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Play Away: New Course Review

ARIZONA
El Rio Country Club, Mohave Valley (public). Opening: January.
Anchoring yet another master-planned community in the burgeoning nexus of California, Nevada and Arizona, El Rio was built to be enjoyed. Only from the tips do the bunkers, waste areas and lakes present problems; otherwise, it's a wide-open desert-style course—without the desert to contend with. Even the homesites were purposely elevated, allowing errant shots to roll back into play.
Architect: Matt D ye. Yardage: 7,115. Par: 72. Greens Fees: $48-$94. Tee Times: 928-788-3150, elriocountryclub.com.

CALIFORNIA
Arnold Palmer Classic at SilverRock Resort, La Quinta (resort). Opening: January.
If municipalities can own golf courses, why not own entire resorts?La Quinta's plans are for just that, starting with this watery, foot-of-the-mountains oasis that will cohost the 2006 Bob Hope Chrysler Classic. The project also calls for luxury and boutique hotels, restaurants, a spa and, eventually, another course.
Architect: Arnold Palmer Course Design. Yardage: 7,553. Par: 72. Greens Fees: $65-$160. Tee Times: 888-600-7272, silverrock.org.

Buenaventura Golf Course, Ventura (public). Reopening: February/March.
Designed and constructed in the 1930s and 1940s by William F. Bell—of Torrey Pines fame—this Ventura municipal course has received a complete tenmonth-long face-lift. The tight, tree-lined routing largely remains the same, but tees, bunkers and ponds were repositioned, and the once-level fairways now boast intriguing contours.
Architects: William F. Bell (original); Forrest Richardson (reconstruction). Yardage: 6,000. Par: 70. Greens Fees: $25-$37. Tee Times: 805-642-2231, venturagolf.net.

Indian Canyons Golf Resort, Palm Springs (resort). Reopened: November 2004.
Unlike the tournament-caliber layouts that have proliferated here, this total rebuild of Canyon South Golf Course was designed for fun—not white-knuckle terror. Fairway bunkers were deliberately placed out of range for average-length hitters, yet there are plenty of opportunities to try go-for-broke shots. Plus, its unique location in a pocket of the surrounding mountains insulates it from the often severe desert winds.
Architect: William F. Bell (original); Casey O'Callaghan (reconstruction). Yardage: 6,580. Par: 72. Greens Fees: $75-$99. Tee Times: 760-327-6550, indiancanyonsgolf.com.

FLORIDA
Babe Zaharias Golf Course, Tampa (public). Reopened: November 2004.
Before the city of Tampa purchased it in the 1970s, this course was owned by Babe herself (and her husband, George Zaharias), who lived in the old pro shop. As part of the $1.9 million, six-month-long renovation of this short, tight track, the greens were brought to USGA specifications, TifDwarf Bermuda grass was planted, and the layout's entire irrigation system was replaced.
Architect: Unknown (original); Ron Garl (reconstruction). Yardage: 6,020. Par: 70. Greens Fees: $28-$39. Tee Times: 813-631-4374, babezahariasgc.com.

Candler Hills Golf Club, Ocala (public). Opening: January.
With a complete lack of water hazards, minimal elevation changes and benign palm trees, this no-nonsense course places the premium on being long and accurate. Long, because included in its 7,325 yards are some monster par fours. Accurate, because many of the greens are protected by veritable fortresses of bunkers.
Architect: Gordon G. Lewis. Yardage: 7,325. Par: 72. Greens Fee: $55. Tee Times: 352-861-9712.

The Independence at Reunion Resort & Club, Reunion (resort). Opening: January 1 (first nine opened in December 2002).
The second of three signature courses here, this is Tom Watson's first design in Florida, and it reflects his affinity for British-style golf. With elaborate fairway mounding, plentiful bunkers (some hidden) and native grasses, it's capable of being a knee-knocker off the tee. The large, multitiered greens demand shot making—or lights-out putting. Open only to resort guests.
Architect: Tom Watson. Yardage: 7,147. Par: 72. Greens Fee: $150. Tee Times: 407-396-3195, reunionresort.com.

Indian Hills Golf Course, Fort Pierce (public). Reopening: April 1.
Members of this former private club wouldn't recognize it now. After the city's acquisition and renovation, only the historic, William Hatcher-designed clubhouse remains. Golden-age course architect Herbert Strong's original routing was reworked, and the elevation change—unusual for the north-Florida coast—was magnified. Now the highs are higher and the lows lower.
Architect: Herbert Strong (original); Ward Northrup (reconstruction). Yardage: 6,600. Par: 72. Greens Fees: $30-$42. Tee Times: 772-465-8110, cityoffortpierce.com.

NORTH CAROLINA
Lexington Golf Club, Lexington (public). Reopened: October 2004.
Lexington spent nearly $2 million during this yearlong renovation to make its sixty-seven-year-old course newly competitive. A previously absent irrigation system and 500 more yards will help, but more important is what was taken away from this extremely hilly layout: numerous blind shots, some of which came on par threes.
Architect: Dugan Aycock (original); Mike Gleason (renovation). Yardage: 6,116. Par: 71. Greens Fees: $15-$19. Tee Times: 336-248-3950, lexingtongolfclub.com.

TEXAS
Cedar Crest Golf Course, Dallas (public). Reopened: October 2004.
Built in 1913, this 1927 PGA Championship site was bought by the city of Dallas in the 1940s. In addition to restoring A.W. Tillinghast's eroded fairway moundings, green undulations and bunkering, the eleven-month-long renovation included the addition of all new turf, a 300-yard driving range and a lake on number three, a 202-yard one-shotter.
Architect: A.W. Tillinghast (original); D.A. Weibring (renovation). Yardage: 6,505. Par: 71. Greens Fees: $21-$26. Tee Times: 214-670-7615, cedarcrestgolf.com.

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