Day 1 – “Desert Paradise”
Well, after a relaxing 3-day journey south from our home on Vancouver Island in our motor home, “The Golf Machine”, we made it to our first multi-day destination Lake Havasu City, Arizona. This would be the starting for point our 7-week golf review trip covering 7 different parts of southern Arizona and California. After only a few short hours we were, as many are, enamored by the people, the city and the landscape.
Refuge G & CC has admittedly gone through its high and lows and without getting into the complicated details of those Refuge G & CC is on the rebound and well worth spending a day there as we did very recently. The facility is gorgeous with numerous views of Lake Havasu, whether you are out on the course or simply up at the spectacular stone-faced clubhouse. We were there strictly to golf, but found it also caters to non-golfers with its games room, fitness gym and outdoor pool as well as a very cozy bar and an amazing upper floor outdoor patio.
There is a unique opportunity to play a golf course that strives to add to its growing membership through the “Member for a Day” program. For the modest fee of $79, you are entitled to the same treatment as a full paying member. This means being greeted at your vehicle in the parking lot as we were by Bob, who secured our golf clubs on a cart, and in his very friendly manner told us to stroll down to the pro shop.
There we were greeted by both Tyler, in the pro shop, and our main contact Mr. Mike Haynes, Membership and Sales Director. Mike took a few minutes to show us the outside area of the clubhouse – primarily the driving range and practice putting green. After a quick introduction to a veteran of golf instruction, Mr. Dan Trumbull, Golf Professional, we proceeded to the first tee. Dan was at the driving range bright and early as he is most Thursdays and Fridays conducting complimentary 45-minute golf clinics. These clinics are free to anyone who wants to try golf and promotes the importance of returning on a regular basis to hone your game.
It was a month since Myra and I had played, so we set our expectations at a reasonable level and headed to the first tee where we were welcomed by another Mike, this one in the role of starter.
He also was responsible for the taking the photo of us with the amazing view of Lake Havasu in the background. We shared some delightful moments with Mike and remarked he must be very pleased to send golfers off who are in such a happy mood and upbeat frame of mind. He agreed and said, “Although they might not be in the same mood as they come off 18.” We let out a hardy laugh and started our round both hitting good drives right down the middle of the fairway. After a month of not playing, we were just happy to make contact. We made our way around the course never being pushed or waiting either.
Due to some modifications to the course years ago which reduced the length of the second hole from a Par 4 to a Par 3 you start off by playing 3 par 3’s in the first 4 holes. Although not the most typical way to start a Par 72 golf course it was a blessing in disguise. This small changed didn’t detract one iota from the enjoyment of playing this beautiful layout. Awaiting you after 6 holes was a first for me, and I am sure perhaps found nowhere else in the world, 3 consecutive Par 5’s. I was in heaven and after Myra’s par on the Par 5 4th so was she!
Par 5’s are my favorite. I could literally play a Par 90 course containing 18 Par 5’s. I’m not sure I’d want many like the 7th though. If the golf holes were named, “Oh My God” this might be an apt moniker for this hole. This brute of a hole required a dead straight drive short of the first ravine, then laying up very accurately short of the second ravine which was followed by a short iron to an elevated green. Amazingly, I walked off with a par and a two putt one to boot.
Amongst the many small ponds and lakes are a variety of beautiful birds, morning doves, swans, ducks and my faves – the guinea hen. The surrounding mountain landscape and variety of desert foliage made me think of the lyrics to an Eagles hit “I get that peaceful easy feeling and I know you won’t let me down ………. ” this was truly a place that put you in a frame of mind of utter peace and relaxation.
As you can see by the photos, the surrounding desert dunes are quite awesome and contrasting to the green grass of the putting greens and aprons. The fairways are the one weakness of the course that may stick out to most and after a lengthy discussion with Superintendent Jimmy Hall and Asst. Superintendent Glen Modler we concluded brighter days are on the horizon. The sparseness on some of the fairways didn’t affect us much as we simply agreed to our own rule of “bumping the ball” to the closest section of grass.
Recent over seeding was performed to the aprons and rough areas to create a buffer so the ball when rolling along didn’t impersonate the Energizer Bunny and just keep going and going. We found the greens to be very fair, rolling smoothly and not particularly tricked up or difficult, a common trait of many modern designs. Out on the course in a moment of weakness I needed chocolate, my one vice, and Pamela on the beverage cart came to the rescue. It was then we found out that the friendly fellow who greeted us and took care of our clubs as we arrived was husband Bob. How cool, a friendly married couple in 2 key customer service roles.
We finished up well under the 4 hour mark and entered the pro shop beaming, having not only shot really good scores of 81 and 99, but I was able to boast to Tyler, in the pro shop ,that I parred number 6, the hole he said earlier he had the most difficulty with.
Mike Haynes showed us the rest of the interior of the clubhouse, which was rich with dark woods and beautiful stonework. We were introduced to GM Jerry Aldridge who kindly invited us to enjoy a drink and some appies on the house. At first I said a cold O’Douls would suffice, but after catching a few wafts of the food coming out of the kitchen Lorin brought us succulent wings and a Portobello mushroom, red pepper, cheesy flatbread drizzled with balsamic reduction. Delicious, often over used, is simply the way to describe these appies.
We sat out on the patio looking down on the course with Lake Havasu in the background and knew why this is a popular choice not only for teeing it up, but for fitness, socializing and purely relaxing. Like the late afternoon sun shimmering on the lake, the future is bright again at Refuge Golf and Country Club. Be a member for a day, you might become one for a lot longer.