A dozen Camelback golfers took a little road-trip on Friday, November 11th. For some, it had been years since they had played OrangeTree Golf Course. Others had never played it. When all was said and done and the last putt rolled into the eighteenth hole, the general consensus was … as munis go, it’s a nice course, an interesting layout and a good value. In fact, had we not been spoiled with the great layouts at Camelback, we might even play it again. On a scale of zero to one hundred, OrangeTree averaged a score of sixty-five from the golfers in the group with individual ratings running from fifty-five to seventy-five. To be fair, it is not a muni, but it definitely has a muni feel. That’s not necessarily bad, but don’t expect to come away feeling like you just played an exclusive private club.
The strengths included an interesting layout. It’s mature and many of the holes are quite scenic. They were varied and offered some good golf challenges, however, the course was not a “championship” layout. With a rating of 69.3 and a slope of 119 (from the middle “white” tees), it was more than manageable for most golf skill levels. Fairways tended to have wide landing areas, but greens tended to be small. Miss the green and odds are you’ll be short-sided. With one notable exception, the staff was cordial, friendly and helpful. The biggest positive at OrangeTree is its price. We got a $49 rate in the late morning – cheap by Valley standards. It included the cart, but did not include range balls.
OrangeTree’s weaknesses seemed to be budget related. Greens were a bit “spotty” and hadn’t been rolled since the late Pleistocene. A six foot putt could be a bit of an adventure. Predicting the ball’s roll was like trying to predict the path of a pinball during an earthquake. Tee boxes either hadn’t been moved enough or were too small to allow much movement. They had the appearance of a corn field shortly after harvest. Over all, the course was in “respectable” condition, but that’s about the best that can be said.
More evidence that the drive to reduce expenses may be a touch overly aggressive appeared when I went to wet my towel at the restroom by the sixth hole. As I approached the water fountain outside the little building, it became apparent the fountain hadn’t been functional for quite some time. I went into the bathroom to find water. As I opened the door, I got the impression it wasn’t the spiffiest restroom in the golf world, but as the door closed behind me, the darkness became the cleaning agent. The light didn’t work so I could no longer discern the lack of clean. As my eyes slowly adjusted and a hint of light crawled in through the small window on one wall, I could make out the outline of the bathroom’s features. There was water in the toilet bowl. My towel remained dry. In the dim light, I saw what appeared to be a clipboard with a piece of paper on it. I took it outside to see what I had discovered. It was a “Restroom Cleaning Log – Hole #6”. There was a series of dates beginning with “27-Oct” and running through “19-Apr”. Next to each date was a space for the initials of presumably the person doing the cleaning. There were no initials for any date beyond October 27th. That wouldn’t have been a problem were it not for the fact that it was November 11th. If the truth be known, it had probably been cleaned in the previous two weeks, but the person doing the work couldn’t find the clipboard. Remember … it was too dark without a working light in there.
There was one employee that made the day especially memorable. The “starter” seemed to have the personality of Ukrainian prison guard. As some of the members of our group began sharing their starter experiences with me, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I thought there’s no way someone could have a position so closely associated with the image of the golf club without having a personality that put a “happy face” on the customer’s golf experience. I suggested that the starter may just have a very dry sense of humor and that the casual onlooker would pick up on it after a brief wait. I decided to get a firsthand look and judge for myself. After a brief exchange with the starter, I stood back and watched as he interfaced with a number of other golfers. I came away concluding that his humor must indeed be bone-dry, so dry in fact, that he came across as a real horse’s ass. But that couldn’t be the case. After all, he was still employed.
Fortunately, other staff members were friendly and helpful. When golfers were “entertained” by three twelve or thirteen year old boys in a yard adjacent to the course, the staff dispatched someone to deal with the homeowner. Mom didn’t seem to grasp the concept of golfers being accosted by boys hurling unmentionable obscenities as not being great for public relations, but the club staff did send an emissary to the scene of the crime in short order when the problem was reported.
The course offered a good value for the money. Where else in the Valley can you get to drive the old style gasoline powered golf carts. The course was fun. It wasn’t in great shape, but it was in good enough shape. It wasn’t extremely challenging, but it was challenging enough. I recommend playing OrangeTree from time to time, particularly if you’re a golfer on a budget.