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Monday, January 16, 2006

Talking Stick (North Course) - Minimalism is the real deal in Scottsdale


TALKING STICK (NORTH COURSE)
9998 E. Indian Bend Road
Scottsdale, AZ
480.850.7302
www.talkingstickgolfclub.com

Architect: Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore
Par: 70 (35-35)
Price: $125-$170 in high season, $75 in low
Excitement: 8/12 (11/12 for purists)
Difficulty: 6/12
Design: 6-1/2 stars (out of 7)
Conditioning: 5-1/2 stars
Natural Setting: 5 stars
Overall: 6 stars
Value: 6 stars

To all you casual golf fans who are impressed with waterfalls, brand name designers, "augusta white sand" in the bunkers, stained glass windows in the clubhouse, scenic views of (insert "Statue of Liberty," "Utica, NY farmland," "Donald Trump's latest monstrosity," etc.), and "magic gates" that open when you drive through them to the course, book tickets to Scottsdale, AZ.

Right now. There's a golf course you NEED to see.

What's that? Forests of giant saguaros? Yeah, we'll see them, but not where we're playing.

Waterfalls? Nope, won't really be needing any, but thanks all the same. I'm trying to cut down.

Lost balls? No, the fairways we'll be playing are 80 yards wide...no you read that correctly 80 yards.

Who designed it? Coore and Crenshaw. Yes, Ben Crenshaw who captained the Ryder Cup team. What else has designed? Why quite alot...have you heard of Sand Hills? No? How bout Bandon Trails? No...the Scottish kid and "that dude who's helping Nicklaus on Long Island" ***pause for gasp*** his name is Tom Doak by the way, built the OTHER two excellent courses there...well, how bout Kapalua, you've heard of that, I assume?

Yeah, the course you just saw on TV. I thought you would know it...

What? You've never heard of golf like this? Its called "Minimalism" and guess what casual fan, it's firing on all cylindars all over the country. Crenshaw and Coore have set off a trend which purists have championed, serious intrepid golf fans are embracing and which still flies under the radar screen because it trades bells and whistles for truly great golf holes that make you think.

Thinking...before hitting a golf shot...it should not be as frighteneing a concept as it seems.

Talking Stick North is dead flat, is in a scrub-choked, but otherwise not particularly verdant corner os the desert and features some of the widest fairways you have ever seen. "Minimalism" basically means that the designer moved little to zero earth in layout out ("routing") the golf course. Basically, they planted sticks for tee boxes, planted sticks for green sites and designed the holes around this most basic of plans. Minimal interference with the native vegetation, minimal expense and the widr fairways are a welcome change to the very narrow limited turf/target designs the area touted as its best for so long.

What's the draw? Easy...some of the most ingenious designed golf holes in America.

Lets just take a look at two holes for a quick illustration...Nos 2 and 12.

At first blush, the second hole, a 510 yard par-5 seems a little incongruous...the tee box and green are set hard by the out-of-bounds boundary, but the fairway extends 80 yards to the right. But a closer look reveals the hole is fiendishly clever in its intricacy.

First, the threat of a REAL penalty, stroke and distance ***reload*** keeps you honest and maybe a little nervous. Plus, there is zero rough to save a hot running drive from jumping past the barbed wire fence. Suddenly you need that extra room out to the right.

However, the further right you play, the more the bunkers come into play. And believe me...the bunkers at Talking Stick are large, deep and have steep faces. Grab a snickers...you're not going anyway for a while.

The 80 yards give you all the angles you need, yet the OB keeps people frightened.

Genius...a masterpiece.

Tomorrow - the bifurcated fairway of the 12th hole provides more great options.

1 Comments:

Blogger JD Williams said...

I played this course a few months ago (in the summer - when it cost less than my car payment). If you're the kind of golfer who prefers low scores to challenging golf, then this course is for you - it's flat, wide, and short. But it would also help if you're the kind of golfer who enjoys a 4 hour walk without shade - there's not a tree to be found on this course (I'm a 15 handicap and shot an 83 - and I was dog tired on the back - it was 112 degrees that day - otherwise, I might have broken 80). I'm not a big fan of minimalism, unless a site has at least a hint of topography that enables a decent "natural" routing (and, as you said, it's "dead flat"). I'm no fan of "burying elphants" to create vertical expression, either, but I believe a happy medium can be found by moving a modicum of dirt. Visual cues aided by both horizontal and vertical expression help frame the route the architect intended the hole to be played. A hole with no movement has neither character nor guidance from the architect.
As far as "minimalism" goes - sometimes it's art; sometimes it's just mailing it in.
Having said all that - I should mention I'm a big fan of Bill Coore. As far as Crenshaw is concerned, like all pro golfers, I guess he's as good at designing golf courses as Pavarotti is at designing opera houses.
In anticipation of your review of #12, I'll add that I always enjoy a split fairway hole - a good example of risk vs reward (I took the safe route on the right side). A much better golf hole than #2, IMHO.
I should also say I'm enjoying reading your articles - thanks for having this site.

10:04 PM  

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