McCormick Ranch- Quality and Commitment on and off the CourseBy Bailey Mosier • Feb 3rd, 2010
Most action at the golf course happens during the hours between sunrise and sunset. Nearly all of those magical moments occur outdoors—the hole-in-ones, the record-low rounds and the hole-outs from greenside bunkers. But at McCormick Ranch, there’s something special that goes on in the evenings inside the pro shop, something I’d bet most people don’t know about.
Director of Golf Operations Mike Lindsey tells me that junior golfers come to the course in the evenings after school to vacuum the carpets and help clean the pro shop. The children, ranging in age from 11 to 17, alternate days every week. Lindsey says it’s not child labor, but rather, the junior golfers learn valuable lessons about taking care of and appreciating their neighborhood golf course. Oh yeah, and the kids get free practice and playing privileges too.
This is a tradition that’s been in place for nearly 15 years Lindsey says. So the next time you’re wandering through the pro shop at McCormick Ranch and come across a young kid vacuuming or taking out the trash, you may want to ask the child for their autograph. It could make the child feel like a TOUR player or you might be getting the John Hancock of one of golf’s future elite. One of women golf’s most recent breakthrough players—Amanda Blumenhurst—was one such kid just a few years ago.
That’s right—The Blumenhurst family lives nearby McCormick Ranch Golf Club and when she was little, Amanda would come in one day a week after school to vacuum the pro shop. Lindsey says when Amanda was out of town for a golf tournament, Amanda’s mother would come perform Amanda’s cleaning duties because Amanda wasn’t going to skip on her commitment to the course.
I opened the review with this anecdote because I think it showcases the type of atmosphere and quality of people you will find at McCormick Ranch Golf Club, inside the pro shop and out. It’s because of the quality of the people working at the Club that McCormick Ranch was the top winner of Golf Digest/Golf Shop Operation magazine’s “America’s 100 Best Golf Shops.”
That’s just one story that Mike Lindsey told me, but I can imagine he’s got at least a dozen more to share if you just ask. He’s practically the course historian—after all, he’s been at McCormick Ranch Golf Club for 30 years! For anyone who knows turnover rates of golf course management teams knows that 30 years is practically unheard of! There must be something special about that place for Lindsey to have stayed so long.
The kindness of the staff extends to all its members, not just the GM. Everyone greeted me with a smile, lending a hand however they could, wanting to ensure my experience at McCormick Ranch was a pleasurable one.
Now, onto the golf course itself! McCormick Ranch Golf Club offers two 18-hole championship courses—the Palm and the Pine. I teed it up on the Palm Course, a design stretching 7,044 yards from the tips characterized by plentiful palm trees and ten water holes.
The first several holes on the front nine at this Arizona golf course are all pretty similar—open fairways, trees lining one side of the fairway and water along the other. The holes are all relatively close to one another, so even if you miss a fairway when you’re just getting in your groove, you can bet your ball will be safely placed in the fairway next door. If you make it your focus to steer clear of the water all day, you should be able to avoid posting big numbers. Not much other trouble lurks on this course.
No. 7 on the Palm course is a hole you’ll need to play smart or you may run the risk of getting a bogey or higher. It’s a par-5 dogleg left with water stretching all along the left of the fairway and wrapping its way up near the green. A good tee shot down the middle will set you up nicely for your second shot, which you will want to play safe. The green is surrounded in front by water on one side and a bunker on the other, so unless you’re feeling bold and are really chasing an eagle or birdie, I advise you lay up short of the green. Do so, and you’ll have a smooth sand wedge into the green. Depending where the pin is, you’re probably going to have to carry your ball over a fraction of the lake. When you do so, make sure you carry the ball far enough onto the green and not try to be cutesy with the shot. Cut it close and it’s likely your ball will roll off the slightly sloped green and into the water.
The ninth hole on the Palm is the course’s signature hole and was selected by Golf Illustrated as one of its “Top Water Holes.” The unique island fairway at the ninth will challenge any level golfer’s brains-versus-broad decision-making. Taking it right off the tee is the safe play, with plenty of fairway to let your ball run out. In the summertime when it’s warm and the ground is dry and hard, if you take your driver at the left fairway, you’re probably going to run out of room and dump it in the lake. An iron or wood would be the smart play onto the island fairway. Into the green from there should find yourself a wedge or nine iron onto a wide, angulated green. If you’re like me, you’ll probably find yourself aiming for the right half of the green to keep your ball safe and dry, as water surrounds the green short and to the left.
Once you’ve made it through No. 9, make sure to stop at the snack shack on your drive across the street to the back 9 and load up on some snacks to fuel you through the next test of skills.
No. 12 is another par-5 where you’ll need to carefully place your shots. It very slightly doglegs left and has water running all along the left. You can cut the corner and place your tee ball in the center of the fairway, or if the water scares you, play it safe on the right half of the fairway. Don’t play it too far right or you may hit it through the fairway into a row of bunkers. Once you’ve conquered your tee shot, your second shot will need to be accurately placed so as to avoid being blocked out by a tree on the right and water on the left. A safe play here is worth the par that will follow.
No. 17 is a par-3 that plays 187 yards from the tips and is surrounded by…you guessed it…water on the left. There’s a bunker to the right of the green and a collection area just shy of it for people who are afraid of the water to bail-out (myself included). But, if you keep it dry and shy of the bunker, it’s not a difficult up-and-in from there for par.
Just when you’ve finally gotten the hang of water-avoidance tactics, you arrive to the finishing hole which has no water—a chance for birdie and a strong finish. Trees line the fairway, but keep it in the short grass and there’s no trick to a par on this hole.
After your round of Arizona golf, you can reflect on some of the course’s accolades and achievements. McCormick Ranch has received numerous awards throughout the years including being winner of Meeting and Convention Magazine’s “Gold Tee Award,” ranked by the Arizona Business Journal as one of the Valley’s largest catering services and top Arizona public golf courses, being listed among Golf Digest’s “Places to Play,” and being honored as one of “America’s Top Golf Courses” by the Zagat Survey.
McCormick Ranch prides itself on its ability to offer accommodations for corporate, amateur and professional outings of any size or nature. A list of such tournaments include The American Airlines Classic, the Arizona Open, the Arizona State University Sun Devil Tournament, the Motorola Open, the Arizona Amateur Stroke Play Tournament, the Arizona-World Pro Am, the Phoenix Suns “Swing for Sight” Tournament, the National Ladies Club Championship, the National Junior College Golf Championship, the Mark Grace Celebrity Golf Classic, in addition to numerous other Southwest Section PGA and amateur tournaments.
When you want to play golf in Scottsdale, I’d recommend McCormick Ranch Golf Club for a down-right, all-around enjoyable time. I know a spot atop the “Bailey Mosier’s Best” list pales in comparison to the other awards the course has won, but for whatever it’s worth, this is definitely a course I’ll return to time and time again.