By By Alice and Danny Scott
Players are greeted with valet service at the elegant hacienda style clubhouse, foretelling the exceptional experience at Blackstone Country Club at Vistancia. The immense open courtyard and dramatic winding staircases to balconies and rooms above are accentuated with Talavera type tile. The pro shop features all you would need and spacious locker rooms are fully equipped with steam baths, showers, snacks and all the luxurious amenities. Stairs descend directly to the cart center, which is impeccably landscaped like Italian gardens with fountains. It is no wonder over 100 new members have joined in the last year. According to golf director Tom Wilcox, the real estate pricing is 70% of that in Scottsdale, creating great value for this extravagant western setting. Membership plans have the privilege of 3 swimming pools, 4 tennis courts, work out room, and lavish facilities for gatherings. The courtyard leads to a vast emerald lawn for weddings or games, with a few steps down to the driving range. Ball bags hang ready at each station and clubs are cleaned as soon as they are set down. The practice greens are slick and true to those on the course. Grab refreshments at the snack bar and head out to the brilliant green fairways mapping through the serene desert, nestled below the mountains.
Hole #5, par 4, 470 yards from the tips – This downhill par 4 invokes angst on club selection to avoid the desert transition area. A rock bluff wall guards the right side with Palo Verdes blocking the left. A good tee shot is quickly forgotten as the fairway narrows and the approach shot faces an enormous roller coaster green, in three sections, surrounded by multiple bunkers. Depending on the masochistic nature of the superintendent, the pin position can be a real challenge.
Hole #9, par 5, 555 yards from the tips – Three distinct landing areas of this long par 5 test your resolve of risk and reward. The opening drive to a generous fairway narrows into a desert wash meandering on the right side and snaking its way in front of the extremely small two-tiered green. Sheer rock boulder walls on three sides might repel a miscalculated approach shot, but short of the green is a ravine. This is treacherous terrain, no matter how you look at it. As you play, perhaps the most intimidating risk/reward hole in Arizona, swallow your pride and play it safe, go for the gold and get rewarded or get ready to use the calculator to tally up your score.
Hole #11, par 5, 619 yards from the tips – The back nine challenges begin here. The narrow fairway leans toward the lake that lines the entire right side so that even the best shots might end up flirting with danger or drowning in the watery grave. It makes the massive bunker look like a safe target to avoid disaster. The second shot must fly over the end of the lake to the next fairway segment. One large bunker blocks the view of the green except for a tiny window on the right. The first time out, the ridge separating the green into two sections can be quite a surprise. If the pin is placed near or on the ridge, the third approach shot is a tricky one, exasperating chances for par.
Hole #16, par 4, 354 yards from the tips – This pretty downhill setting looks like an easy birdie opportunity with large mounds channeling the drive toward the middle of the fairway and on to the green. A small opening at the end of the fairway appears to beckon that drive with no anxiety of trouble anywhere. However, if your drive lands where you can see the green, you are in luck. Anything hit left or right, and the tall grassy knoll blocks the view. You must rely on your yardage and trust where to hit the second shot. It might be your equivalent to an Olympic ski jumping moment. Will it be the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat? The podium waits.
With easy access off the 303, past the wild burro crossing signs, discover the rainbow of desert floral beauty at Blackstone – fuchsia fairy dusters dance among the black volcanic rocks at a private country club anyone would want to call home.