Searching for a golf experience totally unexpected in the Arizona High Sonoran Desert?
Something more traditional? More parkland? More friendly? One community just outside the Phoenix metropolitan area has what you’re looking for … and then some.
Situated in the foothills of the McDowell Mountains at the edge of the Tonto National Forest, Rio Verde Country Club and Community features two Tom Lehman redesigned parkland-style courses that stand out for both its playability and beauty.
Measuring 6,535 yards, the White Wing Course boasts fairway mounding, open green fronts and deep bunkering. At 6,602 yards, the Quail Run Course offers a more classic layout reminiscent of America’s great Midwestern golf venues. Unlike most desert-style target courses found in the area, Rio Verde features wall-to-wall turf, and conditions are always immaculate.
Darryl Janisse, Rio Verde’s Head Golf Professional, explains that the Minnesota native and British Open Champion Tom Lehman did an incredible job redesigning two courses that not only have similarities, but eye-popping differences as well. “Both courses are designed to be very playable and are split amongst the membership as their favorite,” began Janisse. “The Quail Run course is designed with rough coming right up to the collars of the greens, putting surfaces featuring subtle breaks, and bunkers with sand that flashes to the top. White Wing is designed with more mounded greens that are shaved for multiple chipping options. Plus, the greens feature more undulations and the bunkers have grass faces. One big similarity is that both courses are great for walkers,” concluded Janisse.
Walking both courses is highly recommended for not only the exercise, but the experience. Often times a casual walking round opens your eyes to seeing the 360 degree views of the desert and the panoramic beauty the designer intended to bestow. Beauty and strategy collide according to Janisse on the White Wing’s version of Amen Corner, holes 11 through 13. “Hole number 11 is a drivable par-4, but the green is protected by a diabolical pot bunker short of the putting surface. Water comes in behind the green so you better be accurate if going for it. The 12th hole is a reachable par-5 for long hitters but the second shot is an all-water carry right to the edge of the green. This is another great risk reward hole! Finally, the 13th is a challenging par-4 with water to the right of the green. The length and the undulation in the green makes a par feel like a birdie every time,” explained Janisse.
At Quail Run golfers get to experience a hallmark hole early in their round at the 4th. “In my opinion this is the signature shot on the golf course,” stated Janisse. “The 4th hole is a beautifully designed par-3 with water between you and the green. You can play it from 120 to 190 yards depending on the tee box, but the longer you play it, the more water you have to carry,” ended Janisse.
Other great holes of note according to Janisse include the short par-3 16th protected by devilish bunkers and the memorable par-5 18th, one of the finest finishing holes in the desert. The only potential downfall to this hole besides your score might be heading home with a case of Sensory Overload. The 18th hole has it all, including the temptation of going for it from over 200 yards out into a peninsula green with water seemingly everywhere. Rio Verde’s stunning clubhouse and the McDowell Mountains provide an eclectic backdrop and add the last piece to this perfect puzzle. That’s what the fortunate membership of Rio Verde gets to experience every time they complete the inward nine at Quail Run!
Quail Run is also the site of an innovative nine-hole, par-3 course – Roadrunner – which allows Rio Verde members and guests to satisfy their golf urges in a fraction of the time of a full round. Measuring 1,088 yards, Roadrunner utilizes regulation tee boxes off the back nine fairways of Quail Run which provide a variety of approach shots to greens.
Yet, golf is only part of the story at Rio Verde. Because of its superb location, there is very little light or noise pollution. The Four Peaks, Mazatzal Mountains and McDowell Mountain range provide breathtaking vistas. More than 60 surrounding trails within the entrance to both the forest and McDowell Mountain Regional Park are just a short walk/ride from homes, allowing residents and the community hiking and cycling clubs to easily become one with nature.
Thankfully, one doesn’t have to leave the cozy confines of Rio Verde to have nourishment and libations with friends. The clubhouse offers several options for dining from formal in the Copper and Sundance Rooms to casual in the Pub. Pressed for time – grab a Starbucks coffee also located in the Pub area.
The community center is an active hub that boasts a library and hosts various activities such as dance classes, weekly card games and art classes. The fitness center and heated pool and spa allow residents to participate in many organized or independent activities such as strength training, aerobics, weights, gym with treadmills, rowing and elliptical, water aerobics, and water volleyball.
Adjacent to the community center sits Rio Verde’s six tennis courts, where residents can partake in rated, competitive and beginner levels of play. An on-site pro is available for lessons or drills. The four pickle ball courts are always abuzz with activity, and Rio Verde has beginner lessons plus different skill level competitions. In addition, two bocce courts add to the excitement.
When incredible amenities come together to form a devout sense of community, is it any wonder that Rio Verde’s number one advantage is just one word according to General Manager Dave Ulm. “Family! In my 23 years in the golf industry I have never seen such a welcoming, energetic, and committed membership. They truly love and care for their club and its associates,” regaled Ulm.
To that end, Rio Verde residents are forever learning. Many attend the on-site ASU lectures featuring an array of topics. The community is also complemented by “The Community Church of the Verdes,” an interdenominational place of worship with two services, weekly bible studies, choir and book club.
The holidays are extra special at Rio Verde, as more than 6,000 luminaries line the streets on Christmas Eve each year. But it is not just the holidays when the residents offer their kindness. Residents can choose to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity, Boys and Girls Club, Sunshine Acres, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Reigning Grace Ranch, the local food bank and many more.
Because the amenities are tucked within the community, many residents prefer roaming around Rio Verde in personal golf carts. This allows for quick access in a safe environment, and builds camaraderie via the “Rio Verde wave.”
Should an emergency arise at Rio Verde, the fire department is located under five minutes away. Also, Rio Verde has a full service post office where residents can pick up their mail or send out letters and overnight packages.
Under the operational expertise of Troon, Rio Verde Country Club carries the prestigious Troon Prive’ designation. As a private club of distinction, the premier reciprocal program offers full club members the opportunity to play other exclusive Troon managed courses around the world. “Since Rio Verde has partnered with Troon Privé Management, I believe our club is at a new level,” stated General Manager Dave Ulm. “As part of the Troon Privé network, our members can play Troon managed private clubs for cart fee only and receive up to 40% discount off at their daily fee and resort properties. We are excited for what the future holds at Rio Verde,” explained Ulm.
Audubon International, Firewise and Xeriscape have recognized Rio Verde for its water sustainability and as an eco-minded community. AZ Big Media also voted Rio Verde the No. 1 Private Golf Course and Active Adult Community in Arizona for 2015 and 2016.
On your next visit to the Arizona High Sonoran Desert, escape the city to experience something totally unexpected and enjoyable – the inviting Rio Verde Country Club Community. For more information on all that Rio Verde has to offer, visit www.rioverdearizona.com/mgm