Vistal Golf Club

The view from the 6th tee - you can see all the way to downtown Phoenix on a clear day.
The view from the Par 4 6th tee – you can see all the way to downtown Phoenix on a clear day.

The closest thing to the Catalina Mountains (in Tucson where I’m from) in Phoenix is South Mountain Preserve located in the southwest part of the city. Nestled right at the base of the mountain is Vistal Golf Club. The course was re-designed in the year 2000 by PGA Tour Design Services in conjunction with local PGA Tour players Tom Lehman, Billy Mayfair, and Howard Twitty and opened in the fall of 2001. The course plays 7,013 yards from the Blue Tees to a course rating of 72.9 and a slope of 129. It is a Par-71.

Several Golf Academy grads work out on the course, and the staff was very friendly. When we checked in, there were chocolate chip cookies waiting for us in the pro shop, but this five-star treatment is available to everyone when they check-in to play. I thought this was a nice touch! It may seem like a little thing, but it hasn’t been at any of courses we’ve played.

The course is tight. It is a true desert course, and if you miss the short grass, there’s a good chance you’ll be in a wash or on some rocks. The fairways aren’t over-seeded with winter rye like a lot of the other Arizona courses you’ll play in the winter, but they didn’t have to over-seed. The fairways were lush, and the grass was good. The greens were another story. They are small by design, and there’s not much room to miss. They’re also not very receptive. Even if you hit the green, there’s a good chance your ball will roll out to the back of the complex or even off the green into one of the greenside collection areas. It is a shotmakers course, and I appreciated the challenge. The greens are a little bumpy because it’s next to impossible to repair any ballmarks on the green, but despite how hard they were, I was able to make several putts. Here are some of the highlights of the round:

The 144-yard Par 3 8th hole is tucked right up against the mountain. Miss short, and you're in the bunker. Miss long, and you're in the desert.
The 144-yard Par 3 8th hole is tucked right up against South Mountain. Miss short, and you’re in a deep bunker. Miss long, right, or left, and you’re in the desert.

Holes Worth Writing Home About
The Par 3’s out at Vistal are spectacular! Even if though they aren’t long, they are very dangerous. Did I mention there’s nowhere to miss? And with the wind whipping off the mountain, they play tougher than they look. Two holes in particular really impressed me: the 8th and the 13th. Both were guarded by cavernous greenside bunkers four-feet deep or more. The greens were surrounded by desert. If you didn’t hit the grass, you were playing out of the rocks.

There are some tough holes coming in too! The 459-yard Par 4 14th plays into the wind and is easily the hardest hole on the course. The 597-yard Par 5 17th is also a bruiser. Because it’s into the wind, it’s tough to hit in two. The wind out here will really beat you up.

I really liked the Par 5 8th hole. It measures 519 yards from the tips and is shrouded by bunkers on both sides of the fairway. The hole is reachable in two, but you have to hit a good tee shot to give yourself a chance. There is major tree trouble on both sides of the fairway. Keep the ball on the short grass.

Quiet Please…
Okay, let’s get something straight. Vistal Golf Club isn’t go anywhere. Let me say that again – Vistal Golf Club isn’t going anywhere! I had heard a rumor that the course was closing next year, so I asked a staff member. He told me they’ve been rumored to be closing for the last 12 years. They’re still there, and the course was packed when we played it.

Vistal also has a grill/restaurant called the Blue Pig. I didn’t have time to grab a bite, but there were guys sitting out on the patio enjoying a beer and a post-round cigar. It looked like a nice place to hang out. Great views of the Valley from the back patio!

The 218-yard Par 3 13th plays straight into the wind to an elevated green. Even though it was only playing 166 yards on this day, it gave us all we could handle.
The 218-yard Par 3 13th plays straight into the wind to an elevated green. Even though it was only playing 166 yards on this day, it gave us all we could handle.

Fore!
The best shot I hit was on the 398-yard Par 4 11th. I spun a wedge from 119 yards to within about three feet and made the putt for birdie. This is a very challenging course, and shots demand your full attention. If you’ve never seen the course before, I would bring a few extra balls just in case.

While We’re Young
We teed off right on time at 12:52p and didn’t walk off the course until a little after five. We had a short wait on a few holes but nothing too inconvenient considering it was a beautiful 75-degree day on a Friday afternoon, and the course was packed! The pace of play was fine.

Next On the Tee
Toka Sticks Golf Club in Mesa on Wednesday afternoon.

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