Dove Mountain has match play and travel golf appeal
No. 9 on the Tortolita nine acts as a demanding 18th hole for the Accenture Match Play.
MARANA, Ariz. – This week Ritz-Carlton Golf Club at Dove Mountain hosts its third WGC Accenture Match Play Championship.
I thought I knew plenty about Dove Mountain, the 7,489-yard behemoth north of Tucson that was designed by Jack Nicklaus specifically for match play. Thousands of mature cacti litter the landscape here and the greens are devilishly tricky.
It wasn’t until I played the course, however, that I realized something significant: The very characteristics that make this a great professional match play venue also serve the traveling golfer well.
It starts with the conditions, which are among the finest on the PGA Tour. After marveling at them through my TV the past couple years, they were even more stunning in person, from the cross-cut fairway mow lines to the island tee boxes and big bunkers. It’s one of the best-conditioned courses I can recall playing.
As for the greens, they aren’t just fast and smooth, they’re also undulating. It’s hard to believe they’re actually flatter than they were in 2009 when players complained they were too slow. When Tour officials countered by saying the greens were too undulating to make any faster, it was determined that the best option was to flatten the greens.
Lion tamed, sort of.
Though the greens are flatter than they once were, they’re still lightning quick by traveling golfer standards. Adding to the intrigue, most of these behemoths feature run-off areas, which make for some interesting short game shots for pros and amateurs alike.
Though most of us amateurs will mindlessly reach for our trusty chipping club, around these greens you’ll see pros use anything from lob wedge to 3-wood.
Of the 27 holes at Dove Mountain the Saguaro and Tortolita nines make up the tournament 18. The third nine, Wild Burro, is played mostly by the resort’s 50ish members, but is available for public play. Wild Burro’s greens weren’t part of the green-flattening renovation, so they feature the same severe undulation with which they were born. For this reason, many of the members consider Wild Burro the most entertaining of the three nines.
Though the greens and surrounding areas are tricky, Nicklaus stuck to his standard design M.O. by including wide driving corridors. In general this characteristic is frowned upon by pros who respect courses that favor accuracy over length, but medium-length drivers Geoff Ogilvy and Ian Poulter have won here, and short-knocker Tim Clark also has a solid record. It’s a pretty strong indication that at Dove Mountain shot making is just as important as long hitting.
As for amateurs, arguably the most satisfying shot to hit well is the tee shot, so you’ll take pleasure in Dove Mountain’s forgiving fairways.
Even for the big hitters, however, some of these holes are just plain long. For the Accenture Match Play there are five par 4s measuring at least 480 yards and it’s the longest course on the PGA Tour. Even the 3rd-longest set of tees measure more than 6,800 yards.
But while length is indeed a factor, there’s plenty of variety, which gives the course great intrigue whether the format is professional match play or amateur resort play. The closing stretch is particularly interesting.
Although there are several scenic holes at Dove Mountain, I argue No. 15 is the signature hole because of what it is – a short par 4 – coupled with its placement at a defining juncture in the round. Nicklaus designed Dove Mountain specifically for match play and No. 15 fits the bill perfectly with its risk/reward opportunity.
If you’re feeling bold you can try to clear a hazard that crosses the fairway, leaving an uphill shot of fewer than 80 yards, but accuracy is paramount – a wayward tee shot will end up in the nasty desert. Though the hole is barely 300 yards and there’s no water, birdie is just as likely as bogey or worse.
The final three holes feature the course’s longest par 3 (No. 16) and two dogleg right par 4s. All three are strong holes that require a carry over desert waste areas.
Whether you’re playing against your buddy or Tiger Woods, you’ll enjoy the challenge, scenery and conditions at Ritz-Carlton Golf Club at Dove Mountain.
But the golf course isn't the only thing that caters to the Match Play and resort guests simultaneously – the nearby Ritz-Carlton hotel is also on point.
With fewer than 300 rooms its one of the smallest Ritz-Carlton’s in the world, giving it a quaint, private feel. After your round unwind in the outdoor seating area that backs up to a mountain range and overlooks a pool. Add delicious food and service only the Ritz can provide, and you have desert serenity in its purest form.
What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm
Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:
Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft
Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft
Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts
Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts
Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red
Ball: TaylorMade TP5x
Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff
Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.
While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.
Watching Andrew Landry and Jon Rahm in playoff. Walking off tee talking to each other. Are you kidding me ? Talking at all. ?— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.
0 words— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
The issue is I don’t want to make you a bit relaxed or comfortable. High pressure, good.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
Did you watch the end of the NFL games yesterday ? Enough said.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
I didn’t say you couldn’t be friends and competitive. But in a playoff, 1 tiny mistake and you lose, and that devastated me. Friends before and after, competitors during play.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
Did you win ? It’s all about surviving the competition to test yourself.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.
Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over
The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.
As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.
Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.
And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.
And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.
McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.
The Ryder Cup topped his list.
Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.
When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.
“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”
McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.
Or similar assertions from TV analysts.
“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”
European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.
And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.
The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.
Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.
And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.
Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.
The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.
The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.
More bulletin board material, too.
Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.
Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions
Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.
The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.
It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.
The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.
“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”
Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.