Location: Scottsdale, AZ
Architect: Tom Fazio
June 15, 2011
Estancia Golf Club in Scottsdale, AZ proved to be one of my more difficult courses for me to play. I went to Arizona to play Stone Canyon Club in April of 2010 and had hoped to play Estancia on the same trip but was never able to connect with a member. I had a couple of soft leads that developed over the 2010 golf season, but nothing that really materialized into a solid opportunity which made me a little concerned about my chances of playing the course.
As the 2010/2011 winter rolled around my Arizona contact, Dave, who had helped me to play Stone Canyon back in April let me know that whenever I wanted to come out to play Estancia that he would be able to arrange it. Wow, that was completely unexpected and definitely music to my ears so I got to work on my calendar right away. I settled on some dates in June that would allow me to play in Scottsdale before it got too oppressively hot and also slip up to Flagstaff to play Forest Highlands’ Canyon Course after the snow was completely melted and summer was in full swing. I would have loved to have come to Scottsdale in February when it was too cold to play in Virginia, but it just made more sense to time the trip in a way that I would be able to play both courses in a single visit.
On the day that we were set to play Estancia the group was Dave, his friend George, my father and me. We drove to the club and navigated our car through the grounds to the clubhouse. For the record, the word Estancia is Spanish for a large estate or cattle ranch. The â€ślarge estateâ€ť definition is fitting of the club considering that the development and golf course are on more than 600 acres. To say its vast is would be quite an understatement. The Estancia Club is very private and if I am not mistaken membership is only open to homeowners within the community. There are patio homes/condos available for purchase as well as lots where custom homes can be built. Even with the downward slide in real estate prices over the last 5-7 years property within the Estancia development is incredibly expensive. From a quick glance at the homes on the course it was very clear that this is an ultra high end real estate development. One of the club employees told me that homes started at over $1 million and went up to more than $10 million.
So we parked the car, checked in at the pro shop and were directed to the locker room to change our shoes. While we were in the locker room, the friendly attendant picked up on the company where my dad had worked his entire career and threw out a gentlemanâ€™s name to see if my dad knew him. He responded that not only did he know the man, but was very good friends with him. The locker room attendant said â€śWell, Iâ€™ll tell him you said hello. Heâ€™s a member here.â€ť I had to laugh . . . after all the struggle I had gone through the previous year to try to play Estancia, a member contact had been right under my nose the entire time if I had just turned over the right rock. That’s just how this stuff goes!
Once we changed shoes we hit a couple of balls and made our way to the first tee. It was pretty hot – make that REALLY hot – and my theory that playing in June would be before the heat got too oppressive was WAY off base. It was definitely oppressively hot, but, as they say, it was a dry heat. I may not have broken a sweat in the 100+ degree temperature, but the sun felt really intense and by the last 4 holes I was exhausted.
Iâ€™m not going to post any photos of the course because they were in the midst of a terribly difficult grass growing season in Phoenix/Scottsdale and the summer turf had not come in and greened up quite yet. By all accounts Estancia is normally immaculately conditioned but the weather this season made the transition from winter to summer grass a particular struggle. Even the best of golf clubs will struggle with their conditioning when the weather is severe. Out of fairness to the club I donâ€™t want to post photos of their beautiful golf course in a less than picturesque state. If youâ€™d like to see a photo tour on the clubâ€™s website you can click here and then click the course tour button on the left. These photos are probably better than anything I would have taken anyway.
Even under the unusual conditions I thoroughly enjoyed the course. With all the crazy bounces and rolls that we were getting it felt a bit like playing a links course in the middle of the desert. On more than one occasion I found myself hitting shots that would land short of the green and bounce up onto the putting surface which was cool. It was a different kind of golf than is usually played in the desert and was a lot of fun. Iâ€™d love to see the course in its normal state one day, so maybe next winter when Iâ€™m in desperate need of some warm weather golf, Iâ€™ll see if I can get myself back out there and take another tour around the course. Next stop Forest Highlands!