The second of Arizona Biltmore Golf Club’s two courses is the Links Course, designed by Bill Johnson. It opened in 1979, and while the Adobe Course is more of a parkland-style course, the Links Course is exactly what it says – a true links-style course in the heart of Phoenix. And it’s right in the middle of the city. On the front nine, the course weaves its way through office buildings and apartment complexes. On the back nine, townhomes and condominiums line both sides of many of the fairways. But I would submit to you that while Adobe may be older and perhaps more distinguished, Links is the chocolate to Adobe’s vanilla.
Links plays just 6,300 yards from the Black Tees to a Par of 71, a course rating of 69.7, and a slope of 124. Here are some of the highlights of the round:
Holes Worth Writing Home About
A lot of the holes on the front side feel like they’re squeezed between cityscapes, which is probably part of the reason there are three Par 3s on the front nine and not two. That makes it a Par 35. This is the scoring side, and you have to take advantage before you make the turn because the inward nine is a much, much harder. There are more blind shots, and there are more hills, slopes, and elevation changes. That said, the best hole on the outward half is the 532-yard Par 5 2nd. Once you carry the lake between the tee box and the fairway, you’re left to contend with water all the way down the left-hand side. It’s not necessarily in-play, but it’s always in the back of your mind nonetheless. You can reach this green in two with a quality second shot, but the fairway narrows as you approach. This is a great hole, but you have to find a way to make birdie.
The best hole on the inward side is easy to choose – it’s the Par 3 15th. From the Black Tees, it’s 183 yards, but it plays more like 165 because of the stark downhill elevation change. The view from the 17th tee (the picture at the outset of this post) gives this hole’s panoramic a run for its money, but in my opinion, it’s still the best scenic outlook on the entire golf course! It has greenside bunkers short right and both long left and long right. Par on this hole is a good score.
Arizona Biltmore just aerated the bermudagrass greens on the Links Course about a week-and-a-half ago. They are still healing, but in another ten days or so, they should be close to full strength. Don’t get me wrong – the greens are full of grass, but right now, they’re slow.
The only other thing I couldn’t quite wrap my head around was the height of many of the pins on Links. This is a proverbial tip of the cap to many of the true links-style courses overseas where the pins are shorter than the height of the pins we’re used to here in the States.
My best shot of the day came on the 129-yard 8th hole. It’s a short Par 3, and I hit a pitching wedge to within just a few feet for an easy birdie. This is the first time I’ve ever played Links, and while the front nine plays almost 450 yards shorter than the back in large part because of the lack of space, I thought it was a lot of fun to play a course with three Par 3s on a side instead of the customary two.
While We’re Young
My playing partner and I got around the course in 3:07. We flew. It was a mostly cloudy day in Phoenix, but because of the high humidity, Links was practically empty. We were behind a foursome, and had they let us play through, we could have finished at least 45 minutes sooner and missed rush hour heading home. Pace of play is not an issue. I just wish more golfers wouldn’t be so reticent to let faster, more proficient players play through. It’s the right thing to do. In fact, according to the Rules of Golf, it’s proper etiquette:
“It is a group’s responsibility to keep up with the group in front. If it loses a clear hole and it is delaying the group behind, it should invite the group behind to play through, irrespective of the number of players in that group. Where a group has not lost a clear hole, but it is apparent that the group behind can play faster, it should invite the faster moving group to play through.”
Next On the Tee
Word on the street is that the renovations are nearly complete at San Marcos Golf Course in Chandler. Since there are no more tournaments this semester, I’m going to try to pick up an extra round at the oldest grass course in Arizona on Monday.