This past weekend, The Golf Club at Dove Mountain played host to the Accenture Match Play Championship. The Course consists of 27 holes (18 of which play host to the Accenture) in the high desert outside Tuscon, Arizona. Dove Mountain, which opened in 2009, was designed by Jack Nicklaus specifically to host the WGC Match Play event. Dove Mountain also holds the distinction of being the longest course in PGA TOUR history, stretching to 7850 yards.
You can see the explanation of the criteria for GtGC here.
Setting (13) – The Golf Club at Dove Mountain is a prototypical desert golf course, sitting right at the base of the Tuscon Mountains. Vistas of the range and the valley below are bolstered by the sandy desert soil and moderately high altitude. When you factor in warm weather, the aforementioned conditions are why Arizona is home to over 300 golf courses. Strong winds and rolling terrain are just a couple of the items in the golf course architect toolbox. They can be used when routing a hole to make it play longer or shorter, to help determine hazard placement and to reward proper course management. Dove Mountain gets docked one point for the extreme summer heat and another because a perfect property will always be linksland. However, as far as non-coastal golf properties, Dove Mountain is about as good as it gets.
Test of Golf (7) – With an amazing piece of property like Dove Mountain, I find myself underwhelmed with the resulting course. The course tests golfers with length and tricked up greens. While 7850 yards is longer than any course on TOUR, it’s mitigated by usually warm temperatures and 2500′ elevation, which makes the course “play” closer to the 7300 yard range. My major issue is the ridiculous green complexes; they’re very undulating and so unfair that they have to slow them down deliberately to soften the ridiculous slopes. It’s such an unfair track, in fact, that it was ranked 51st out of 52 venues in a recent survey of tour players. Even after 2010 renovation of the greens (prompted by Tiger famously asking them to “blow them up”), there just aren’t enough chances for players to make a move. The play down the stretch this past weekend was certainly not fantastic, but nobody wants to see a chipping or pitching contest in the final because a designer has an ego about players overpowering his course.
Design (12) – From a raw design standpoint, the course is pretty solid. The course is routed well without any glaring problems. The winds often cause indecision and/or club changes and the elevation is used well to force layups or allow for big gambles. A great example of this is the par 5 11th hole. A dogleg left playing over 650 yards, fairway bunkers about 300 yards out guard the fairway unless you can fly them. A 350 yard bomb off the tee will leave a player with approximately 275 yards to the front of the green that is guarded by a large bunker in the middle of the fairway that needs 230 yards to carry. The layup, however, is no cupcake as it still leaves your choice of a 125 yard approach from the right, or a half wedge from a terrible angle on the left.
Bonus (0) – There was nothing to overcome at Dove Mountain. Good soil, good natural elevation and a good climate should have resulted in a better course.
32/50 – Even with holes like the 11th (the par 5 8th hole is another fantastic example), I can’t find myself forgiving the botch job on the green complexes. The key to a good risk/reward golf hole is the reward part of the equation. Pros aren’t much different than you or I, in that they get frustrated when they hit a good shot that ends up in a horrific spot. That theme is all too common at Dove Mountain, and a reason that the Accenture Match Play needs to move. The contract with the course is expired, and with rumblings that the event is likely to move to San Francisco at Harding Park, Dove Mountain can finally take it’s rightful place as a quirky resort course that will frustrate you for $225 a round.