Around the end of the 1990s, the $15m Greg Norman-designed course at what was then called Stonehaven was ready to open when Michael Meldman of Discovery Land Co. purchased the property, allocated Tom Fazio a budget of $15 million, and asked him to replace the old layout with one of his own at the renamed Mirabel Golf Club.
Only a developer with deep pockets was able to take such radical action, refashioning the Great White Shark’s original layout. More than a decade after Mirabel debuted, its elevated position in the Arizona state rankings would suggest the rather costly revamp was actually money well spent.
A number of testing par fours remain long in the memory here, most notably at the 472-yard 4th and 466-yard 13th. It’s the 449-yard 10th that garners most of the plaudits at Mirabel though, with its aesthetically pleasing fairway routed around the only real water hazard on the layout.
In 2009, Discovery Land Co. turned ownership over to
Best Greens in the Valley. Generous fairways with strategic bunkering. Always perfectly maintained. In typical Tom Fazio fashion, holes 9 and 18 are difficult, long par 4s. Memorable holes include 10 with the only water on the course and 11 with Pinnacle Peak in the background.
Originally the site was to be the home of a Greg Norman design, called Stonehaven, but plans changed as the course provided by The Shark was deemed way too demanding. Architect Tom Fazio was called in and the changes carried out added a good deal more playability to the layout.
The thing that strikes me about Mirabel is that it showcases what Fazio has long done well; creating a very beautiful canvass but the depth of the design is simply lacking inspiration. Part of the issue is that the immediate Scottsdale area is teeming with a range of solid golf choices.
Mirabel is not a bad course per se -- but minus a few moments of note it's just not inspiring consistently. The amenities are there and the turf quality is no doubt top tier. But with Mirabel being so near to Estancia -- another Fazio layout -- it's inevitable comparisons will be made. Estancia has the better property and a greater range and consistency with different holes.
The decision to eliminate the Norman course clearly has helped build a broader membership base but the architectural diversity is simply second tier.
by M. James Ward