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If I went to Phoenix and only had the time to play at one golf course, which one would I chose? This is the question I’ve been asking myself lately while trying to decide on my top 10 public golf facilities in the Phoenix/Scottsdale area. And trust me, it hasn’t been easy.
This question, I realized, essentially boils down to one aspect: Which facilities are the most fun to play at? Ultimately, isn’t this why we all play golf? To have fun!
Calculating the “fun-factor” for me is measured by looking at the following; the scenery, shot values, challenge and obviously the conditions of the course. If upon leaving the course I can recall in detail most of the holes, that’s a big deal. If I spent the majority of my day on the hunt for golf balls (be it mine or my playing partners’), obviously that’s not an ideal afternoon for me, or anyone. It needs to be interesting, and we need enough space to hit and also find it off the tee, in my opinion. I would hope you feel the same way!
In my experience, the 10 golf courses I’ve compiled below shine in many of these areas. I hope you agree, and feel free to chime in in the comments section at the end of this article. We always love your input and feedback!
Popularly named one of the top public courses in the Pheonix/Scottsdale area, the Troon North Golf Club boasts 36 holes with striking desert golf classic design, and a touch of British Open influence by Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish. Troon North’s Pinnacle Course, which resides at the base of Pinnacle Peak is the perfect example of classic desert target golf. Widely treated as the superior of the two though, Troon North’s Monument Course is named after the monument boulder on the third hole. Due to its tall trees balanced above the fairways, it has minimal forced carries and several great views from the trees. They both star amazing views and some impressive homes that are far off the course. The outstanding practice facilities also set them apart, as well as the short course – in the case that 36 holes aren’t enough for you, or you’re craving the perfect warm-up before attempting either course.
Don’t get me wrong, I love desert golf – but I’m also a huge lover of big fairways and lush green grass, which are featured on the newly renovated Stadium Course at TPC Scottsdale as well as the Champion Course. Additionally, it really is the ultimate TPC experience; by that I mean it boasts an amazing clubhouse, major practice facilities, golf instruction, and PGA Tour-level golf. Specifically, the Stadium Course is a riot to play. In the final stretch you come upon two intense risk-reward holes – the drivable par 4 17th, and the over water par 5 15th (also notably the insane par 3 16th) – these holes allow for some major drama not only during the Waste Management Pheonix Open, but during your own game as well.
3. Wickenburg Ranch Golf & Social Club
If a course earns seven years of grow-ins, you can pretty much guarantee it’ll be in outstanding condition, which is definitely the case at Wickengurg Ranch, which was designed by Bill Brownlee and Wendell Pickett. As well as that though, it boasts the best vantage points of Vulture Peak and Prescott National Forest, extensive hole variety, several elevated holes and some epic natural beauty – arguably the best in the state. Nothing about this course (featuring 5 par 3’s and 5 par 5’s) is dull. It is definitely worth the 45 minute venture northwest of Pheonix, if only for it’s impressive and high ranked practice facilities.
With no homes on site, and two outstanding golf courses, We-Ko-Pa Golf Club is definitely a must-try for those of you wanting to play the best Valley courses. Scott Miller designed its original Cholla Course that boasts a play 7,200 yards from tip to tip. It is surely a bit more difficult than the Bill Coore-Ben Crenshaw-designed Saguaro Course, which is arguably a tad more interesting. Both courses showcase amazing scenic views, are consistently in tip-top shape, and feature several elevated trees that showcase beautiful Sonoran Desert and surrounding mountain views.
The 36 hole Grayhawk Golf Club is another prime example of 1A and 1B, and has two phenomenal desert outlines. The PGA Tour event used to be hosted on it’s Raptor Course, designed by Tom Fazio. It’s challenging as well as interesting with its varied long and short par 4s and some memorable par 5s, along with an around the lake risk-reward 18th. In 2015 Fazio even did some renovations on the Raptor Courses last few holes. Designed by David Graham and Gary Panks, the Talon Course is definitely one not to be missed. It boasts a par 3 17th, with a small but tough island green, and a drivable par 4 13th incorporated in it’s memorable back nine.
These 36 holes are incomparable in layout to anything you’ve ever seen, or will find anywhere else in the world for that matter. With massive, 12-million year old namesake boulders that command your attention in the Sonoran Desert landscape. Both courses are designed by Jay Morrish, and the North and South Courses are built right into the desert foothills. The South Course is the most breathtaking with its trademark “Boulder Pile” and “Rosies Rock”, the resorts two most renowned rock formations.
Before its renovation, this course was already in my top 10 – but now, it’s even further upped it’s ranking. Several of its greens were adjusted, bunkers have been renovated, and the course routing has been majorly improved. This course is the perfect blend of Scottish-influenced links and parkland, including various water hazards, many deep bunkers to dodge, and mega intriguing greens. Owned by the Ak-Chin Indian Tribe, this fast-playing, solid course is sprawled over 320 acres.
Designed by Rees Jones, Quintero really is a ‘home run’ (sorry for the baseball term). Situated slightly northwest of Phoenix in Peoria, this course is surrounded by hills, and features holes in isolated valleys – which remind me of the notable Jones Course, Cascata outside Las Vegas. With considerable fairways that border Lake Pleasant, beautiful bunkers, and multi-level bentgrass greens against a breathtaking desert landscape backdrop, complete with mountains and wildlife.
The Wigwam resort – which includes the Patriot Course, the Gold Course and the Heritage Course – boasts a 54 hole count total; and are parkland, as opposed to desert golf. But the 50- year-old Gold Course which was recently renovated, really is the high point here. The Gold Course really earns its name with a smidgen of bunkers, doglegs, water, pines and eucalyptus trees, and many impressive holes.
With the Acacia, Mesquite and Ironwood, these 27 holes were designed by Scott Miller – and they are definitely all fun. Tee shots funnel toward the middle on one nine, leaving less potential for problems. Ultimately, these three player-friendly nines are in remarkable shape and very simple to maneuver. You can actually utilize a Golf Cart, a Segway, a Golf Bike and even a Golf board, so the modernization doesn’t just end with the holes.
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