Dove Valley Ranch: The Cart Path Less TraveledBy Bailey Mosier • Oct 30th, 2008
Two paths diverged on a golf course. One headed toward the first tee box, the other toward the tenth. Depending on which one you take, that will make all the difference.
Robert Frost wasn’t referring to Dove Valley Ranch Golf Club when he published his poem “The Road Not Taken” in 1916, but perhaps Robert Trent Jones Jr. had recently visited Frosts’ literature prior to designing the course in 1998. Take the path that leads you through the front nine and experience two hours of calm, conventional, stress-free golf (wait—can golf ever be completely stress free?). Find yourself on holes 10 through 18, and expect your patience, skill level, and course management to be tested. Or, play them both (I highly recommend you do), and feel like you’re playing two courses for the price of one!
Dove Valley Ranch Golf Club, located just 30 minutes from downtown Phoenix, is a 7,011 yard, Par-72 course that will not leave you satisfied after just 9 holes. In fact, if you let your even-par 36 on the front side inflate your ego, well, then you will soon be grounded once you hit your tee shot on #11. The front nine at Dove Valley Ranch is fairly wide open and flat, with very few blind shots, surprises, or trouble areas. The most difficult hole on the front is the Par 4, second hole that dog-legs 90 degrees right around a lake. Number two is one of only three holes on the course that has water. If you’re feeling bold, you can cut the corner and leave yourself a short iron into the green on #2. Or save your adventuresome side for the second nine (trust me, you’ll need to bring balls with you on the back) and stay left of the lake, but know that you will have a lengthier approach shot. Be sure not to go long of this green, for there is a 10-foot drop a couple paces off the back which makes for a difficult flop shot to a back pin.
Make your birdies on the front nine because the back side won’t be so kind! Pars, bogeys, and beyond will become routine scores after you make the turn. Take advantage of the front side so as to allow yourself some room for error on the back. The back nine is tight and will force golfers to place shots. Expect to hit more irons off tees, a split fairway on #12, and desert areas that will come into play off the tee, short of greens, and on either side of fairways. Trouble lurks and errant shots on the back side will be punished!
My playing partner, Golf Channel reality TV star Jay Reynolds, believes the toughest hole to be #11, the 450-yard Par 4. I believe it to be #12. The tee shot on #11 is semi-blind to a tight fairway. The green is long and narrow, surrounded tightly by desert. Reynolds says it’s a difficult hole to gauge distance on the approach shot.
I felt #12 to be the most challenging hole, mainly because the tee shot is visually awkward. The split fairway can play mind games with you. If you hit driver to the right-hand fairway, you’ll probably hit it through the fairway and into the desert. If you opt to hit a shorter club down the right side, you’ll be left with a long approach shot that you must hit over the cactus-filled desert area separating you from the green. If you decide to hit to the left fairway, you’ll have to make sure to carry the desert—from the back tees it’s about a 230-yard carry. That may not sound so complicated except the desert area doesn’t consist of flat dirt. There are tall cacti that have blocked many-a-low-trajectory golf ball in their days. One cactus, in particular, has dozens of whelps where it has been struck by golf balls for years.
The signature hole on this golf course is number 18, a 400-yard, par 4 with the fairway guarded by water on the right side. There is plenty of fairway left so don’t let your mental game falter on this last hole. The green is set between four large bunkers, but a decent drive will leave you with only a mid to short iron. Your approach shot will be hit over water and onto one of the smallest greens on the course. A challenging way to end your round for sure! A par here will make dinner taste a little better, and a birdie will probably mean you’ll be buying drinks!
Dove Valley Ranch will undoubtedly provide a positive and pleasing Arizona golf experience. The staff is very friendly and helpful, the course upkeep is top-notch, and the layout variations will challenge you time and time again.
Straight from the Locals’ Mouth
“There are four or five holes where you can’t pull out driver and rip it. I play year-round and it’s always in good shape.” ~Gib Stephens
“There are two completely different nines. You feel like you’re playing two different golf courses. The help is very cordial.” ~Vern Ross
“The rates are reasonable and the course is playable.” ~Renny Rantucci