REVIEW: Renegade Golf Course at Desert Mountain

A 2-for-1 Golf Course That Defies Conventional Design
Golf has written rules and unwritten rules.  We know the mess that governing bodies have made of the written rules lately and how confusing they can be, but the unwritten rules about par, number of holes, designs, etc are generally held onto by most golfers.  Jack Nicklaus however defied conventional thinking in 1987 when he created the Renegade Course at Desert Mountain.  Instead of a traditional 18 hole routing, he built 2 courses in 1 with 2 hole options on every hole.  He essentially made a 36 hole course on one 18 hole property.  The white or gold flags could be played on every hole creating one of the most versatile designs of a golf course.  In 2019 it reopened after renovation with much of the same uniqueness, just in an easier to maintain package.

1. 2 for 1
The key uniqueness of the Renegade Course at Desert Mountain is the double pins on every hole.  The mixture of 2 greens and double greens doesn’t follow a pattern, but the lay of the land and Jack’s whimsical placement.  The 2019 renovation brought a number of changes to the green structures, the concept remained the same.   You could play the course multiple times in one week and never really play the same course.  White flag back tees, gold flag middle tees, white flag forward tees, gold flag tips, or some combo of tees and flags make it a never ending puzzle of holes and distances.  When it was the 1st course of the Desert Mountain complex it made a lot of sense to have so many options.

2. Never Get Bored
It took me a while to wrap my head around the Renegade Course at Desert Mountain.  I went back and forth from awesome to quirky, to cool to annoyed.  I think at the end of my round I settled on a course that would never bore me.  I’ve often considered getting a membership at a club, but always walk away worried I’ll get bored playing one course over and over.  The Renegade course eliminates that fear at Desert Mountain.  (the 3 hour drive is why I’m not joining Desert Mountain)  You can play different flags and different yardages every time you go out.  6 tee boxes and 2 pins means you shouldn’t get bored playing this course.

3. Bentgrass Turf
I’ve lived in AZ now for 3 years and this is my first experience with Bentgrass turf since moving here.   Courses use the drought/heat  tolerant Bermuda in the summer and overseed with Rye in the cooler winter months.  The Renegade Course at Desert Mountain has been able to grow bentgrass year round for their turf which makes for an excellent playing surface 365 days a year.  I’m impressed that it survives the summers, but they have it managed that it actually takes less water than the overseeding process.  I’d like to keep an eye on this over the upcoming  years to see if other courses adopt this turf.

4. Renovation Improvements
Jack Nicklaus was on hand for the renovation of the Renegade course and kept the playing strategies in place, while improving all other aspects of the course.  Better irrigation, better views, better turf, less turf, improved greens and less maintenance.  All in all this is a win-win for everyone.  While I don’t know what it was like prior to renovations, I can say that post renovation it is an awesome course with so many choices.

5. Practice Complex
The Renegade course has a massive practice facility wedged between the parking, the clubhouse, the course and the golf “school”.  It isn’t quite 360, but has lots of angles used for hitting and practicing.  The putting surfaces play just like the course and this serves not only as a warm-up spot before your round, but could be hours of practice before, after or even without a round of golf.

6. The Desert Mountain Private Experience
The Renegade Course is just 1 of 7 courses at the Desert Mountain Club.  The private complex has gates at every entrance and offers everything you’d want in a high end private club.  Exclusivity and luxury are found around every corner.  The big difference is the lack of stuffiness at Desert Mountain.  Some might be attributed to the architecture and AZ vibe, but some is also intentional that Desert  Mountain be private, but family friendly and welcoming. I know that Desert Mountain is private and not everyone can experience the awesomeness of the Renegade Course, but you might be able to make arrangement through your pro if you are on vacation down in Carefree/Phoenix/Scottsdale or if you live in town, this might be a place to consider putting down roots.  I’d imagine the other courses offer an excellent experience as well.  I know that Seven is worthy of membership considerations as is the 2 for 1 experience of the Renegade Course.

Final Thoughts
The Renegade Course at Desert Mountain surprised me with the unique layout, the unconventional design and the perfect bentgrass conditions.  I can see why it has received such acclaim over the years and the renovation sets it up for years to come.  If you can make it happen, I highly recommend a couple rounds on the Renegade Course.

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