Tiny but tough: Don't be fooled by the scorecard at Rancho Manana Golf Club in Cave Creek

By Travel ArticlesMarch 5, 2012, 5:00 am

CAVE CREEK, Ariz. -- Any self-respecting golfer -- in other words, those who don't play in blue jeans -- will take one look at the scorecard for Rancho Manana Golf Club and dismiss it immediately.

After all, the par-70 layout in Cave Creek is just 6,016 yards from the tips. There's a 465-yard par 5, a 126-yard par 3 and a 272-yard par 4 -- hardly the stuff to challenge the average golfer, much less a low handicapper.

But the numbers on the scorecard are a flat-out lie. Simply put, Rancho Manana is the toughest 6,000 yards you'll ever encounter.

'Some better players will look at it and say it's too short,' said General Manager Dale Samar. 'But when you play it, it doesn't feel like anything out of the ordinary in terms of distance.'

There are a couple of reasons for that. First, Rancho Manana has six par 3s instead of the normal four. That alone knocks a couple of hundred yards off the scorecard. Second, the course has so much elevation change -- Samar said the course rises at least 100 yards from the lowest point to the highest point -- the length becomes secondary.

It's all about club selection and accuracy. In fact, Rancho Manana is one of those golf courses where it might be better to leave the driver in the bag on some holes. 'You can hit driver, but it's not necessarily needed or the best club selection,' Samar said.

Rancho Manana Golf Club: The course

Although Rancho Manana is located in the ritzy north Scottsdale/Cave Creek area, it doesn't have a lot in common with neighbors Troon North Golf Club and Grayhawk Golf Club. It has more of a relaxed feel, as evidenced by the price -- $99 in peak months compared to more than $200 at Troon North -- the fact golfers have to buy range balls and the clientele.

This is bring-your-buddies-and-have-a-beer golf.

'We try not to be too stuffy,' Samar said. 'We're pretty laid back.'

That doesn't mean low-handicappers should shun Rancho Manana. It's a stern test, even at 6,000 yards. Course designer Bill Johnston compensated with two key design features: Narrow fairways and tiny greens.

Also, many of the greens have false fronts and little room behind them before the desert comes into play. Thus, even with short irons in their hands, it's a challenge to hit the green, much less land the ball on the same tier as the pin.

A perfect example of that is No. 11, the seemingly harmless, 126-yard par 3. The green slopes severely from back to front, and two sand traps are located directly behind the green. If the pin is tucked on the back edge, golfers have about a 10-yard landing strip in which they can get close to the pin.

Go long, and the ball is in the bunkers. Go short, and the ball will roll all the way back to the front of the green, leaving a long, uphill birdie putt.

The entire course is an elevator ride -- there's not a flat hole in sight -- and some of the holes are extreme in their elevation change. Take No. 4, a 379-yard par 4 in which the green rises some 60 feet from the 150-yard pole.

Conversely, the 207-yard, par-3 seventh and 192-yard, par-3 ninth each drop about 75 feet.

One tip: Carefully read the Helpful Hints portion of the scorecard. It lets players know where to aim on each hole, where not to go and how club selection should be impacted by the elevation change.

Rancho Manana Golf Club: The verdict

Rancho Manana G.C. never will rank among the best courses in north Scottsdale. But it is one of the funkier and more enjoyable tracks to play, because it's so different.

The scenery is beautiful, the price is right, the bunkers don't require a step-ladder to get out of and the atmosphere is low-key and enjoyable.

It's the perfect antidote for golfers who are tired of getting beat up by the 7,300-yard desert monsters that make up so much of Arizona's golf scene.

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Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

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Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

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DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

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LPGA lists April date for new LA event

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.