Raven South Mountain – The Perfect Arizona Golf CourseBy Bailey Mosier • Jun 23rd, 2009
If you’re an Arizona Diamondbacks fan, there’s likely a chance you’ll spot a player teeing it up during off-season at The Raven Golf Club at South Mountain. This Raven course, located a driver and a home run away from Chase Field in downtown Phoenix, serves as the official home course to the hometown 2001 World Series Championship franchise.
If you’re lucky, D’backs outfielders aren’t the only local sports figures you’ll see at The Raven at South Mountain. The first time I played the South Mountain course, soon after the Superbowl, Cardinals Head Coach Ken Whisenhunt was warming up on the range a few spots down from me. I approached him, introduced myself and told him what a pleasure it was to meet him. My encounter with Coach Whisenhunt may be an anomaly, however, because he said he had been invited out there by a friend for the first time. My advice: don’t go hunting Cardinals when you head to South Mountain—stick to regular birdie chasing and you won’t be disappointed. But then again, you might get lucky and spot a few local sports heroes.
The Raven at South Mountain is a course golfers of all skill levels can appreciate. This course offers ample birdie and bogey opportunities for weathered and beginner golfers alike. Each 9 offers a distinct variety of holes, long and short, challenging and enjoyable. The Raven at South Mountain, totaling 7,078 yards, is the perfect choice for a upscale casual golf course for your next Scottsdale golf vacation package.
One of the beauties of this Raven course is that its playable design allows you to keep your sanity throughout the entire round. If you find one hole demanding and feel as if you’ve been cheated out of a stroke or two, chances are the next hole will present you with an easy look at birdie. At South Mountain, you’re never left feeling like you can’t make a comeback on the next hole.
The par-3s on the front are complimentary—what the first one gives you in distance, the second par-3 takes away.
The second hole at South Mountain stretches 137 yards from the back tee. If you warmed up on the range before your round and are swinging smoothly, this hole is probably your best chance at birdie and a great opportunity to start your round in the red. The green is fairly flat and hard to miss from 137 yards and in. If you happened to have eaten your Wheaties for breakfast before going to play, a miss long right is better than long left. A bunker will catch your ball long right but a thick row of bushes guard the left back side of the green. Hit it in this shrubbery and it’s likely that you’ll be saying bye-bye to a ball early in your round.
The next par-3, No. 7 stretches 221 yards and is a far cry from the first par-3 you encountered. While the green is a rather large target, golfers without a sound wood game will likely end up in one of two bunkers surrounding the green. A long and intimidating bunker runs alongside the entire left side of the green, and another sits to the back right. Make sure you’re swinging easy at this point and knock it near the hole, otherwise a bogey might be staring you in the face.
No. 5 is a short par-4 that plays a mere 324 yards from the tips. But don’t think this hole will be a walk in the park—four bunkers guard the front of the green and the smart play is an iron or utility club off the tee. Once you’re safely in the fairway, the approach into the green doesn’t get much simpler. The fairway bunkers block your vision of the green and while you can see the pin, what you don’t see is the shape and depth of the green. The two times I’ve played this course, the pin has been on the far left of the green. Pull it a little left of this pin placement, and you’re likely to roll off the green’s false edge and are likely forced to chip it close to save par.
The next hole, the par-4 sixth appears to be a straightforward par-4 but brings with it a few unforeseen challenges. The fairway is guarded on the left by a bunker and a lake hidden from view off the tee. Driver off this tee box hit too far left could likely be swimming with the fishes. Trees line the right side of the fairway, but balls hit right are likely to roll back into the fairway. The approach shot into this green can be tricky. A bunker right of the green will cause you to think it best to stay left, but what you won’t realize from the fairway, is that the green slopes from right to left on its front ridge and your ball could very easily roll off to the left of the green in a collection area. That’s where all three golf balls in my group ended up.
As you’re making the turn, I urge you to stop for a restroom break. The first bathrooms available on the back side don’t appear until 17 tee.
No. 13 is a par-4 where you’ll be hoping your “A” sand game shows up if you hit an errant approach shot. This 386 yard hole’s fairway slopes forward to a bunker guarding the green not visible off the tee. Long hitters may want to hit an iron or utility club, otherwise your ball may take the ridge and funnel into the bunker short of the green. Hit a safe tee ball to the center of the fairway, you’ll still find yourself with an intimidating approach shot. You must carry a bunker that runs all along the front of the green, winds around the right side and is even still a threat long of the green. If your nerves get the best of you, you could easily find yourself laying three in the sand, hoping for a miraculous sand save.
No. 17 is a par-5 that extends 593 yards. If you’re looking for a birdie coming down the home stretch, I advise you make it here. The fairway is very hilly and even great drives may not be properly rewarded. However, the wide fairway will allow room for error, as the entire left side slopes back toward the fairway. It’s easy to reach this green in three solid shots. Knock it close and roll in the putt, because No. 18 may take a stroke right back from you on this Phoenix golf course.
The finishing hole at the South Mountain course brings you right back to the clubhouse. Your tee shot on No. 18 needs to be struck nearly perfect, as there are bunkers, a ditch and out-of-bounds on the left, and trees and a potentially awkward approach shot awaiting tee balls hit too far right. Once safely in the fairway, don’t be anxious about the water that borders the right side of the green. The pond is surrounded by tall grass and practically invites your ball into its mouth—either that or it gives you enough of a complex that you hit the shot wayward in the other direction. A great finishing hole, in that it requires you to prove yourself and keep your nerves in check.
This Raven course has been the proud recipient of a 4.5 Star rating from Golf Digest and has also been recognized as having the “#1 Guest Service in North America.” For over 10 years now, this course has hosted The Arizona Stroke Play Championship, affirming its credibility and playability in the Arizona golf community.
I assure you that a round at this Gary Panks and David Graham design will feel like an afternoon well spent.