The thing about Whisper Rock, from the minute you get onto the property, is that this is a player's club. Whisper Rock is front and center on catering to people who both love the game and have the capacity to play it do a fairly good level. The club is littered with tour professionals and frankly the club championship at Whisper Rock is akin to playing a regular tour event elsewhere.
The Phil Mickelson / Gary Stephenson design is not the usual desert type layout one experiences in the greater Scottsdale area. The sight lines off the tee are very challenging. One has to be very sure on what specific line you wish to play when starting from any tee -- especially for the par-4 holes. If one has doubt -- and it's quite easy to have such a fluttering feeling in one's stomach -- then the Lower Course will clearly have the mental edge during one's round. Being able to marry length and shaping of one's ball flight can reap huge dividends when playing. I'd venture to say that those who play the course the first time will certainly do better with a second time around given the knowledge of where holes go and how much of a side to favor.
The grandeur of the Lower is tied mainly in its desire to remain part and parcel a vintage desert experience. Too many others in the wider locale have completely pushed aside the native desert intersection and have them become simple bystanders to the time spent playing. There's no suffocating encroachment at the Lower but any hint of indecision and faulty execution will be dealt with -- quickly and severely as it should.
The most impressive element of the Lower deals with the various greensites and the perplexing puzzles they consistently provide. No doubt the Mickelson presence helped in providing ideas on this front. At the Lower the key -- at all times -- is don't short side yourself. Recoveries around the greens here require a deft touch at all times and those who are cavalier in executing approaches will need to account for their haphazard efforts.
One can easily make a very strong case that Whisper Rock is at the top in the USA as a 36-hole facility. And that includes the likes of such stalwarts as Winged Foot and Baltusrol. The lone knock on Whisper Rock comes from the degree of demands placed on those who may not be low handicap types. There's some justification but often those using that line of argument have played from tee boxes ill-suited for their handicaps.
The Lower Course is grand stuff -- plenty of key decisions have to be made on the tee boxes and you can't mail in it with one's approach play. When you think you've hit your stride in playing well -- head to the Lower Course. In four hours you'll find out if what you thought about your game is confirmed.
by M. James Ward
Date: March 05, 2018