1. Ease and intimacy of routing: 8
Surprisingly walkable for a desert course in foothills terrain. Saguaro nine is a big clockwise loop through lower-lying ground; Tortolita is more elevated and more scenic, with one awkwardly long crossover. Best section of the course is where Nos. 14-16 snuggle into a cove in the foothills.
2. Quality of feature shaping: 8
Playing platform pops out of the desert landscape in ways that are naturalistic, not abrupt.
3. Natural setting and overall land plan: 9
Holes are not encumbered with homesites and allow for long views into the foothills and west onto the flats and beyond.
4. Greens and surrounds: 3
When the “yikes meter” goes off, the rating goes down. Putting surfaces are hyperactive in the middle and convex at the perimeter to repel anything not flighted on the trajectory of a perfect lob wedge.
5. Variety and memorability of par 3s: 6
The 208-yard third across the course’s only pond is a bad cliché, but the other par 3s are engaging, especially the slightly uphill 186-yard sixth to a diagonally perched green and the downhill, 247-yard 16th to a wide but shallow green beyond a barranca.
6. Variety and memorability of par 4s: 7
Plenty of long par 4s, none more demanding than the uphill, 449-yard 14th to the most aggressively contoured green on the course. Watch for excitement on the lone clearly “drivable” hole, the 343-yard 15th, to a domed green.
7. Variety and memorability of par 5s: 6
At the Accenture, even the 659-yard 11th will be reachable in two because it’s downhill, but the real drama will come at the dogleg-right eighth, a 576-yarder through a land mine of bunkers.
8. Basic conditioning: 9
Superintendent Jay Irvine has done a remarkable job growing in the greens (bentgrass) and the fairways, tees and rough (419 Bermudagrass, overseeded with perennial ryegrass).
9. Landscape and tree management: 10
Nice contrast of saguaros and mesquites, and the fairways are wide enough that the desert floor is not as ominous a hazard as elsewhere in Arizona golf. An incredible amount of vegetative enhancement allows the desert to come alive with native plants around the tees and in out-of-play areas.
10. “Walk in the park” test: 8
Green-to-tee walks are not short, yet a round here looks and feels like a stroll through rugged ground that has been tamed for the purpose. Well-trained loopers (provided by Caddie Service International) help without mistaking themselves for the show.
Visually stunning and enjoyable, as long as you don’t care about greens in regulation or putting stats.