Location: Goodyear, Ariz.
Course architect: Jack Nicklaus II
From the tips: 7,139 yards
Saturday morning green fee: $$$ ($150-$199)
Caddie service: No
Walker friendly: No
Fairways: Bermuda (bentgrass overseed in winter)
Related: Q-and-A with Jack Nicklaus II
Starter: While Jack Nicklaus has designed numerous courses around the world, his son Jackie has his name on a select few. Golf Club of Estrella is one of the opportunities to see what the son has learned from the father. The course is a picturesque 18 holes that provides maximum playability with few forced carries and great views of the Sonoran Desert.
Play because ... : Many reasons come to mind. The fees ($120 maximum) are very fairly priced for such a well-maintained golf course. The views are spectacular and the design is not overwhelming from a difficulty standpoint. With five tees, the course is playable for higher handicaps at 5,124 or 5,695 yards, but still challenging enough for the more accomplished player at 6,733 and 7,139 yards from the back tees.
Takeaway: If you are in Phoenix or Scottsdale, then getting to Estrella could take more than an hour. That, however, should not dissuade anyone from making the trip because the experience is made enjoyable by a solid golf course and an accommodating staff. Finding a desert course that is as playable and fun as Estrella will be difficult.
RATINGS [1 to 10 scale, 10 being the highest]
Food | beverage: 8
Pro shop: 7
Pace of play: 8.5
Best par 3: No. 17 (194 yards). This is the signature hole for good reason: it features the Sonoran Desert and a beautiful mountain landscape as a stunning backdrop. The hole is also kind to golfers who miss right of the green. A ball will come to rest in plush green grass.
Best par 4: No. 18 (437 yards). A solid finishing hole that requires an accurate tee shot. There are at least five bunkers to navigate, but there remains ample landing area to the right if carrying the bunkers (288 yards from the back tees) is too much. The green is well bunkered, but most shots can be fed into the opening at the green's front.
Best par 5: No. 4 (571 yards). The tee shot is the most important as there is a cluster of four bunkers left (297 yards to cover from the back tees). Short or right of the bunkers provides a relatively easy second shot and then a clear look at the green, which has a lone bunker to its right. Any approach shot can be run up from the front and gives the long hitter a chance to cash in on two good shots for a possible eagle.