Camelback Ambiente – In a League of Its Own

Ambiente (6 of 7)With more than 200 golf courses in the Phoenix area, we live in a golfer’s paradise. At its heart is Scottsdale. Some of the great and unquestionably some of the most scenic holes in golf are right here in our backyard. Of the courses that can be accessed without membership, the cream of the crop is the Ambiente course at Camelback Golf Club.

Ambiente is barely a year old, but is already in great shape. Greens are fast and true. Fairways are lush. The vistas are magnificent with backdrops of Camelback Mountain and Mummy Mountain. Every hole on this links style course is encased in flower laden wild areas that are beautiful to look at, but voracious in their hunger for errant shots.

Ambiente (4 of 7)The course design is brilliant. Unlike most “resort courses”, this is not one where you stand on every tee box and let it rip into a wide, hazard free fairway. This is a thinking golfer’s course. It’s real golf. You’ve got to manage your game to score well. There’s potential trouble off of every tee box, even the five pars. If you’re the macho type that reflexively grabs driver on every tee box, chances are this course is going bring you to your knees and take your balls. It’s a course for smart golfers. Even off the tee, club selection is an important consideration.

The course is playable at all levels, but if you’re not a low handicap golfer, don’t fool yourself into thinking you should be playing the back tees. At 7,225 yards, it will give the best golfers everything they can handle. The 245 yard par three fifteenth is one of Ambiente’s signature holes. From the tips, you’re hitting to a two tiered green with water on two sides, a cavernous bunker on the left and another one in front of the green. The seventh hole is a good par five over 600 yards long. The fourteenth is another par five, but it only plays at 580 yards. The greens are interesting and challenging, but fair. Stay below the hole.

Ambiente (5 of 7)Although there is a middle set of tees that bring the course down to 6,630 yards, most golfers will find the “Camel” tees give them all they can handle at 6,123 yards. If you play from this forward tee set and conquer the course, move back to the “Verde” tees the next time you play. But I’m betting you’ll beg for mercy before the course does. It’s still rated at 69.0 with a 124 slope from the forward tees. It’s at 73.9 and 138 from the tips.

Ambiente is one of two courses at Camelback Golf Club. Its sister course, Padre, is a fine course in its own right and a good test of golf, but its character is totally different from Ambiente’s. If you’re in Scottsdale for golf, consider playing both courses. Padre almost has the character of a Florida course while Ambiente is like a walk in Scotland. And you don’t even have to go through airport security to experience the differences.

Camelback’s practice facilities, pro-shop and clubhouse are up there with the best of them. The employees are friendly, well-trained and always ready to help.

If I were visiting Scottsdale and only had time to play one of its 200 courses, it would be Camelback Ambiente. But I live here and play three or four rounds per week. I still pick Ambiente. It just doesn’t get much better.

In the Spirit of the Season – the Gift of Camaraderie

Bob Sznewajs' team takes first place
Bob Sznewajs’ team takes first place

Camelback golfers teamed up with golfers from Gainey Ranch in a fun event Friday. The competitors played on the magnificent Ambiente course at Camelback Golf Club. Not only does Ambiente offer a spectacular Scottish links style course, it is in immaculate condition. Unquestionably, it’s the finest course in the area.

Van Ark wins low gross
Van Ark wins low gross

When the last man walked off the course, the team of Bob Sznewajs, Roland Brendel and Howard Jones had conquered the field. Playing a Modified Stableford format with the team’s best ball, they were exceptionally strong racking up 36 points. The team of Mark Van Ark, Pat Collins and Howard Garr played extremely well scoring 33 points. On any other day, that would have probably been good enough to easily beat the field. Ron Dobkin and David Harbour both played well, but didn’t get the support needed from their teams to climb to the top.

Low Gross

  1. Mark Van Ark – 76
  2. Roland Brendel – 78
  3. Howard Jones – 79

Low Net

  1. Howard Jones – 63
  2. Mark Van Ark – 66
  3. David Harbour – 69

Everyone finished with a smile. With absolutely perfect weather, a fabulous course and great company, it was a wonderful day to be in Scottsdale, Arizona. There were no snow shovels, no mukluks and no signs of frostbite. Some place better to tee it up? I can’t imagine where that would be.

Here’s a look at the “net scores” turned in on the day. We played from the forward tees (equivalent in slope and rating to the middle tees at Gainey) so the course was far gentler than it could have been.Stats20141219

War Games – Camelback Golf Club versus Gainey Ranch Golf Club

Marwan Jalili - hot, hot, hot!
Marwan Jalili – hot, hot, hot!

The golfers of Camelback Golf Club responded to an invasion of club wielding infidels from Gainey Ranch Golf Club Friday. The battle was joined on the Padre course at Camelback and sixteen linksters went head-to-head in match play. When the field had cleared, the sides remained deadlocked at four points each.

All the individual matches were close with one exception. Roland Eckert turned in a very strong performance for Team Camelback with a net 67. However, he ran into Gainey’s answer to the Tasmanian Devil. Marwan Jalili carded a net 61 to defeat Roland four and three. Marwan’s exceptional round was about a 270-to-1 odds effort for a 22 handicap player. Pat Collins (Gainey) defeated Scott Clay (Camelback) on the 17th hole. Howard Garr (Gainey) dispatched Matt Levy (Camelback) on the final hole. Mark Van Ark, Ross Yeo and Tom Copithorne (Camelback) each defeated their opponents, Ron Dobkin, Sandy Wiener and Mike Forde (Gainey) on the final hole. Scott Hull (Gainey) tied his match with Bob Sznewajs (Camelback). Marshall Block (Gainey) finished with a net birdie to salvage a tie with Reggie Winissinger.

Roland Eckert carts a net 67
Roland Eckert carts a net 67

Low Gross

  1. Mark Van Ark (Camelback) – 77
  2. Ross Yeo (Camelback) – 78
  3. Matt Levy (Camelback) – 79

Low Net

  1. Marwan Jalili (Gainey) – 61
  2. Mark Van Ark (Camelback) – 66
  3. Roland Eckert (Camelback – 67

The course was in great shape. The greens were fast and true. As would be expected, the #1 Handicap hole on the course (#5) played the toughest. The average score was just over bogey. The real surprise comes from the fact the #6 Handicap hole (#18), a par five a nickel shy of 500 yards long guarded by water played as the easiest hole on the course (5.31 average score). I know the course and I can assure you that is not the easiest hole on the course. I think it’s a testament to the fact that head-to-head match play brings out the best in a golfer. Six out of the eight matches came down to the final hole and the competitors rose to the challenge.

Although the team competition remained unsettled, a man named Terry Philips was the ultimate winner of the match. Terry is a member of the grounds crew at Gainey Ranch Golf Club. He was recently diagnosed with leukemia. When the $240 in prize money was distributed to the competitors, each and every man in the room from both Gainey Ranch and Camelback Golf Club, asked that his prize money be contributed to help Terry overcome some of the financial challenges he is currently facing. I tip my hat to all of the true gentlemen that played. They’re all winners.

Here are a few photos from the match play event. Click on any one of them to begin a slide show.