Use your imagination at creative, nine-hole Li'l Wick at Wickenburg Ranch

Wickenburg Ranch in Arizona encourages short-game creativity with new Li'l Wick nine-hole golf course

The fact that they call it a "short game park" instead of a golf course at Wickenburg Ranch Golf & Social Club is somewhat telling. This is no ordinary short course; it's Wickenburg Ranch's new nine-hole course, Li'l Wick, and it can be played just about any way you want it.

"This is a fun place where our members and guests can truly enjoy hanging out," said Justin Henderson, head professional at at Wickenburg Ranch Golf & Social Club. "We want to give them plenty of reasons to smile, laugh and build lasting friendships. We have everything from families and neighbors enjoying competitions, to guys grinding over putts to settle bets."

The full-size golf course at Wickenburg Ranch, which opened in 2014 -- located a little more than an hour northwest of Phoenix in the historic Western town of Wickenburg and Trilogy master-planned resort community of Wickenburg Ranch -- has already become a favorite among public golf courses in Arizona. Adding this unique short course makes it that much more attractive.

With bentgrass greens and meticulous playing conditions, the L'il Wick nine-hole, par-3 golf park is $25 to play for daily-fee guests until the end of 2016. Or you can play before or after your round at Big Wick. And four of the nine holes have lights, meaning you can play after dark if need be. There are no tee times. Best of all, players are encouraged to use their imaginations when playing.

For example, Li'l Wick has some unique features, such as bunkers behind some of the tees, giving players an opportunity to play long bunker shots to greens. And you don't have to play straight golf; you can work on your game or play games such as golf H-O-R-S-E if you like.

As for the course, it's routed through an 18-acre park through a picturesque canyon along the eastern flank of the Wickenburg Ranch development. The course surrounds the Watering Hole bar and grill, and adjacent to Li'l Wick is an amphitheater behind the ninth tee box that is ideal for concerts, weddings and other special events.

Adding high quality short courses to existing championship layouts might just become a trend. We're starting to see that more and more at private clubs, resort clubs and, hopefully, more daily fees.

For example, in Texas, two of the top private clubs in the state have outstanding short courses. At the recently opened Bluejack National, Tiger Woods' first U.S. design just north of Houston, the resort-style private club also features The Playgrounds, which has 10 lighted holes and is designed for juniors and adults alike (drink cup holders are on every tee). And in Trinity, Texas, there's the nine-hole, par-3 Whispering Pines' Needler Course, a Chet Williams design inspired by Pine Valley. Most members and guests at Whispering Pines find time to play both the Championship Course (ranked no. 1 in Texas by the Dallas Morning News) and The Needler because it's so much fun to play. Surely the folks at Wickenburg Ranch are looking for the same kind of success with Li'l Wick.

Mike Bailey is a senior staff writer based in Houston. Focusing primarily on golf in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America with an occasional trip to Europe and beyond, he contributes course reviews, travel stories and features as well as the occasional equipment review. An award-winning writer and past president of Texas Golf Writers Association, he has more than 25 years in the golf industry. Before accepting his current position in 2008, he was on staff at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeBaileyGA and Instagram at @MikeStefanBailey.

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Wickenburg Ranch in Arizona encourages short-game creativity with new Li'l Wick nine-hole golf course