Your time here will make you realize that you don't have a care in the world. What a perfect place to visit, Carefree, AZ and The Boulders.
Aces, pars or bogeys, send your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org.
05/18 13:10:51 ET