Day 2 – “Jaw Dropping Views”
For the second day in a row, the recent cold northern winds that had locals shaking in their boots and snowbirds saying “where are we?” gave way to weather closer to the norm. The sun was beaming and the temps were to hit mid 60’s F ( 16 C for us Canucks).
We headed 30 miles from our nice little spot in Lake Havasu City south along highway 95 to Emerald Canyon Golf Course outside of Parker, AZ. The drive along Lake Havasu was breathtaking, with incredible rock formations littering the landscape. As we looked towards the right, the first of many stunning holes on the golf course made a dramatic appearance from the highway and were almost too awesome to believe. As we were to discover, many holes on the course were actually built in between huge rock wall formations which were small individual canyons.
We turned into the very spacious parking lot. We then took a flight of stairs conveniently placed to avoid a steeper climb up the roadway meant for power carts and vehicles.
At the top was a very cool looking rotunda which housed the pro shop and canteen. Inside, Bob got us set up and we got one of the nice new carts from Don who was running the cart area. Taking your cart downhill to the parking lot is permissible and advisable, something that always sets me in a good mood to start the golfing day. When we returned to the pro shop, Head Professional/Manager Steve Benton spent a few friendly minutes advising us what were the “premier” spots to photograph and also holes to get geared up for. He smiled continually and it wasn’t until we finished that I understood why; he was in his 27th year at this marvel of a golf design.
It was another Mike, this time one from Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, who was the starter and a friendly one to boot. Situated next to the driving range I witnessed another first, a stop sign beside the starter shack where you waited until you were given the green light to head down to the first tee.
The course started gently with a 500-yard Par 5, running parallel to the road way; tees were level, fairways nice and green and cut to a generous height with a variety of little mounds on them while the greens had a very smooth rolling grain to them. From 30 feet, I left my birdie an inch from pay dirt, but pars always make me happy. We were both in great spirits in anticipation of this layout. Superintendent Florencio Palma and his team of greenskeepers have the course in very good condition, a job well done to them.
It was when we got to the 4th hole we had our first “holy cow” moment. As I was playing from the back blue tees, numerous holes had that small single tee box much higher up than the other 3 tee boxes. The view defied anything I had ever seen on a golf course anywhere in the world and it was not exclusive to this hole. The fairway was positioned in between huge rock walls that extended up 40 – 50 feet on both sides framing the hole almost entirely to the green.
The next hole, the Par 3 5th will be next to impossible to describe – but here goes. The green from the blue tees was completely blind. In order to see where I had to hit the ball, I walked 70 yards to the edge of a plateau where the other tees were located. I stood on the edge and looked over a cliff that dropped straight down about 60 feet to the green which was protected by a small little gorge in front. There was a metal sign on the edge of the cliff which was right in line of the flag situated far right middle. The GPS we have said it was 145 to the flag. I committed to the line and pured a wedge nice and high over the metal sign not knowing what to expect. We both walked to the cliff edge and, lo and behold, there was my ball 25 feet behind the flag. Myra playing from about 80 yards also hit a beauty, coming up a couple of yards short of the green, chipped to a foot and we both had tap-ins for par. The four Nebraskans behind us heard us say in unison “ Double Par” accompanied with our familiar high fives.
The tee shot on the following hole, the 396-yard Par 4 6th was like trying to hit a ball down a bowling alley with 30-foot-high walls. It was easily one of the most precise challenges I have been confronted with in 50 years of golf on this – the number one handicap hole. How I ended up in the middle of the fairway 150 yards from the green was without bragging, amazing. Parring this hole was one of the most satisfying feelings I have ever experienced. Myra making a 6 was equally adept.
The short 297-yard Par 4 7th from the blues could have been the launching pad for a hang glider and my drive took about 10 seconds to land just 20 yards from the green. Teeing off on the 8th right through to the 12th greens saw us back down on flat, level ground before we went back to an Everest like climbing expedition culminating with the steepest climb I’ve ever made in a power cart from 15th green to 16th tee. There were numerous warning signs on the climb stating “Keep wheels on path at all times”.
Emerald Canyon Golf Course may not be designed following the unwritten rules of golf course design, but then again play the Old Course in St. Andrews. After playing there, try and tell me the Par 4 17th known as “The Road Hole” wasn’t laid out in a thick fog by a guy blind in one eye and the other closed.
The entire course is a combination of 2 types of holes. Half of them very typical flat desert style holes often with water and lovely palm trees, many looking like they have been transplanted from one of the many quality Palm Springs resort courses. The rest are carved out of numerous small canyons with elevation changes that have to be experienced. Thus, I would highly recommend coordinating any trip to the southwest of the US to include a day at Emerald Canyon GC. It is simply one of the most fun and rewarding days of golf anywhere in the world. Bill Philips of Philips Golf Design can be proud of this 18 hole layout which I imagine was a unique challenge in routing the holes through the various small canyons.
Returning to the pro shop we were pleased that Steve Benton was still there. The fact he made a point of introducing Joan from the canteen and described her as his “right hand” just showed what a positive team mentality he has instilled at this amazing golf course.
The 4 fellows from Nebraska sitting nearby shared their own level of appreciation of the day with us. With that we headed back down highway 95 to Lake Havasu City still in awe.