A Jay Morrish design from 2004, the course at Pine Canyon Club is routed around a number of ponds and lakes on a rolling landscape to the south of Flagstaff. Although the fairways are tree lined, the playing corridors are generally wide enough to allow the odd wayward shot to go unpunished.
Any look at the front nine must mention the par three holes at the 3rd (“Crosswind”) and the 5th (“Pine Meadow”), where the former measures all of 238 yards downhill from the back tees and the latter plays uphill to a very tricky two-tiered green.
The stronger back nine also features a couple of terrific par threes. The green of the 152-yard 11th (“Eagle’s Nest”) is protected by a small lake to the front and left whilst the putting surface of the 204-yard 17th (“Sweet Serenity”) is etched into the hillside on the other side of a deep gully.For those golfers who like to indulge in a wager or two with their opponents during a round, tied matches can be resolved at the very short “Double or Nothing” 19th hole, where bets can be settled on its island green.
One of the most unheralded of architects was the late Jay Morrish. Many might think his contributions came solely from his partnership with PGA TOUR star Tom Weiskopf. That would be unfortunate. Morrish was quite talented and when the relationship with Weiskopf ended he was able to create a number of quality courses in a solo fashion with Pine Canyon among them.
The thing about coming to Flagstaff is that at 7,000 foot elevation makes for a short playing season. Couple that with having a nearby neighbor of the pedigree of Forest Highlands and its rightly acclaimed Canyon Course and there's likely plenty of ignorance on what Pine Canyon provides.
Morrish sensibly created enough playability at Pine Canyon given the usual membership and guest play that takes place. There's sufficient width off many of the tees before encountering the tall cathedral presence of the stately pine trees.
Water is a factor on several holes but often it intersects only with the ill-considered shots. Pine Canyon is not a penal course where dread is often encountered. Moorish created a layout that has elasticity for the broadest range of golfers. There are quality holes -- the quartet of par-3's are especially demanding when pins are tucked. The closing hole is one of AZ's best -- an exacting long par-4 with a narrow and lengthy green with water hugging the right side as close as a youngster's arms around a parent's leg on the first day of school.
Given the reality that Pine Canyon is a seasonal club -- for those with properties in and around the site -- the wherewithal to balance all of the key needs was no small task. Those venturing to the area who have been able to stop by Forest Highlands should do likewise if time and opportunity allows to play at Pine Canyon. The talents of Morrish are clearly present and will be appreciated by those doing so when there.
by M. James Ward