Back in 1973, the City of Yuma Recreational Department first opened Desert Hills Golf Course. The course was opened and made available to the citizens of Yuma to provide a place to enjoy golf and enrich the quality of life for Yuma community members through physical fitness, competition and energetic fun. Yuma back in the early 70’s was a small-town unknown to many outsiders. Today Yuma has jokingly been called Canada’s most southern city. It is home to tens of thousands of RVers and full-time winter residents. Yes, snowbirds as we are often referred to in Canada. Also included in this group are thousands of northern US residents. The allure of Yuma is the average 350 days of sunshine annually which allows people to enjoy many outdoor pursuits with golf most likely at the top of the list.
Look in the parking lot of any Yuma golf course and you will see the license plates from many Canadian provinces on hand; predominantly the western provinces of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba with a smattering of Ontario plates too.
Many of those residents, like us, play and enjoy courses run and owned by the various municipalities and Desert Hills Golf Course can hold its heads and be proud of its challenging 6,800-yard 18-hole layout. Civic golf courses have a greater challenge than most operations. They have a limited amount of operating capital and an extraordinary number of customers. The more bodies on the course, the greater amount of wear and tear, so maintaining the course is no easy task. Working with these two factors, this course holds up pretty well. Some slight imperfections are easily overlooked when you have as many good holes as this course has.
Our foursome was a repeat of Thursday. The ingredients for this day was a fun challenging course and us 4 Canadians; a slice of Lymon, a dash of Penny and equal parts of Myra and Bill. A few minutes with Golf Operations Manager Drew Smith in his office next to the pro shop was followed up with a warm send off. We headed to the first tee where Harley the starter greeted us. It was a busy day and we kept the foursome in front of us right in the cross hairs as we began the round. The sun was out and accompanied by a bit of an unwelcome ingredient, high winds. Now given a choice, all four of us agreed we’d take wind over rain.
Wind doesn’t make your grips slippery, dot up your glasses with droplets or force you to wear a bulky rain suit. At Desert Hills what it does is make holes like the uphill Par 4 5th hole play like a Par 5 when hitting into the wind. The course is a tale of two nines, not a dramatic diversion really but a subtle enough one. Stopping at the clubhouse I yelled out to Drew in the pro shop, “You can turn the fans off anytime” followed up by, “We are having a great time”. Smiling he said, “Wait ‘til you play the back nine”.
The back nine starts off on the same level ground as the ninth. Then holes 12-16 climb upward to a plateau which affords some great views of the agricultural valley below. There are some treacherous pin placements as the greens on the back nine have some slopes that are very inclined. Keeping it below the hole is a must. Trust me when I say if you’re above the hole to start your putting you’ll be below it on your second.
The greens won’t win any awards for pureness; they were a light green for the foremost as result of being exposed to the intensity of the sun and these frequent winds. Oddly enough it wasn’t that big a deal, the ball rolled smoothly and they were consistent. If you are going for looks, then maybe these won’t turn your crank, but I could care less of the color and more of the roll when it comes to using the flat stick.
The skies had turned from the bright blue when we started to grey and daunting by the back nine. It was blowing at times by my estimation a 4-club wind. After watching all 4 fellow Canadians in the group in front of us plunk their tee shots into the water on 17, we took out plenty of stick. We all made it over and laughed with joy at that fact.
Raindrops were tickling our skin as we finished up. We scrambled to load up our clubs into the back of Lymon’s luxury truck. On the way to The Texas Roadhouse restaurant or is that Madhouse, a wild, packed country, saloon-style eatery, I announced our scores. Myra with a solid 51 back totaled 108, Penny with chip in and a couple of great pars a 102, Lymon a solid bogey golf round of 90 and me a consistent 43/42=85. Subtract 5 shots off each for hurricane damage and we all really played quite well. Upon returning to Yuma in the future, Desert Hills will be on our radar. The number of really good and fun holes outweigh a few of its little shortcomings. This good representation of a municipal course is good value and good golf all wrapped into one.