Another good option in Phoenix: Moon Valley Country Club

Course: Moon Valley Country Club

Location: Phoenix, AZ

Course stats: Black tees — 7,216 yards, par 72. Blue tees — 6,584 yards.

Overview/Thoughts: I kind of have a love/hate relationship with golf in Phoenix. The weather is pretty solid over the winter — it is going to be warm enough to play and you don’t have a great chance of rain — and that’s great. But the golf courses can be lacking.

While there are plenty of golf courses in the Phoenix area, too many of them fall into one of four categories.

1. Courses that are boring because of pancake greens and cookie-cutter design.

2. Courses that have houses that are way too close to the playing corridors and aren’t all that much fun.

3. Courses that have greens that stimp at about 6.

4. Courses that have good conditions or are interesting, but are way too expensive. The similar courses are the one that simply overpriced for what they are or for the condition or are expensive and have horrible pace of play.

There are certainly some good options in the Phoenix area where there is a combination of interesting holes, good conditions and a fair price (fair is subjective as I think you can pay $150 and have it be a good value or you can pay $50 and feel ripped off). I like Raven at Verrado, Trilogy at Vistancia and Wigwam Gold. I’ve heard only good things about Southern Dunes and Vista Verde. I’ve had good experiences at Talking Stick and We-Ko-Pa, but I do realize those fees can get a little steep.

I now have a new option: Moon Valley Country Club. Moon Valley is a private club in Phoenix. It was designed by Dick Wilson and Bob Cupp did some work out there. And the club is now putting tee times on GolfNow with rates of less than $100 (this could change as we get into January and February).  The club previously hosted an annual LPGA event and it is the course that Annika Sorenstam lit up for a smooth 59.

On a recent trip to Phoenix, I had a very nice day at Moon Valley, and it isn’t just because I played well. There are some interesting holes and the greens were the smoothest and fastest I played in four rounds.

Because the club was built as a private club — and it is my understanding that the membership is working hard to keep it that way despite issues with the city over water — there are more interesting holes. This was meant to be a solid test of golf for people who play on a regular basis rather than a public course where features (greens, bunkering, forced carries) are softened to ensure that not-so-avid golfers get around in a decent amount of time. Because of that, there is more slope in the greens, there are some elevated greens and players can’t just run the ball onto the green on every hole.

The course, which stretches to 7,216 yards (I played it at 6,584), is certainly worth a look. Because it was initially built in the 50s or 60s, this is much more of a parkland course than a desert layout. That said, it isn’t over treed. There are holes that turn both directions, there’s a par 5 that’s reachable in two, there are beefy par 4s, there are par 4s where placement is more important than power. Throw in the fact that the course is very walkable (there are a couple of green-to-tee walks of maybe 200-300 yards) and it is a wonderful way to spend a day. I played with a husband and wife. I walked, they rode. We hardly waited and played in 3 hours, 45 minutes.

If there’s a weakness of this course, it is the 17th. With a big pond left and a tee box that doesn’t really aim the golfer at the fairway, it is an awkward hole, especially that late in the round. I probably would like it more if I played there again, but it didn’t seem to fit.

Below are some pictures.

Here is the approach from about 125 into the par 5 fourth hole.

Here is the eighth green — which is a double green with the second. I hit it on the front of the green of this par 5 in two (yes that’s my ball in bottom right of the picture.

Here is the par 3 11th (about 185 from these tees)

This might be the coolest green on the course — the clover-shaped green on No. 14 (389 from the back, 350 from the 6600 tees). This view is from just over the back. Obviously getting the ball in the correct section is pretty important if you want to avoid a three-jack.

Here is 18 (454/416) from about 200 out. There is some green behind the front right bunker that you can’t see.

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