Arizona Golf Vacations

Rancho Manana: Short Course with Big Bite

By • Dec 5th, 2008

Carved through the foothills of the Sonoran Desert, just minutes north of Phoenix, Rancho Manana Golf Club offers spectacular views combined with a more-than-meets-the-eye golf experience.

What Rancho Manana lacks in yardage—playing 6,016 yards from the tips—it makes up for in creativity. Golfers are forced to make intelligent decisions off nearly every tee and are left only to guess what trouble may be lurking ahead.

Luckily, however, listed on the scorecard are “helpful hints.” For each of the 18 holes, the tips provide guidance for where to aim off the tee, what to anticipate, and what not to do (which, as many golfers know, nearly always translates into what you mistakenly end up doing).

Because of the short yardage, it is very tempting to try and over-power the course. But beware, fairways pinch in at about 250 yards, trouble typically looms on both sides, and angles into greens might not leave you much of a shot towards the pin.

Elevation changes abound on this course and the views are truly breath-taking. Make sure to slow down and observe the scenery. There are only a handful of holes that are lined by houses. Otherwise, you will be completely surrounded by native desert and Arizona wildlife.

At certain elevations, it is possible to view Camelback Mountain, Mummy Mountain, Squaw Peak, Black Mountain, South Mountain, and Tonto National Forest simultaneously. The best view of the valley will appear on 4 green, looking back down the fairway.

Rancho Manana General Manager Dale Samar says that hole number 4 is his favorite hole, and I concur. “You can choose when to hit the most difficult shot; either off the tee or into the green. The shot into the very elevated green often plays two club lengths more than the yardage indicates,” Samar said.

The 4th hole is a 377 yard dogleg right with numerous opportunities to lose a ball, but also ample chances to make a birdie! A true risk/reward tee shot leaves you two options: 1) Lay up with a long iron down the left half of the hole, or 2) Take driver and try to carry all the wash into the skinny sliver that leads up to the elevated green. The smart play is to lay up, but it leaves an approach of over 150 yards to a small, blind green. Great golf holes require not only good shots, but good decisions. The 4th at Rancho Manana combines these factors along with a view that stretches miles back down into the Valley of the Sun!

Beware of the greens-there are many that you have a blind shot into, most are small, and beware the breaks, as some can be deceiving. “The greens generally break towards Phoenix to the south. They follow the natural flow of water which is away from the mountains,” Samar said.

There are six par 3s on this par-70 course, the longest at 207 yards from the blue tees. I played the course from the blue tees, so as a female the par 3s played long—I hit mostly woods and hybrid clubs. My playing partner, a 26-year-old scratch golfer, hit clubs ranging from a pitching wedge to a 5-iron. Holes #7 and #9 are noteworthy par 3s for their dramatic elevation drops.

One of my favorite holes was the par 5, #16, dogleg right. Although the end of the round may be drawing near, it is crucial to hit a great tee shot here. From the elevated tee on this Phoenix golf course, you will see desert wash to your right, and houses and out-of-bounds on your left. If you’re a long hitter and are feeling bold, you can attempt to cut the corner over the desert, but this is dangerous as you don’t know how much of the corner you can afford to cut. My playing partner hit two off the tee—one he cut the corner, which we did not find, and a second, safer play in the fairway. The second shot on #16 is partially blind as well, as the green is sunken below the rest of the fairway, with bunkers placed sporadically around and within 100 yards of the green. A great second shot could land you at the beach.

I challenge golfers of all skill levels to play Rancho Manana. Everyone can discover joys and challenges while navigating this Arizona golf course.

In addition to providing a great golfing experience, Rancho Manana Golf Club and Resort features a clubhouse and grill, large golf shop with a wide assortment of men’s and women’s apparel, spa, and suites.

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