ASU Karsten Golf CourseBy Jay Reynolds • Sep 16th, 2009
You don’t have to look much further than the NCAA Championship trophy the ASU Women’s Golf Team brought home this June to know that the ASU Karsten Golf Course is a championship caliber golf course. And I can report the course in beautiful condition. If you’ve never played ASU Karsten Golf Course, there’s no better time than now.
There are plenty of birdie opportunities awaiting you when you put your tee in the ground on the first hole at the ASU Karsten Golf Course. You’d better go ahead and get them while you can, because if you’ve been around this Pete Dye track, you know what’s waiting for you on the back nine: number 16.
As you walk to the tee for the first time at ASU Karsten, you’ll likely take a glance over at the 9th and 18th holes, which share a Pete Dye patented railroad tie-bordered lake. But I can say that neither of those two devilish holes can quite compare to the beast that is the 16th.
Stretching 248 yards from the back tee, the 16th hole might show a par three on the scorecard, but you’ll learn otherwise. This hole typically will play to a higher stroke average than many of the par fours.
I’m sure there’s many players that just simply play the hole as a par four, laying a short or middle iron out to the grass to the left of the lake and then playing a wedge to the green, hoping to have a putt for a three but a certain four. But if you’re like me, you don’t want to get snickered at from the rest of your foursome!
Oh, and the prevailing south wind blows off the lake and corners into your face.
Laying up doesn’t sound too bad now, does it?
The bottom line is, make a par and consider yourself lucky, make a bogey and you can safely walk to the 17th tee with a grin, and likely the honor.
The ASU Karsten course was a precursor to the modern era of Pete Dye “make-you-want-cry” golf courses. There is a nice mixture of short par fours that blend nicely with the several difficult ones. There is mounding on at least one side of the fairway that will keep slightly stray drives on the playing field, a commonality in Phoenix-area golf courses. The greens are not thought to havelarge mammals buried beneaththem, perhaps just small ones. But for modern courses, these greens would be considered relatively unobtrusive.
One thing you can always count on at ASU Karsten is rough. I practice and play quite a bit of golf at Karsten, and of all the courses in Phoenix, I don’t think I’ve seen many places that let the rough around the fairways and greens grow so high. The Bermuda grass is extraordinarily penal and nearly impossible to hit long irons out of. I’m sure the pro shop staff would be happy to sell you a Ping hybrid to assist you.
I love playing there because it can seem easy to make a bunch of birdies one day, and then the very next day you might feel like you’re trying to tackle Tiger at a US Open.
Every club in your bag will be used, and that’s just the tees shots. Strong players will need drivers, fairway woods, and even irons off some of the tees, and anywhere from drivers, fairways woods, long irons, all the way to short irons on the par threes. I’ve always been drawn to courses that give players options off tees, risk and rewards. Too many new courses fail to give option, which makes for a bit of boredom in the long haul. You can play ASU Karsten every days of the week and not get bored. You’ll probably lose a few balls on the 9th, 16th and 18th holes, and from what I’ve seen, you’ll be ready to go buy another sleeve and head out for another nine.
One of my other favorite holes this Arizona golf course is short par four 8th. From the tips it only reaches 380 yards, but a huge bunker dwarfs the left half of the hole. With railroad ties lining the slope away from the fairway, the fairway narrows incrementally with the distance you try to advance your tee ball. The shot calls for a long draw with a fairway wood, but it’s not a bad play to lay back even farther to better assure yourself a second shot from the fairway to one of the sloppiest greens on the course. Don’t bail too far right on the tee ball either or you’ll be left with a severe side-hill lie, with a smattering of spruce trees in the way.
The green on the 8th features three tiers and several mounds and bunkers guarding the surface. If you feel confident, getting a wedge in your hands is the only viable way to attack most of the pin locations here. If you choose to lay back off the tee, just take the middle of the green and try to two-putt across a ridge for your par.
Jump back in your golf cart of head around to the 9th tee…the shortest of the two finishing holes on each nine at ASU Karsten, but not nearly a pushover at 446 yards.
With the lake being about twice as wide as the fairway, it’s only natural that you’ll try to steer your drive to dry land to the left. A large grass bunker guards the front left of the green, not an uncommon place to play your third shot if you’re lucky enough to get that close in two!
The scariest part about the 9th tee shot is that you know it’ll only be about two hours later you’ll get to challenge the opposite side of the daunting lake. I’ll let you write your own story about the 18th. It’s every bit as hard as it looks from the first look you took at it as you drove to the first tee. And a par is every bit as rewarding.
Par has been reduced at ASU Karsten from 72 to 70 to adjust for technology boom that had made the 5th and 10th holes (both par 5’s) fairly irrelevant. The 5thnow plays 493 yards from the tips (but can go more than 500) with a par of four, while the tenth has been shortened to 498 yards (up from around 550).
ASU Karsten still stretches over 7000 yards and will provide a stern test for any level of player. But what I feel separates this course from the others is the unforgettable Pete Dye trademark “make-you-cry” shots you have to hit to be successful. There few courses in the Valley that offer the specific challenges you’ll face at ASU Karsten Golf Course.
And remember, it’s bad luck to make fun of the oft-knicker-wearing outdoor staff! They are among the friendliest in the business! Don’t miss the award winning pro-shop and gourmet menu offered in the restaurant. ASU Karsten Golf Course offers an experience you might find playing a upper-private club in North Scottsdale, for rates anyone can afford.