Encanterra Country Club

Encanterra is a Tom Lehman design - a brilliant mix of bunkers, lakes, and natural desert scape.
Encanterra is a brilliant mix of bunkers, lakes, and desert landscape.

Encanterra Country Club is a Tom Lehman Design that opened in January of 2008 in San Tan Valley. Like Southern Dunes, it too feels like it’s out in the middle of nowhere, but Queen Creek and the surrounding areas are really starting to grow up around it. In another ten years, it won’t feel so remote. According to their web site, “Encanterra is what is called a ‘core’ design, meaning that a majority of the course wraps in upon itself, unencumbered by homes or other distractions. It’s good for potential members – fewer homes on the golf course means fewer lot premiums for developers.” The folks at Encanterra believe that the golf course is for golf. That’s great to hear.

This is a private, non-equity club, and you have to know someone to get on out here. Before you can even think about becoming a member, you have to have property out here. That gets you the social membership. For a golf membership, it’s another $45,000 in initiation fees and then $352 a month in dues (or you can purchase an Invitational Membership – no property necessary – for $65,000 and pay $527 per month). I can’t believe I just got to play this course and get to play it twice in the same week! Once you’re allowed past the guard house (and I mean house), you start to see what makes this place so special and why Links Magazine, the nation’s 3rd-largest golf publication, named Encanterra among it’s Best New Private Courses when it opened. It has a giant clubhouse, restaurant, and community center. There are tennis courts, including a stadium court, and a pool area that looks out onto the golf course. The pool has a negative edge, and you can lay on a raft, prop your feet up, and watch the golfers play their way in. While we were there, there was a live band playing – it looked like the place to be.

But let’s get to the golf since that’s the reason we were there. There are Titleist Pro V1 PRACTICE balls on the driving range. Need I say more? The driving range is grass, and you can easily spend an afternoon working on your short game, your long game, and your putting. The condition of all the greens is fantastic. In my opinion, these bermudagrass greens are good enough to host a PGA Tour event right now – and it’s barely the middle of June! The cups are already painted white. All that’s missing is the Tour players.

At 504 yards, the Par 4 6th hole isn’t a short Par 5, but a long Par 4.
At 504 yards, the Par 4 6th hole isn’t a short Par 5, but a long Par 4.

It’s not hard to see why of all the courses on the tournament schedule throughout the year, Encanterra is consistently a favorite of Golf Academy Students. Were were out playing a practice round in preparation for tomorrow’s tournament. Otherwise, it would be a tough place to get on. The course plays 7,176 yards from the Black Tees to a Par of 72, a course rating of 74.5, and a slope of 135. Here are some of the highlights of the round:

Holes Worth Writing Home About
I think the best hole on the front nine is the 504-yard Par 4 6th hole. You read that right. 504 yards. Par 4. It’s a beast of a hole. I had to hit driver 3-wood just to get on in regulation. Off the tee, there’s water on the right and a big-mouth fairway bunker on the left. Then you have to navigate two more bunkers to reach the green. There are a lot of elevated greens out here, and there’s just enough trouble in spots that you can’t run the ball up onto the putting surface. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. We played the Burgundy tees in preparation for tomorrow, and the hole still played 478 yards.

When you make the turn, it’s a game of take your pick. Even though the finishing hole is technically Encanterra’s signature hole, with it’s massive clubhouse overlooking the 18th green, it could also be No. 16 or any number of holes on the back nine. That’s a nice compliment to the holes out here. There are a lot of signature holes. It’s a great track. Sixteen is a 449-yard Par 4, while 18 is a 525-yard Par 5. Here’s what I will say about the layout – there are both long and short Par 4s. A couple of the Par 5s are shorter, but they’re not always reachable in two because of danger lurking short of the green. It seems like there is always water or bunkers standing guard. Translation – the sand and lakes out here are well-placed. But that said, No. 18 is a great chance to steal an easy birdie.

This cousre
The 18th hole is the signature hole at Encanterra, but the Par 4 16th also makes a strong argument.

Quiet Please…
The big thing you will notice about the course is that there are a lot of brown patches throughout. We were told that it’s because the course is transitioning from winter rye to bermuda grass, and that they’re trying to kill all the old grass first before the bermuda grows in. That may be, and I’m no golf course superintendent. But it seems pretty late for there to be so many brown spots out here. In a lot of places, there’s no grass at all.

In a way, it’s too bad, because the course is fantastic, and those patches detract from the tremendous layout and the firm, fast greens. We were told that in another three weeks, those spots will be gone. Maybe we just caught it at a bad time of year. Then again, the brown spots may not be aesthetically pleasing, but who cares? The green are great. Not just good. Great!

Two other tidbits to pass along – there is bottled water in the coolers on the carts and throughout the course, which was convenient. If you come to Encanterra, leave your cash at home. In most places out here, they only take plastic.

I’m proud to say that my best shot of the day came on the ridiculous Par 4 6th hole. I hit driver off the tee, and then had to hit a 3-wood 237 yards just to get home. My ball ran through the green, and almost found the bunker behind the green. But it just stayed out. I was able to putt from just off the green and make par. It felt like I got away with one.

There are short and long Par 4s out here. The 342-yard 7th hole is one of the short.
The 342-yard 7th hole is one of the shortest Par 4s on the course.

While We’re Young
We got around in a little over four hours – with at least a ten-minute stop for lunch at the turn – because we had almost no one in front of us. It pays to be willing to play golf when the heat is a real deterrent to others! It says on the card that a round should be completed in under four hours, and it should. We were really enjoying ourselves while using this as a practice round in preparation for tomorrow’s tournament.

Next On the Tee
Trilogy Golf Club at Power Ranch. This will be the 4th course I have reviewed in less than a week.

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