Apache Stronghold G.C. - Globe, AZ, poor conditions but excellent design.
Those of you who watch the British Open regularly or play in the UK will be familiar with the term "Biscuit Brown." Loosely translated, that's the UK term for brown baked, fast, firm links style fairways. They are not green and lush, but play just fine.
Those of you who watched the final round of the 2004 U.S. Open at Shinnecock saw the concept taken to a whole new level completely - ad absurdem. It took four fire trucks all the way from Melville to stop that four-alarmer at the seventh green, for example. The hole was burned to a crisp and was unplayable.
Unfortunately, its time to call the San Carlos F.D. because the entire back nine at the Tom Doak designed, and San Carlos Apache owned Apache Stronghold is, to use technical jargon "fully involved."
I ws warned about deteriorating conditions at Apache before going out there. I also thoroughly read (three times) Tom Doak's The Anatomy of a Golf Course where he outlines the benefits of biscuit brown - both the firm fast links style of play and the fact that its cheaper to maintain. Nevertheless, while the front was a dormant (IN HIGH SEASON???) biscuit brown, the back was unplayable.
Also, Apache Stronghold is two hours east from Scottsdale (where there are hundreds of golf courses.) When journeying to Globe, travellers are reminded of some of the most dire poor living conditions in America in a heartbreakingky depressed area. When pulling into the parking lot of the Casino Resort - it looks like you'll only have tumbleweeds for poker partners and that the locals at the motel checking you in are the only people present.
Its a true wild west ghost town.
Maybe they dont have the money (the San Carlos Apaches shelled out $75, 000 for overr seeding and are doing some irrigation work) or maybe they lack the inclination or knowledge, but Tom Doak's excellent design is going unnoticed and underappreciated.
Tom gave us a treasure trove of design features - Biarritz greens, two punchbowls, perpendicular hazards, risk reward par-5s, a true redan (with the green running away,) false fronts, basically he used as much of his wide arsenal as he could find on the property. The result is an asymmetrical 37-35 routing which is a one after the other encyclopaedia of design.
Unfortunately, with conditioning unplayable on the back, we are seeing the limit of "if you buildit, they will come"...its "if you build it and reasoanbly maintain it, they will come" - but not twop hours from a golf mecca to something that will underwhelm even thought the deisgner did a great job.
APACHE STRONGHOLD G.C.
San Carlos Hwy
San Carlos, AZ 85550
Architect: Tom Doak
Par 72 (37-35)
Design: 7 stars (out of 7)
Conditioning: (back 0.5 stars, front 4.5 stars) 2.5 stars
Natural Setting: 4.5 stars
Overall: (pending improvements to the conditions) 3.0 stars