PEORIA, Ariz. -- Tom Wilcox hears the question all the time so he has a ready answer.
When golfers ask him how Quintero Golf Club can have so much elevation change yet every hole -- with the notable exception of the par 3s -- seems to play uphill, Wilcox, the director of golf, laughs and says, 'It's really a lot of up to down to up.'
Kind of like the typical scorecard at Quintero.
Let's be clear: Quintero Golf Club, located about 15 miles east of Wickenburg, is not the toughest course in the Valley. But the 7,208-yard desert layout probably isn't the best place for 25-handicappers to spend a few hours, either.
'You definitely have to be a reasonable player to enjoy it,' Wilcox said.
Blame -- or credit -- goes to Quintero's origin.
It initially was a private club, meant for serious golfers with a lot of cash in their pockets. But when the economy went south, Quintero, like many private courses, opened its doors to the public to improve its bottom line.
The new business approach has worked: Wilcox said Quintero had played host to approximately 28,000 rounds through October, compared to 14,000 per year when it was private.
Once private, the public discovers Rees Jones golf at Quintero
What the public has discovered is a Rees Jones layout that is spectacular in its beauty (surrounded by the Hieroglyphic Mountains), its shape and its design. Somehow, Jones constructed a layout that is undeniably difficult but eminently fair.
Quintero is a golf desert course, so wayward shots often will result in lost balls or, for the adventurous, cactus needles in the pants leg. But the course isn't so tight that golfers have to be perfectly precise. The fairways are fairly generous and many of them have sideboards, offering bad shots another chance to rest on grass.
'It plays wider than it looks,' Wilcox said.
The approach shots at Quintero also are a respite from the elevated greens and forced carries over washes that are featured on so many desert courses. For the most part, the areas in front of the greens are clear, allowing golfers to play bump-and-run shots if they prefer.
Quintero bares its fangs in the elevation changes and the par 3s. The slope from the back tees is 147 with a 74.9 USGA rating. Every uphill shot to a green needs at least one extra club, while the downhill shots might require two less clubs.
Quintero Golf Club's par-3 holes are unmatched in Arizona
And then there are the four par 3s, three of which feature severe elevation changes. Simply put, they're unmatched in Arizona. No. 6, which plays 219 yards from the back tees, has a 110-foot drop from Tee to Green, and the par-3 ninth (212 yards) has a 60-foot drop with a lake blanketing the front of the green.
Two thoughts enter every golfer's mind when they stand on the tee boxes: 'What a gorgeous hole,' and, 'I have no idea what club to use.'
'I find the 219 yards on No. 6 tends to play about 185 and the 212 yards on No. 9 plays about 175,' Wilcox said. 'On No. 9 I tell people I've made quite a few pars from behind the green but none from the water.'
Of course, what Wilcox fails to mention is that going long leaves golfers with a chip to a green that slopes toward the water.
How difficult are the four par 3s, the shortest of which is the 194-yard 13th? In a recent round at Quintero, a single-digit handicapper double-bogeyed all four. Needless to say, his scorecard, if not his day, was ruined.
Quintero has five sets of tee boxes -- the Jade plays at a measly 5,307 yards -- and recently added a set of combination tees for golfers who are scared off by the 6,845 yards on the Gold tees but want to play longer than the 6,401 yards on the Silver tees.
It's not the distance that will get golfers at Quintero, though. It's the topography. But the difficult test provided by the once-private course is more than balanced out by the course design, the views and yes, even the par 3s. They're unforgettable.
'We're getting discovered,' Wilcox said. 'When people come the first time, 80 percent love it and say, 'I'll see you again.' '
Quintero Golf Club: The verdict
Quintero Golf Club is a good hour-long drive from the East Valley and 45 minutes from Scottsdale or Sky Harbor Airport. But the course is worth the wait. Quintero, without reservation, is one of the top 10 courses in the Valley.