WICKENBURG RANCH & SOCIAL CLUB
ARIZONA’S WINTER GETAWAY
WICKENBURG, Ariz. – Wickenburg Ranch Golf & Social Club, the first new golf course to open in Arizona since We-Ko-Pa’s Saguaro Course in 2006 is a prime example of why Arizona started marketing itself as a winter getaway almost 100 years ago.
The land is vast, wild, rugged and available.
As Greater Phoenix grew and suburbia set in, solitude was replaced by hustle and bustle. But Wickenburg Ranch has a renewed lifestyle for those who yearned for starry nights, four-season adventure, and lots of land and plenty of room to spread out.
Like saddling up a trail weary pony, Wickenburg Ranch Golf & Social Club provides a slow pace. Tee times are measured 12 minutes apart. No one is there to rush you.
It mirrors the almost unbelievable seven-year grown-in period this residential community golf course took because of the economic downturn.
The only things frenetic are the lightning quick bent-grass greens.
I played on a cool January day enjoying faultless, verdant rye fairways and smooth rolling greens. And any avid travel golfer with his eye on competition lists knows Wickenburg Ranch Golf & Social Club was deserving of its Golf Digest distinction -- No. 6 on its Top Ten Best New Courses in North America for 2015.
Located on the land that game-show host Merv Griffith used to run a dude ranch Wickenburg Ranch Golf & Social Club was landscaped in hardy high desert terrain by two amateur architects, Wendell Pickett and William Brownlee. That’s right, not Nicklaus, not Palmer, not Player, not Crenshaw and Coore, not Fazio -- Pickett and Brownlee.
Three dude ranches are still in the area on historic old west land within view of Vulture Peak where in 1863 a 49er named Henry Wickenburg struck the slope with a pick axe and for the next 79 years more than $30 million worth of gold was dug out.
Wickenburg Ranch Golf & Social Club, teamed with a new Trilogy residential development by Shea Homes, hopes to mine the next “mother lode” with a successful development.
Wickenburg Ranch Golf & Social Club: Cooler than Phoenix “Several things distinguish us,” said Justin Henderson, head pro. “Because of the higher elevation and relatively mild night-time summer temperatures the course is able to maintain bent-grass greens year round.
“Those familiar with bent-grass understand what a tremendous difference it makes in putting surface quality, and that the chance to experience it in Arizona is a special treat. Also, the 7,059 yards, par 71 has a fun configuration of five par fives and six par threes. And finally the Arizona views are unforgettable.”
Those views include Vulture Peak, massive saguaros, the occasional coyote and roadrunner, and rolling, rugged arroyo terrain that borders Prescott National Forest. You can be sure your new home is going to have all this without another neighbor’s house blocking your panorama.
Probably the most memorable hole is “Big Water” the 246-yard par-3 13th that plunges 100 feet to a green surrounded by water, a huge semicircle bunker in front and bail-out only left. “Yikes” is the 595-yard 14th that has water in three places – the drive, the mid-point on the fairway journey left, and front left and behind the green.
The notable risk/reward hole comes at No. 6 named “Gutz”. It is only 343 yards at par 4, but the decision is to play safe or cut off a portion of the huge lake that blends into a massive bunker.
Combine the $95 rate for Wickenburg Residents, $105 for Arizona residents and $135 for out of state guests, the club opened last February with 100 straight sold-out days. Giving away a Travis Mathew polo and pullover, valued at $170 helped, but Top Ten courses in Phoenix and Tucson usually have $200+ green fees.
At the 15th tee look left and you can see the construction of an executive course with no opening date yet announced. Also take advantage of the practice area that Golf Magazine named the third most inspiring in the USA. Your view is an amphitheater bluff looking toward the Bradshaw Mountains.
Wickenburg Ranch, which offers memberships, hopes to go private in the future. Might be prudent to giddy up and visit soon.
Stay and Play Wickenburg is such a scenic, old west experience any city slicker should consider a stay of more than a day. I’d head straight for Rancho de los Caballeros (www.ranchodeloscaballeros.com), a famous 1948 dude ranch that has a spa, nature horseback riding, jeep tours, trap shooting, saloon adventures, yoga, even a hidden gem golf course named Los Caballeros Golf Club. Bird watching at the Hassayampa River Preserve could be on the itinerary, along with the Desert Caballeros Western Museum.
Guest rooms are comfortable with all the conveniences and Rancho de los Caballeros offers a full American plan of breakfast, lunch and dinner.
But maybe the highlight of my day was walking outside after dark to see a flawless starry sky complete with shooting stars you can only witness far from the city lights of a big city.
The experience made me flash back to earlier in the day when the conditioning of Wickenburg Ranch Golf & Social Club was just as unblemished.