The Padre course at the Camelback Resort is technically the older of the two routes at the 36-hole Marriott property, however it plays much newer due to Arthur Hills’s dramatic makeover during the ‘90s (the Ambiente course was added by Arthur Jack Snyder following Red Lawrence’s initial stab at Padre).
The routing at Padre will alone set it apart from the Ambiente: While the latter heads out and back through a narrow passage between real estate developments, the Padre has more room to move about its wider property. Hills also endorsed the ‘90s trend toward more heroic hazards, dotting the landscape with a number of ponds that will add strokes quickly for those with shaky hands.
The most notorious will come at the close to either nine. Players will have a sense of déjà vu as they come back on No. 18, as it shares a pond with No. 9, forcing players to air wide to avoid the drink upon approach. The former hole in the route is a par four, while the latter is a par five.
The Padre course at Camelback is certainly one of the more fun resort courses I have played. A few folks I talked to here have begun to whisper that Camelback, named for the mountain visible from nearly every hole, is a 36-hole public complex to be reckoned with in an area full of them: Troon North, Grayhawk, Boulders, Talking Stick, TPC Scottsdale, and We-Ko-Pa are the other notables. Padre, across the street from the more penal Ambiente course, doesn’t rank among those giants because of its small scale, but that does not take away from its playability. The course feels a bit more Florida than Arizona due to its flatness and use of palm trees and ponds throughout the property. The greens were slick when I played in the winter, and the conditioning of the course was solid. My main complaint about Padre is that the experienced golfer would see the routing as boring or uninteresting. A few of my favorite holes: the par five fifth, a true three-shotter that makes use of a pond both short right and over the thin, long green that protects par; and the 12th, an easy on the surface short par four that will no doubt cause some players to pause on the tee box and wonder whether or not they have it in them to take a whack at the green. I’m glad I had Camelback Padre on my itinerary. It’s a value track that is no doubt below the mammoths in Scottsdale golf but still worth a round if you're nearby.
If you could only play one of the Camelback tracks, Padre is the one. The first hole leans right and is a welcoming par four with a greenside bunker right. The 2nd is a short par four that bends left and is a good birdie oppty. There is a jog in the fairway that at some points narrows to less than 20 yards. Consider laying up, a decent drive in the fairway will leave you with an attack iron that must clear the front bunker. The first par three is mid-yardage with a long narrow green and a bunker front right. The 4th uses staggered left and right bunkers to compress the fairway with a left greenside bunker. The first par five is only reachable by the few who hit it long and are fearless. The hole slithers between fairway bunkers and a water hazard right that comes into play about 150 yards out. The landing area between the water hazard and the last fairway bunker is only about 30 yards. Play it as a three shotter. Oh, there is also water behind the green. The 6th has a water hazard right and a washout dissects the fairway about 150 yards out with three front greenside bunkers. A thoughtful shotmakers hole. The 7th is a long dogleg left. Don’t get cute, hit it straight. The 8th is the longest par three with a water carry. The par five 9th is reachable in two. Off the tee you must be right of the left fairway bunkers. If you are going to go for it, you will have a water carry as the water hazard is right with two bunkers left.
The back starts off with the longest par four that bends right. It is the number two handicap hole and there is a greenside bunker right. The 11th is the shortest hole with four compass bunkers. The 12th is the shortest par with an S fairway with fairway bunkers left and right. This forces you to choose how much you want to bite off. Flip wedge or short iron? Definitely, a birdie hole. The 13th is another birdie oppty. A par five that leans left with fairway bunkers trying to keep you honest. Reachable in two, but there is water hazard creeping in on the right side about 120 yards out with a bunker left. The 14th is also a scoring hole. Slight dogleg left with a small water carry. Club selection is key as there are three front bunkers. The 15th gets a wee bit tougher. A long par four, aim at the left fairway bunker. The 16th is a straight away short par four, fairway bunker right. The only other real challenge is the water left of the green. The last par three is mid-length with water right a bunker left. The finishing hole is an opposite hand par five of the 9th.
Good not great.
An entertaining layout that has its moments. Credit the Arthur Hills team in updating the original Red Lawrence design.
The course is routed well -- plenty of directional changes and hole diversity keeping you on your toes.
The short par-4 2nd is done well. The fairway tapers for those seeking to go with the big play from the tee. Those failing to get into the correct position will then face an approach angle that's ably defended by a frontal bunker.
The short par-4 12th is also done well with a somewhat similar presentation.
The four par-5 holes all feature water penalty areas which have to b accounted for. The 9th and 18th run parallel to one another and have water seriously a major concern -- but with varied locations in opposite areas near the respective greens.
Even with these engaging holes -- the layout has a number of pedestrian holes that are merely connectors to get from one part of the property to another.
The issue for the Padre Course is that it delivers on having enough of an interest with several strategic holes. Is the course a fountain of compelling architecture of the highest order? No. That's not present here. keep in mind, the bar for golf in the greater Scottsdale area is among the most competitive in all of the USA. Not every course needs to be at the highest of levels when courses are assessed. The Padre Course has enough fun moments and enough challenge to be worthy of a visit. Going with a balanced framework will certainly enhance the experience when there.
M. James Ward