Drive east from downtown Phoenix for a half-hour and you’ll find yourself in the booming suburb (if one can call a city of more than 440,000 residents such) of Mesa, site of the spring training facilities of the Chicago Cubs and the Oakland Athletics and the birthplace of country music Hall of Fame artist Buck Owens.
The third-largest city in Arizona, Mesa is surrounded by the natural Sonoran Desert beauty of Tonto National Forest. Within its city limits lie the largest arts and cultural complex in the Southwest, shopping at every turn, delectable locally-owned restaurants, dozens of premier hotels as well as an award-winning collection of golf courses.
Among those tracks is Las Sendas Golf Club, the first course in Arizona designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr. and one of the most challenging tests of golf anywhere, much less in the Valley of the Sun.
Opened in 1995 in east Mesa, Las Sendas winds through the Usery Mountains with a routing that provides almost endless vistas of the Phoenix metropolis and skyline.
Las Sendas, which means “the pathways” in Spanish, is carded at 6,914 yards at a par of 71. Here Jones Jr. fashioned a golf course that challenged the better-than-average golfer while adhering to his father’s golf philosophy of “hard par, easy bogey.”
The course rests at an elevation of about 1,800 feet and demands the golfers’ full attention and course management from the first drive to the final putt. Though Las Sendas winds through a residential area, the houses never seem to intrude as the course and scenic desert remain in the forefront and capture the players’ focus.
This design was meant to be a test for golfers and requires prudence and strategy off the tee and solid iron play to have any measure of success. “It is a Wild West-kind of course,” Jones Jr. said. “You’d better bring your six-guns, because you’re going to have to shoot it out here.”
Jones Jr’s gift of mostly elevated tee boxes and generous landing areas allows every player the chance to find the fairway, but that’s where the real challenge start in earnest. Las Sendas’ fairways move considerably through the natural lay of the land and are highlighted by the contours and swales and overall playability that so often mark the designer’s work.
Renowned for its flawless putting surfaces and sweeping views, Las Sendas has consistently been rated among the Top 10 and most challenging courses in Arizona, and by two ZAGAT Surveys one of the top 100 courses in America.
The desert as seen from the patio is spectacular. It’s a place you want to sit and enjoy the sunset and early evening, and it’s the perfect spot to rewind your round and think about the challenge just accepted and immediately yearned for again.
Las Sendas has it all, and it should be considered a must-play when visiting the Arizona desert.