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Head west for great golf

By JIm O'Neill

Publication: Theday.com

Published April 25. 2012 6:00PM   Updated April 25. 2012 6:18PM

I have some final thoughts about our recent buddy trip toArizonaand not all of them involve Rodney.   

 

A friend of mine was asking why we likedArizonaoverFloridaas a March destination.  I’m not a huge fan of Florida golf but I must admit I didn’t think I’d like Arizona as much as I do before I took my first golfing trip. What convinced me about golf in the desert? A few things, actually.

 

I like the West. I like the vast expanse of it and the romantic history it produced and I like the calmness of the desert, especially at night when the sky is clear and the sounds of the desert come alive. I like the golf courses very much, particularly those with no housing lining the fairways and where the mountains provide a dramatic backdrop to courses sculpted out of the cactus and sagebrush. 

 

Mostly, I love the weather in March inArizona. Warm days and cool nights make for a pleasant pairing and the lack of humidity makes golf a lot less taxing on these old bones. It’s the dry heat thing everybody likes to talk about. Can you get a week of cold or rain inFloridaduring March?  You could. InArizona? Not likely and I like the odds, particularly when I’m shelling out good money for my long anticipated buddy trip. I like the guys but playing cards all day in a rain soakedFloridacondo scares the hell out of me.

 

We played eight different courses during our stay and they ranged from really good to simply outstanding. We played TPC-Scottsdale, site of the recent Waste Management open (what an awful name for a golf event) and they had just removed the stands that line the raucous par-3 16th hole where the crowd is literally on top of the golfers. The Stadium Course is a fine track and we were fortunate to get on at a bargain thanks to Tommy Secchiaroli, but it is not the best we played. 

 

The two courses at We-Ko-Pa, the Cholla and the Saguaro, rank with some of the best I have ever played and it is no wonder that Golf.com ranks them number two and three in a state filled with top flight golf courses. Both courses use the contour of the desert to full advantage and while on the same piece of property, each course has a unique quality about it, with the Saguaro course being specifically designed to accommodate those who enjoy walking the course.

 

We returned to one of our favorites,EagleMountain, for three rounds, where anEagleMountainpass we had purchased allowed us to play at half price at bothEagleMountainand We-Ko-Pa, which might make it the best bargain in the Valley of the Sun. While golf inArizonain March, which is high season, can be quite expensive, a little bit of research and local knowledge can result in some pretty sweet deals. While many of the top courses offer rack rates of $175 and up during this period, we were able to keep the average price of a round of golf near the $80 mark using the internet and past experience to keep the prices in our range.

 

It is rare when you see something in golf that you have never seen before, but Rodney was able to provide us with something that none of us had ever witnessed. Playing a par three at Legacy, Rodney hit his tee shot so fat that he took a divot the size of a small muskrat. Since his ball never touched his club, it floated softly in front of him where the aforementioned divot caught up to the ball in midair,  causing the ball to land on the tee, 20 feet in front of Rodney. I have never seen anybody hit his ball in midair with his divot. Only Rodney.

 

Golf trips reveal a lot about the relationships among its participants, given the fact that each of us has his own quirks and annoyances, that 15 percent my old boss Lenny Davis used to refer to as your “michigas.”

 

Golf trips don’t build character as much as they reveal it. My friend, Tommy Secchiaroli, had a disappointing week of golf and spent more time in the desert than Lawrence of Arabia. But he never whined, was constantly helpful, and was a pleasure to be with. Class shows when adversity strikes. By the way, Tommy is a professional chops buster who loves to remind me that I am short, fat, bald, and a motormouth. Bad golf did not deter him from his appointed destiny.

 

Every trip needs someone to organize the golf and particularly to set up the competition and score the results. Jon Morosini did this with great aplomb, and each night gave us a full accounting of day’s competition down to the tiniest detail. Jon was also in charge of BBQ and produced two of the best steak dinners I have had in a long time. 

 

Good golf. Good food. Good times. Great people. It’s an unbeatable combo.

 

Additional item.  I played yesterday in a pro-am atLakeofIslesin which the chief highlight was that we played with 8-inch cups. I have to say it was a lot of fun and something I would do again. It does, however, prove that if you are a lousy putter, you can three-jack a manhole. But I applaudLakeofIslesfor the innovative attempt to inject a little fun into the game, and I, for one, had a blast.

 

Jim O’Neill is a member at Great Neck CC.

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