David Graham collaborated with Scottsdale-based architect Gary Panks to lay out the tree-lined fairways of The Golf Club at Chaparral Pines in 1997. Situated in forested mountain terrain, the holes weave around rocky outcrops, a quarry and a number of man-made lakes.
In the book The American Private Golf Club Guide, Daniel Wexler says the course’s main attribute is “the naturalness with which it is routed; indeed, native slopes, rock outcroppings and trees all affect play to a notably high degree.”
The author continues: “though artificial lakes appear at the 4th and 10th, and the par three 6th is routed over a man-made quarry, Chaparral Pines is one of the more natural (and scenic) big ticket layouts to be built during the 1990s, and worth the 90-minute drive from Phoenix.”
For many residents of the Phoenix area finding a location that can jettison you away from the searing heat during summer months is clearly a topic of hot interest -- no pun intended. Located just over 80 miles away is the small community pf Payson. Set in the Toronto National Forest, the escape from Phoenix is literally a breath of fresh air. The scent of the ponderosa pines and the abundance of green provides an utterly tremendous counterpoint to the desert canvas.
As someone who has had the opportunity to play nearly all the key courses in the Grand Canyon State -- I am totally flummoxed at how Chaparral Pines gets so little attention.
The work by architect Gary Panks -- who has done a number of other courses in the State -- in tandem with former PGA Tour star player David Graham -- is riveting for its wonderful intersection with Mother Nature and for the robust and varied hole types you will encounter.
I can't say with certainty how much input Graham had but it's clear from the holes you play that knowing how to work the ball when called upon is a clear skill set you'll need. There are no basic shots / holes at Chaparral Pines, they re richly varied and the routing does move you around the property, so much so that being able to adjust as needed is essential.
One of the real strengths needed is driving skill. It's not simply OK to drive the ball straight but being able to get to certain fairway positions in order to have the appropriate angle into the varying putting greens. The long par-4 2nd with its center-placed trees makes for a superb hole. So much of private golf in Arizona often features vanilla green contouring and how putting surfaces are angled. At Chaparral Pines you see right away that being in the right place helps immensely with your wherewithal to score successfully.
For a course to be enclosed by housing and to do so well on the design side is no small feat. Often times, there are circumstances where the golf must bend to the needs of the housing. That's not happening here. Panks and Graham included sections of fairway that taper down. Players have to decide how much can they successfully take on from the tee. You will see natural rock outcroppings which have been smartly kept in the overall golf design.
The best part about Chaparral Pines is that it shows how a residential community course can hit high notes among the different handicap levels. The scenery is certainly present and from the two times I have played the course the turf quality was indeed top shelf.
Those who come to Payson will likely want to play the two key courses in the area -- Chaparral Pines and The Rim. The Weiskopf design at The Rim is very good but the edge, in my mind, goes to Chaparral Pines because the sheer range of hole quality is much deeper and much more thorough in ferreting out those who can truly golf their ball.
by M. James Ward