McDowell Mountain Golf Club

Reviewed By: Andy
McDowell Mountain GC is a course I feel a bit conflicted about. It is a really enjoyable tract to play, but at the same time can be a bit underwhelming. Upon arrival the club house is attractive and the bag drop folks are quick and helpful. There are a lot of shade trees around the main building which is a great area to stretch out and practice a little chipping. The driving range is directly in front of the building and it looks out towards the valley to the west.

A large portion of the course runs along the Hayden-Rhodes Aqueduct which is probably the biggest detractor. You cannot see the water because you are well below the water line. What you do see is a massive wall of large rock which was used to build the aqueduct and a golf ball grave yard. I did see a few errant slices fly into the hillside only to get ejected clear back onto the fairway from the large rocks, but if not ejected, the forget it. That ball is a goner. Additionally, they have hiking trails cutting through the course so you have to be a bit wary of potentially knocking out some dude on his mountain bike.

Scenery: Not sure I mentioned this but I saw my first rattlesnake since moving here. He was a youngster and I accidentally ran over him with the golf cart. I honestly did not see him until too late but luckily he appeared not only unhurt, but undeterred from his objective. We watched him for a minute as he closed in on a squirrel hole and started coiling up. That was our queue to get the hell out of there. Check the photos. Most courses in the valley seem to be full of rabbits and quail but at McDowell I saw a ton of squirrels which seemed odd (maybe the snakes had finished off the bunnies). The massive power lines that follow the aqueduct are the biggest detractors of the scenery. On a few tee boxes we had discussions about the extreme nature of the two inch diameter power lines. Snapped cables, electrocution, brain know, the regular topics of discussion during a round.

Service: One bev cart for 18 holes on a Saturday does not quite cut it and some actual food might be nice (sandwiches please). Overall the people working the course were great, cheery and quick as could be. The lone bev gal was friendly and acknowledged that some additional food options would be good, but many courses have this same issue.

Variation: If you look at the birdseye view of the course it seems a bit boring, but there are a couple really sharp dog legs, a few blind hills and some greens tucked in bowls. All of these make for a nice mix and certainly a challenging round. There are some good traps to test your aim. I found a few fairway traps which can frustrate you when you still have 170 yards to get to the green, but they were obviously placed there with purpose if I found them. They could definitely use some more water. There is one small pond that sits between three greens, but only really come into play for one of the holes.

Maintenance: Overall the course is in good (not great) shape. There are some burnt areas of grass which I am ok with, especially since hot weather is upon us. I see no need for courses to waste massive amounts of water to compete with 100% sun exposure and 100 degree heat. The greens were well maintained and pretty consistent for speed. The sand was a bit gravelly, which I have found to be pretty common in Arizona courses. They had groomed the sand so it was a bit more graham cracker crumb consistency and certainly playable.

Value: I feel that McDowell is a little overpriced. During peak season I saw some rates in the $150 range which is too much for this course. I used my Troon card and got on for $64 (down from $127) which was a great price. Standard rates seem more appropriate in the $80-100 range for this course. You also have to pay for range balls which should be included IMHO at any course charging over $100. I did get my first rattler photos and that would have been worth the money, but had I gotten bit, then $5 greens fees would have seemed steep.

I will definitely continue to play McDowell Mountain even with my little grievances. The power lines and aqueduct cannot be removed so they are just part of the scenery I will learn to ignore. Overall, it is a fun course and that is what matters most to me (and hopefully to you as well). Maybe they will see this review and get another bev cart out on weekends and throw in some real food!