Winding its way through the Verde Valley showcasing views of the Tonto National Forest, Four Peaks, the Superstition Moutains and Weavers Needle is a desert masterpiece every golfer must add to their list of “must play” layouts when visiting the Phoenix / Scottsdale area. Vista Verde Golf Club, opened in a 2006, is a Ken Kavanaugh design.
Kavanaugh balanced the strategic use of angles to afford golfers of all skill levels the opportunity to enjoy Vista Verde Golf Club. Low handicap players can tip out this par 72 at 7,219 yards, whereas the average golfer can enjoy a friendlier 6,363 test. A consistent theme throughout the golf course presents the low handicap player not only a longer shot, but also a more challenging angle into the desired landing area.
Vista Verde blends seamlessly into the native desert, a challenge for many of the newer golf courses in the Scottsdale golf scene. Also unique to desert golf, Kavanaugh’s use of contours and well maintained approach areas provides golfers the opportunity to play the game on the ground at times. It’s not all about “target” golf at Vista Verde, a refreshing experience to say the least.
An example of how Kavanaugh leveraged contours in lieu of traditional hazards (water or bunkers) is the par 4, 5th hole. Measuring 470 yards from the back tees, golfers are tempted to challenge the divided fairway to shorten the approach to the green. While the hole features no bunkers, the green complex is designed to funnel marginal approach shots into closely mown areas off the green, leaving a difficult up and down.
Generally speaking the fairway landing areas at Vista Verde are generous. Yet, the better player who desires to challange bunkers off the tee will find themselves flirting with the desert. Key to playing well at Vista Verde is picking the right spots to be aggressive, as Kavanaugh tempts you throughout the entire golf course.
The par 4, 7th hole, palying to a maximum 330 yards is a great example of an exciting risk / reward opportunity. The desert divides the fairway from the green, allowing players to hit a long iron or hybrid into a reasonably forgiving landing area. From the tee it appears as though you have less room than you actually do, making it somewhat deceiving and difficult to trust your eyes from the teeing ground. Longer hitters have the option to fire directly at the green, shortening the hole by probably 25 to 30 yards, however bringing substantial trouble into play in the form of desert, bunkers and trees.
Throughout the course, fairway bunkers must be taken into account when deciding how to attack the hole from the teeing area. Kavanaugh’s use of well placed bunkers provides definition at times, while also presenting a forced carry should the longer hitters want to push their tee ball up the fairway to get a shorter iron approach. Should your ball find one of these fairway bunkers, you’ll most often find yourself with an opportunity to advance your ball towards the green.
Vista Verde is one of those golf courses you could play numerous times and feel like you’ve played a different layout because of the ample hole locations available on the well contoured, large greens. The par 3, 11th hole offers a great example of how the hole location not only changes the angle and distance, but also the hazards to be dealt with. A back right hole location will max out the distance on this 193 yard par 3 and bring the desert right and bunkers short and long into play. A front left hole location will play as much as 35 yards shorter and offer desert short and bunkers left to challenge the players.
While the diversity of the layout and excellent routing make for an enjoyable golf experience, it was the high maintenance standard that left me marveling at Vista Verde. During a recent trip to Scottsdale where we played five of the highly ranked championship golf courses, it was Vista Verde that presented the most well maintained golf course – tee to green. The greens were firm and rolled at a good speed. The teeing areas meticulous and fairways reasonably firm and fast.
All things considered, Vista Verde is a “must play” on my return to the Arizona Desert and should definitely be added to your list of courses to play when visiting the Scottsdale area. For more information about Vista Verde visit the website at www.vistaverdegolf.com or check out www.standbygolf.com for golf specials and tee time reservations.