Location: Wickenburg, Ariz.
Course architects: Bill Brownlee and Wendell Pickett
Tee — Yardage | Rating / Slope:
Black —7,059 | 72.9 / 140
Blue — 6,486 | 70.3 / 133
White — 6,002 | 68.2 / 125
Gold — 5,560 | 65.8 / 116
Red [Back] — 4,991 | 63.5 / 110
Red [Front] — 4,847 | 63.0 / 109
Saturday morning green fee: $$$$$ [$230 with cart in-season]
Caddie service: Forecaddies available
Walker friendly: No
Fairways: Bermudagrass [summer] | Perennial ryegrass overseeded [winter]
Starter: Wickenburg Ranch Golf and Social Club is a residential golf course facility located 90 minutes — roughly 60 miles — north of Phoenix. The facility features a serious and enjoyable 18-hole championship course known as Big Wick [reviewed here] and Li’l Wick, a playful nine-hole par -3 course that has lights on four holes and is built around a cool outdoor sports bar. Both courses were designed by project developer Bill Brownlee and landscape architect Wendell Pickett. Like some first-time golf course architects, Brownlee and Pickett didn’t allow their imaginations to be restricted by traditional hole designs or par lineups. The results are both good and, shall we say, questionable. The course features six par 3s, five par 5s, seven par 4s, and six sets of tees. Course conditions are superb. Some greens can be a bit punitive, but this is expected to be remedied over time, as the architects truly seem to prefer fun over frustration.
Play because …: This is a big and sprawling golf course designed to challenge and delight players of all levels. A player can bite off the 7,059-yard black back tees, opt for the 4,847-yard red front tees or play from any of four sets of tees in between. Big Wick features a good number of downhill tee shots — a favorite of the distance-challenged — and generous width in most fairways. For now, Wickenburg Ranch is open to the public but, as the homes and membership roster fill up, the Troon-managed club will eventually go private. Approximately 400 homes have been built to date and developers foresee a total of 3,000 when the property is fully developed.
Takeaway: The Big Wick experience is the focal point of Wickenburg Ranch, but it’s augmented by other facilities, such as a large, but tastefully rendered clubhouse, pro shop, restaurant and ballroom. This is not a subtle golf course where design aesthetics create a wow factor, but the size of the place does. Add to that the Li’l Wick nine-hole course and the Watering Hole sports bar located in the middle of that course and this is a golf facility enjoyable for everyone.
RATINGS [1 to 10 scale; 10 being the highest]
Food | Beverage: 8.0
Pro shop: 8.0
Course difficulty: 8.0
Pace of play: 8.0
Best par 3: No. 13 [246 | 220 | 194 | 170 | 121 yards]
Distance isn’t the only challenge at this hole, known as “Big Water.” There’s a huge lake that forces players from all tees — as well as the drop area — to carry the water. The good news is the tee is elevated 100 feet, which makes for a majestic vista and helps with the carry. Moreover, there’s a bailout area front left of the peninsula green, which is guarded by a bunker. This is a spectacular looking hole that offers a huge challenge at the end of the round.
Best par 4: No. 6 [343 | 310 | 281 | 252 | 246 | 206 yards]
Known as “Gutz,” this is a drivable par 4 with a 35-foot uphill tee shot. Any player with length off the tee won’t notice the lake in between the tee and the green. For mere mortals, the hole is designed as a manageable dogleg right that has an uphill second shot into one of the course’s smaller greens. Most players playing from the middle tees will have roughly a 230-yard carry to the green, but there is room in front should the approach fall short.
Best par 5: No. 14 [595 | 564 | 509 | 435 yards]
This massive three-shot hole, appropriately known as “Yikes,” strikes fear into the hearts of average golfers. With Vulture Peak looming in the background, the tee is elevated 40 feet and feeds to a flattish fairway. Water meanders down the left side of the fairway and transforms into a small lake to the left-front and rear of one of the course’s larger greens. The green is tiered in the back, but this hole is about length, length and more length.
Rater: Barry Cronin