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Wickenburg Ranch Golf & Social Club

WICKENBURG, Ariz. – Few pairings are better than when you play a golf course for the first time and you are set up with a local who is about your age, and a savvy, low-handicap golfer.

From the first tee shot Dave Coffin nailed his drive and gave great insight and pointers for 18 holes at Wickenburg Ranch Golf & Social Club.

“Conditioning, conditioning, conditioning, said Coffin, a part-time resident and home owner. “This course is just immaculate.”

“I have yet to have anyone not tell me how much they love the conditioning and no one has told me they dislike a single hole,” said Coffin, who lives six months in Oregon and six at Wickenburg Ranch.

“This course is extremely playable for all skill levels and fairly forgiving off the tee except for a few holes that are a somewhat tight. It is a second shot and par-3 golf course.

“The greens make it so interesting I have not gotten tired of it yet.  When they have the five different pin settings you have to be on that correct part of the green to have a good birdie chance. If you are on any other level you become a defensive putter.”

Coffin says he has played most of the upscale golf courses in Scottsdale and Wickenburg Ranch is as good as any.

Big Wick and Li’l Wick: Arizona’s outstanding hidden gems

When it opened in 2015, Wickenburg Ranch Golf & Social Club, was the first new golf course to open in Arizona since We-Ko-Pa’s Saguaro Course in 2006. It was a prime example of why Arizona started marketing itself as a winter getaway almost 100 years ago.

The land is vast, wild, rugged and available.

As Greater Phoenix grew and suburbia set in, solitude was replaced by hustle and bustle. But Wickenburg Ranch has a renewed lifestyle for those who yearned for starry nights, four-season adventure, and lots of land and plenty of room to spread out.

Like saddling up a trail weary pony, Wickenburg Ranch Golf & Social Club provides a slow pace. Tee times are measured 10 minutes apart. No one is there to rush you.

The only things frenetic are the lightning quick bent-grass greens.

The first years of Big Wick were award-winning then came L’il Wick, a par-3 layout that accentuates even more laid-back golf. There are no tee times, you can wear flip-flops, enjoy a relaxed dress code, purchase ice-cold beverages and food from The Watering Hole for the ultimate casual time.

When the fun spills over into the evening, the final four holes and putting green are lighted. Also incorporated into the 18-acre design is a giant hammock and seating areas with views to relax in between holes.

Unlike Big Wick, there are no bookable tee times. Guests simply check in, and a Looper will be informed that they’re on their way. Upon arrival, guests will write their names on the chalkboard at the Watering Hole, and each group will begin when it’s their turn.

I played Big Wick on a cool February day enjoying faultless, verdant rye fairways and smooth rolling greens. And any avid travel golfer with his eye on competition lists knows Wickenburg Ranch Golf & Social Club was deserving of its Golf Digest distinction — No. 6 on its Top Ten Best New Courses in North America for 2015.

FYI, this land is situated where game-show host Merv Griffith used to run a dude ranch. Wickenburg Ranch Golf & Social Club was landscaped in hardy high desert terrain by two amateur architects, Wendell Pickett and William Brownlee. That’s right, not Nicklaus, not Palmer, not Player, not Crenshaw and Coore, not Fazio — Pickett and Brownlee.

Three dude ranches are still in the area on historic old west land within view of Vulture Peak where in 1863 a 49er named Henry Wickenburg struck the slope with a pick axe and for the next 79 years more than $30 million worth of gold was dug out.

Those familiar with bent-grass understand what a tremendous difference it makes in putting surface quality, and that the chance to experience it in Arizona is a special treat, since the Phoenix golf courses average four to six degrees warmer than in higher altitude Wickenburg.

Also, the 7,059 yards, par 71 has a fun configuration of five par fives and six par threes.

Views include Vulture Peak, massive saguaros, the occasional coyote and roadrunner, and rolling, rugged arroyo terrain that borders Prescott National Forest. You can be sure your new home is going to have all this without another neighbor’s house blocking your panorama.

Probably the most memorable hole is “Big Water” the 246-yard par-3 13th that plunges 100 feet to a green surrounded by water, a huge semicircle bunker in front and bail-out only left. “Yikes” is the 595-yard 14th that has water in three places – the drive, the mid-point on the fairway journey left, and front left and behind the green.

The notable risk/reward hole comes at No. 6 named “Gutz”. It is only 343 yards at par 4, but the decision is to play safe or cut off a portion of the huge lake that blends into a massive bunker.

Wickenburg Ranch Golf & Social Club was created as a private club reserved exclusively for members and their guests, but is currently open to a limited amount of unaccompanied non-member play. Might be prudent to giddy up and visit soon.

Food and Saloons: Jake’s Spoon, Wick’s Hideway, Jake’s Sip

From the scenic golf course views and new-American Cuisine at Jake’s Spoon to the fresh dishes and open-air lakeside setting at The Watering Hole, there are plenty of restaurants to eat or enjoy a drink. For premium bourbons and others whiskeys as well as craft beers, carefully selected wines, and expertly poured cocktails, Wick’s Hideaway and Jake’s Sip refreshing beverages.

Troon®, the leading golf course management company, now leads the effort, and that’s a big plus for the massive endeavor that is approximately one hour northwest of downtown Phoenix. Developed by Phoenix-based The M3 Companies, featuring Trilogy® at Wickenburg Ranch, Shea Homes’® newest Active Lifestyle resort community offers a one-of-a-kind lifestyle, model homes starting at $200,000 and up offering three feature builders.

Story by David R. Holland