Arizona Golf Vacations

Ocotillo Golf Resort: Who Says There’s a Shortage of Water in the Desert?

By • Sep 15th, 2008

“Only a fool tests the depth of the water with both feet.” — African Proverb

How about testing the water with a three wood? An eight iron? A pitching wedge? Yes, I am the fool—depositing six balls (three alone off the tee on the Par 4 Hole 5 on White course at Ocotillo). Our starter issued this warning,”there is a lot of water on this course. If you lose four balls or less, then you’re an above average golfer.” Nothing like a little added pressure, right? My playing partner hit three in the drink and I put six in, so what does that tell you? Oh, by the way, my playing partner on this day was Anita and she has one recommendation, “don’t be intimidated by the water!”

Water and water features are on 24 of the 27 holes at Ocotillo—that’s 89% for you mathematicians. That’s good for your camera, but potentially a bad thing for your score. With water coming into play on about nine of every ten holes, this Ted Robinson designed course is exquisite with waterfalls, lakes and seasonal flowers. Some of the tee boxes and fairways are lined with mature pine trees. You could not ask for a more beautiful course to spring from the desert. But try not to be distracted by the beauty—you’ve got a round to focus on. You will be challenged by going around and over lakes and deciding whether to lay up or go for the green in two on this course with no 18th hole. That’s right. There is no 18th hole at Ocotillo. Your round will include eighteen greens, but there is not an 18th hole. That’s because there are three championship nine hole courses– The Blue, The White and The Gold. Depending on the play that day, the starter will determine your combination of White/Gold, Blue/White or Blue/Gold. And that’s the beauty and uniqueness of Ocotillo—you’ll get a different look each time you come out.

My partner and I played the White/Gold combination and played the round as a twosome in just over three and a half hours. Player assistants (a nice way of describing a golf course ranger) will keep the pace of play steady—just the way it should be!

Ocotillo is managed by Troon Golf. Need I say more? The staff is friendly and makes you feel special, the course gets more TLC and pampering than the gazillionaire grandparent who’s ready to croak and the food, beverage and retail are better than most high end Arizona golf resorts.

If you play the White course, the par 5 second hole is the most difficult of the nine. The dogleg-left fairway is split by water. It is difficult to drive the lake and still have a second shot with a good lie. You’ll have to play this one smart – take less club off of the tee and get to the second fairway in two in order to get a par.

Noted golf course designer Ted Robinson adds his signature to hole number four on the White Course. A relatively short par 4 (340 yards from the tips, 299 yards from the white tees and 259 from the forward tees), you’ll have to fly the lake off the tee as the water stares you down at the box. The lake taunts you 150-200 yards from the tee to the left then you confront more water guarding the front of the green on the approach shot. I counted 18 balls swallowed up by the lake as they tried to find the Promise Land. Off to the left of the green is a stunning cascading waterfall over rocks. On this day, we spotted two large cranes—one white, the other gray—posing on the stones and enjoying the spotty sunshine.

Even the low handicapper will be challenged by some of the greens with severe slopes. Or, how about an island green on The White #3 hole guarded by four bunkers?

The most difficult hole on The Gold Course is number six and water is not even a factor. This 538 yard (490 from the white tees and 402 from the forward tees) par 5 has a strategically placed large fairway bunker to trap the right-hand slicer 240 yards off the drive (about 140 yards from the forward tees). If you don’t keep it on the fairway, you will need to contend with tall pine trees that line the fairway nearly all the way to the green.

The Blue/Gold combination from the tips is the most difficult. This combo boasts a 72.2 rating and 133 slope covering 7016 yards.

High season is January to April and expect to pay about $175 for your experience. Twilight rates start at 1:00 and drop to $85. If you play in the summer, you can enjoy a round for bargain prices ranging from $25-$65, depending on the starting time.

Shade Factor

Very Good. Mature pine trees along the fairways and near the tee boxes provide good relief from the sun.

Five Gimmies

  1. Many couples exchange wedding vows at Ocotillo. The picturesque setting, the sound of running water to add to the ambience and top of the line food, beverage and facilities are just some of the reasons why 70 weddings were held at Ocotillo in 2007.
  2. Divers pull a half million balls from the Ocotillo lakes each year.
  3. This Arizona golf course opened in 1986 and is about 30 minutes southeast of downtown Phoenix. What used to be farmland in the 1980’s, Ocotillo is now a bustling community with restaurants, retail and The Chandler Fashion shopping mall nearby. For lodging, The Holiday Inn is just down the street from the golf course, or you can rent a nearby condo.
  4. Ocotillo recently doubled the size of its practice range
  5. Ocotillo features Bernards at Ocotillo, a full sit down restaurant with Executive Chef Peter DeCarl and his culinary team. Bernards at Ocotillo serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Friday night is Italian buffet night. The restaurant is open Tuesday through Saturday until 9:00 p.m.

Five Things You Might Overhear at Ocotillo Golf Resort

  1. Yes, that was a bad shot, but at least it’s dry!
  2. Is that a Pelican, Egret or a Crane?
  3. Do you have a retriever? I see your ball and 20 others!
  4. What a nice clubhouse!
  5. I do!
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