Legend Trail Golf Course Review – Feel Like a Major ChampionBy Bailey Mosier • Aug 20th, 2010
It doesn’t take a man schooled at both Yale and Harvard to design a course that marvels in beauty and revere. But it was one such man who designed the desert jewel Scottsdale boasts in its backyard—that is, the course called Legend Trail Golf Club designed by a man named Rees Jones.
Jones is a universally renowned architect who has designed over 100 courses worldwide. He and his team of architects helped turn cattle land into desert golf mystique in 1995 on what is now prime Scottsdale real estate.
Jones’ ability to tinker and test his skills on Legend Trail may very well be what led to his bestowment of “The Open Doctor” title. You see, it was after his work on Legend Trail in 1995 that Jones was asked to redesign courses in preparation for major championships.
The USGA asked Jones to help redesign seven U.S. Open venues, he was asked to touch up six PGA Championship courses, four Ryder Cup sites, and one Walker Cup redo, plus an original design for the 2001 Walker Cup.
So while Legend Trail may never have hosted a major championship, you’ll feel like you’re in the presence of greatness as soon as you step on property.
Allow me to properly warn you ahead of time that you’ll need plenty of drive time to be punctual to the first tee. This course is a hefty drive from any part of the valley…we’re talking north of North Scottsdale. Well worth the drive across the board; just make sure you allow yourself more time than you think you’ll need to get there, especially if you want to warm up and not feel rushed.
General Manager John Jackson has been overseeing Legend Trail for two years and says this course is one of his favorites in town.
“I like it because if you hit good shots you’re rewarded for them. If you don’t hit good shots you won’t make birdies. It’s a playable golf course with wide fairways and medium-size undulating greens.”
Legend Trail Golf Course provides the perfect dichotomy of rewarding good golf shots and punishing bad ones—characteristic of the quintessential desert design. Golf Magazine has placed Legend Trail among its top 100 golf courses, and Golf Digest rated it 4 1/2 out of five stars under “Best Places to Play.”
While Legend Trail only stretches 6,845 yards from the tips, anything less than your A-game will result in an afternoon of grumbles and grief. Every tee shot demands you carry some brush, so this isn’t a course to macho up—be realistic about your reach and choose the tees that fit your game.
“Although the course is only 6800 yards long it plays a lot longer than that,” said Jackson.
The first three par-4s will provide you with a telling glimpse into the rest of your round—if you can keep your driver in the fairway, feel free to swing away all day. If you’re wayward at all, you’ll probably lose several balls and you may decide 3-wood or irons may be your best bet for the rest of the day. The front nine is flatter than the backside, so you definitely want to take advantage of scoring opportunities on the front.
No. 6 is a 335 yard dogleg par-4 where you will probably want to keep the big dog on its leash, whether you’re hitting it pure or not. This hole is lined on either side with desert brush, a bunker on the right and homes on the left. Your approach shot will need to carry a sandy wash area that extends in front of the green but shouldn’t come into play as it sits 20 yards short of the green. Hit two solid iron shots on this hole and have a great look at birdie on this medium-sized back-to-front sloping green.
Hole No. 7 is a par-5 called “Water Chant” that stretches 495 yards at its lengthiest. Water doesn’t come into play off the tee but certainly does on your second and third shots. In fact, make a note of the water here because standing in the fairway, you wouldn’t know it was there until you hit your second shot, drove up to locate your ball but instead found that your ball was wet. If you’re ballsy you can go for this green in two, but water lines the fairway and green to the left and there are bunkers right of the green. Your smartest play is probably laying up to your favorite yardage and firing at the pin with your wedge in hand.
According to Jackson, the most talked about par-4 is the 11th because of its extreme dogleg. When people talk about the hole, they probably describe it as the toughest hole on the course. Nicknamed “Stones That Speak” the 11th is a hefty 440 yard par-4. Once again, a wood or iron off this tee is the wise play to a sliver of uphill sloping fairway lined by bunkers and brush. Pray for the fairway here, otherwise I’m not sure what will save you. The hole sharply doglegs left and offers an approach shot shielded by elevation change and desert landscape. Make solid contact with your second shot and hope you find your ball when you get up to the green. Also hope your ball steers clear of the bunkers short right and the desert left. This well-guarded green makes for a tricky up-and-down from even the game’s finest players.
Escape 11 unscathed, catch your breath and prepare for another doozey. The par-3, 12th may not be characteristic of U.S. Open par 3s that play over 250 yards, but it’s not much shy of that. At 235-yards this hole will certainly require you make a solid move at it; a mishit will likely result in bogey or double. From an elevated tee you will see that bunkers compliment both sides of this back to front sloping green. Find yourself in one bunker and it’s not unlikely to take you more than one shot to get on the green. Do yourself a favor—concentrate and hit your tee shot on the green, two putt and walk away happy.
The par 5s on the back nine are Nos. 16 and 17—two great holes coming down the stretch. Jackson recounts plenty of rounds falling apart on these two holes. These par 5s put a premium on hitting good golf shots.
No. 16th plays 530 yards and gently curves right with desert brush lining both sides. A sandy wash area cuts through the fairway and extends its way up the right side of the green, coming into play on your second and third shots. It’s important to keep your second shot on the left half of the fairway for a good attack angle into the green. Flare a shot right and risk bushes and cacti blocking your view and your flight path onto the dance floor.
At 510 yards, the 17th curls opposite of 16. Shaped to the left, yet another sandy wash area splits the fairway and continues to line the right side all the way up near the green. Concentrate on hitting three solid shots to a two-tiered back-to-front sloping green. Once you’ve found the putting surface, don’t get greedy and help round off your day with another par.
Jackson says its easy to make birdies or bogeys on these finishing holes—that players run the gambit.
Rees Jones certainly crafted a course that requires skill, precision and patience. A few bad holes out here is standard and the key to an 18-hole total you can live with rests with your ability to look at the bigger picture. Hit premium golf shots, miss in the right places around the greens and keep focus on the task at hand.
Conquer Legend Trail and you may feel the success of someone who has just won a major championship.
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