19th Hole

Jeff Lessig
Director of Golf
Verde River Golf & Social Club
Rio Verde, AZ

More Information

“Classic” Never Goes Out of Style

As we enter what is always the busiest season of the year in the Valley, it is great to see all of our seasonal friends returning for the warm temperatures and lush fairways for which Arizona is known. But for many, the vision for what makes golf “Arizona golf” is subtly changing.

The past few years have included numerous high-profile openings of desert-style golf courses, headlined by Coore & Crenshaw’s Saguaro Course at We-Ko-Pa, and more recently the long-awaited Wickenburg Ranch Golf & Social Club just north and west of the Valley. Of course there is always a place on the must-play list for these kinds of desert gems – and “must play” these both certainly are – but many locals seem to be turning to the classic, traditional routings for their everyday golf.

On the private side, the renaissance began a few years ago with the revitalization of a number of the iconic clubs established in the 1940’s and 1950’s, including my own Mesa Country Club. Concurrently, many historic public courses underwent similar transformations. As with any renovation of a “classic” course, the challenge is to uncover the original golf course designer’s strategic intent. By restoring fairway, bunker and green contours that have been lost over time, modern designers are able to preserve original shot values even in the context of dramatic leaps in equipment technology.

Whether led by forward-thinking Members or individual owners, each of these Valley courses has experienced substantial renovation work to recapture the magic of their mid-20th century layouts, and the result is a collection of exceptional parkland golf in what is largely known as a desert golf town.

Just this month is the debut of the work of John Fought at what was once Maryvale. Done on behalf of Grand Canyon University, the original work of William Bell – who was also the architect of Arizona Biltmore’s Adobe Course and Mesa Country Club – was enhanced to create a modern championship course with deep respect for its roots.

Each day I’m blessed to look out my office window at Mesa Country Club’s beautiful 85 acres of lush grass, tall trees, rolling hills (yes, there are hills in Mesa!), and nary a cactus in sight. It’s not the Arizona the out-of-towners might think of, but classic golf remains just that: classic.