Golf Club of Estrella: Luxury Fit to a TeeBy Bailey Mosier • Feb 25th, 2009
The Golf Club of Estrella has the essence of luxury fit to a tee. From the friendly staff, to the mouth-watering restaurant specials, to the well manicured fairways and greens, this Jack Nicklaus II design offers a wholly pleasurable experience.
This isn’t a well-kept secret, and my praise shouldn’t shock you. Golfweek Magazine recognized The Golf Club of Estrella as the No. 7 “Best Golf Courses You Can Play in Arizona” in 2008. Estrella also received accolades for the No. 7 “Best Arizona Public Golf Courses” by RANKING ARIZONA. Most residents are surprised when they learn the Club is public. It’s true—this desert gem is a prestigious and affordable golf destination located just 40 minutes southwest of downtown Phoenix.
The day I played was one of the few rainy and overcast days Phoenix winters see. Fair-weather golfers stayed indoors, so my playing partner and I practically had the golf course to ourselves. Despite windy and drizzly conditions, the course remained enjoyable for our entire round. I suspect when you play in nothing but sunshine you’ll be all smiles all 18 holes as well.
The scorecard touts the first par-3, hole #3 as the easiest hole on the golf course. Standing on the tee box, however, don’t be surprised if you disagree entirely. The green is guarded by a huge bunker that starts short and in front of the green and wraps around to the right and back of the green. If you’re not short in a bunker, there’s a decent chance you’ll be in a bunker long and left or in the fairway short and left. My advice is not to mishit your iron from 174 yards or you’ll likely be praying for a sand save.
If No. 8 is playing downwind similar to how it was the day I played, you should have a great chance for birdie at this 557 yard downhill par-5. Expect a monstrous drive and watch your ball take to the slopes of the fairway and trickle almost out of sight. Your approach shot, if you’re going for it in two, will likely be a long iron or a wood into the green that is guarded in front by a gulley of gunch. Short is not good, so don’t be afraid to hit your approach long. Bunkers and a backstop behind the green will either spit your ball back onto the green, or leave you nestled in a bunker, ready for a sand save for birdie or a two-putt for an easy par. If you do in fact walk away from No. 8 with a par, fear not—there are still ample birdie opportunities when you make the turn.
No. 15 is a short par-4 that stretches 395 yards from the tips. From the tee, aim right center of the fairway and draw it left. The only trouble sits off in the right rough—two bunkers—but they are easily avoidable. Hopefully you brought your wedge game with you to Estrella, because now you’ll have a wedge into the green, so feel free to fire at the pin. It’s a large green with a left side backstop, so don’t be timid with your approach.
Estrella golf starter Ken McCreedy says his favorite hole is No. 16, the 605 yard par-5. “In all the times I’ve played it, I’ve only parred it once,” McCreedy said. He added that he usually scores a 7 or an 8. I would bet McCreedy isn’t alone in his quest to conquer the challenging par-5. Long and straight are what your first two shots need to be, as that’s the best way to alleviate tension for your third shot. The combination of the elevated green, a bunker sitting in front, and a rocky gulley streaming across the fairway about 40 yards short will force you to hit a focused wedge or short iron into No. 16 green. Trouble definitely lurks on this hole, and it’s no wonder McCreedy has yet to master this beast.
The par-3, No. 17 is Estrella’s signature hole. “Grand Consequence,” as this hole is named, gives you a beautiful view of the valley and a terrifying view of where your ball could potentially end up. Nerves of steel are certainly a handy tool to bring with you to this tee box. Miss your iron into this 194 yard downhill par-3 and expect to be in a bunker, in the desert, or chipping a blind shot to the green you can no longer see. Hit the green, and still be on guard for there is a ridge that runs through the center of the green that can make for some testy second putts.
I urge you to stand on the back tee box on the finishing hole and look out over the fairway and the valley. If you don’t tee it from there, I understand, but I challenge you to try. A large crater acts as a bumper to your right, forcing you to hit your tee shot straight or left, but certainly not right. The 18th fairway is split in the middle by a ridge and bunkers in the central landing area. You must decide whether you want to play to the upper left ridge or the lower right ridge, but indecision will likely land you in a fairway bunker. The green on 18 is likely to make you scratch your head in wonderment. Starter McCreedy says the green looks like it breaks one way, but in fact, breaks the exact opposite direction.
The direction you should head after finishing up your round is to the Player’s Grill where you can whet your whistle or satisfy your hunger. Estrella Group Sales Manager Erik Nep says the golf club’s patio area is a very busy and happening place on Friday nights. With the only liquor license in the Estrella Community, it’s no wonder residents can’t stay away. The club also offers Happy Hour specials from 5—8 p.m. and live music for guests to enjoy.
The Golf Club of Estrella is what Arizona golf is expected to be. It certainly provides its patrons with the most divine of experiences. Come often and stay late, for Estrella serves a delectable menu for good golf and great fun.