Desert Willow course offers best of golf

Why do golfers have fun playing the game? Is it just the fact of being on a golf course? Is it the condition of the course? Is it the amenities of the course? Is it the attention to detail shown on the course? Is it outstanding customer service? The tests and mental challenges of the course? Is it because you can score well? Most likely, it’s yes to all of these.

You won’t be disappointed, then, in Desert Willow Golf Course, 2020 W. Horizon Ridge Parkway, in Henderson, as it’s all of the above.

It was another cold December morning when our group arrived for an 11 a.m. tee time. Doug Sipe, director of golf, accommodated our group by starting us in the middle of a shotgun start tourney on hole No. 9 so we could squeeze a round in. Chalk one up for customer service.

Desert Willow is easy to find, located in the MacDonald Ranch area very close to Green Valley Parkway. Billy Casper collaborated with Greg Nash to design the 3,811-yard, par-60 course. For the long-hitters, the layout features six par 4s and 12 par 3s, so drivers definitely come into play. The course is rated at 59.1 with a slope of 97. You can score well here.

Desert Willow is a nice test for your short game. The par 3s range in length from hole No. 5’s 95 yards to the 14th’s 192 yards. The 14th is a very fun hole. Handicapped as the fourth-most difficult hole, the dilemma here is choosing the right club. Most of us chose a 3 wood to reach the green.

Water comes in to play on No. 5, a 116-yard par-3 from an elevated tee. Two of us misjudged the club needed and put it in the water that borders the rear of the green. Nice challenges.

Fittingly, the two most difficult holes on the course are both par 4s. Hole No. 9 is ranked hardest. It’s a 349-yard par-4. There is a bunker in the driver landing zone, and the green is surrounded by water that guards 50 percent of the green. Go long left or short right, and you notch a penalty stroke.

No. 18 is a 323-yard par-4. This tricky hole requires an approach shot over water to reach the green. A good-sized sand trap can snare you if you’re long.

We finished the round in about three hours and 20 minutes and headed to the Willows Restaurant to review the day. The Willows Restaurant tab on the website says to enjoy a cold beverage after a toasty round of golf. We almost did just that, as we enjoyed a cold beverage, but it was after a cold round of golf. Great customer service here.

The consensus of our group was an overall enjoyable day. We all scored well, despite a bogey or so, and noted a few things. One is the attention to detail on the course. For instance, some cart paths were designated with landscaping retaining wall blocks. Nice touch. The directional signs were accurate, and the course fauna was nicely maintained.

As far as scoring well, we benefited from local course rules. If our drives were offline and entered certain areas of the desert landscaping, a free drop back onto the grass area of the fairway was dictated.

Another thing one of our group noticed was that the bunkers located in front of the greens seemed to be converted into grass bunkers. “Not so,” Doug said. “They were part of the original design to give the course more variation.” It sure increases the aggressiveness of your approach shots. The greens were accurate with speeds easy to judge.

The pro shop was neatly organized and included a full selection of just about anything a golfer would need.

And something you don’t see at every golf course are video poker machines on the bar at the restaurant. Desert Willow is part of the Sun City MacDonald Ranch complex, and I imagine that the residents there enjoy a game of chance occasionally. The facility also has excellent banquet space for special occasions.

Best of all: Grab a tee time after 1 p.m., and play for only $22.

— John Asay is a longtime golfer and local freelance writer.

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