Boasting more than 200 golf courses in its vicinity and more than 300 days of sunshine a year, Scottsdale, Arizona, has become one of the country’s most important golfing centers. They say you can stand in the middle of North Scottsdale Road and drive a ball with your three wood in any direction and it will land on a fairway. Exaggeration? Of course, but you get the picture. The trouble is choosing a course that fits your abilities because the choices are so many. We’re being so bold as to help you narrow it down to three golf clubs encompassing six courses that have consistently lived up to their reputations among golfers and still continue to provide duffers who are visiting the Valley of the Sun with a desert experience they will never forget.
Troon North is still considered by many as the king of the Scottsdale public “must-plays” thanks to a pair of courses that dish out cacti, arroyos, rock outcroppings and stunning vistas of Pinnacle Peak and the surrounding mountains.
Tom Weiskopf, a former British Open winner and transplant to the Scottsdale area, designed both golf courses at
Troon North—Pinnacle and Monument. Now retired from the professional golf tour, Weiskopf has become one of the outstanding golf course designers in the country. Years after designing the Troon North courses, Weiskopf had new ideas about how the courses could play, so he completely renovated both in 2006 so they play, as he put it, “as Mother Nature intended.”
Golfers can’t go wrong on either course. Monument is a long par-72, measuring more than 7,200 yards from the back. Its design is a paean to British Open-style links, complete with greens that are receptive to bump-and-run shots. Even the names of the holes are borrowed from overseas. The par-5 9th hole is Hell Bunker and the 18th is St. Andrews.
Pinnacle is a more traditional desert course, with forced carries and elevated greens. Also a par-72, Pinnacle plays about 300 yards shorter than Monument at 6,900 yards but has elevation changes unlike most golf courses in the desert.
Plus, those greens are extremely fast. Imagine putting on the sidewalk in front of the house with severe undulations.
Troon North isn’t cheap, but the crown jewel of Arizona golf is worth the price of admission. May greens fees are among the lowest for the year: $89-129 for a round of 18 holes. A revitalized Dynamite Grille, with a new menu and bar, is now a highly regarded post-round option in the clubhouse.
We-Ko-Pa Golf Club
The two layouts at the We-Ko-Pa Golf Club on tribal land owned by the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation just east of Scottsdale equal any in the area. We-Ko-Pa is Yavapai for “four peaks.” The Cholla course has incomparable desert scenery and holes that zigzag artfully through canyons, over ridges and down mountain slopes. The Saguaro course is wide enough that even inconsistent drivers can still find their tee shots on either side of the fairways.
Open since 2001, the Cholla course at We-Ko-Pa has garnered countless honors and has quickly become recognized as the reference course that virtually defines desert golf. Designed by Scott Miller, this 7,225-yard layout snakes its way through the Sonoran Desert and was named by Sports Illustrated as one of the 10 best new public courses in the world shortly after its debut.
The Saguaro course at We-Ko-Pa is a 2006 Bill Coore/Ben Crenshaw creation that integrates design elements not commonly found in the desert. The course is built for walking and has more in common with older, more traditional courses where the next tee is close to the green just finished. The course follows the natural movement of the land. Strong players will bask in the challenge of strategic bunkers and cleverly contoured greens. Add elevation changes, mountain vistas and a forest of cacti to the mix and you’ve got an unbeatable combination. Golfweek magazine named Saguaro the best public-access course in the country.
Greens fees: $75-$225 for either course. In addition to the two 18-hole courses, there is a large practice facility and a full-service clubhouse.
Grayhawk Golf Club
Grayhawk Golf Club is, and has been for some time, one of Arizona’s most popular daily-fee golf clubs, primarily because of its two amazing golf courses—the Talon and the Raptor.
This facility didn’t invent the “country club for a day” theme, but it may have perfected it in the 1990s, when Phil’s Grill (named for Phil Mickelson) was a beehive for tour pros. Mickelson has moved back to his native San Diego, but the Grayhawk still brims with ambiance, excellent service, above-average dining options and classic rock tunes piped to the practice range via faux-rock speakers.
The 18-hole Raptor is a Tom Fazio design that plays 7,136 yards from the tips for a par of 72. The course first opened for play in 1995 and has hosted plenty of big events, including the PGA Tour’s Frys.com Open (2007-2009).
The 18-hole Talon plays some 6,973 yards from the back tees for a par of 72. It first opened for play in 1994. Veteran players of each course say that Talon offers more drama, notably at the par-3 11th, where golfers traverse a swinging bridge to reach the back tee, and at the island-green, par-3 17th that’s rimmed with colorful flowers.
Greens fees for 18 holes on either course: $100-$235, depending upon the time of day, day of the week and the month. Tee times can be booked in advance. Call the number listed in the box opposite.
Where to Stay
The Gainey Suites Hotel – A landmark family resort located central to all that Scottsdale offers. The guest suites were recently renovated. From $105/night. 7300 East Gainey Suites Dr.
Four Seasons Scottsdale at Troon North – Awe-inspiring setting (and golf)—your adobe casita is your
luxurious home away from home. From $529/night for a deluxe casita room.
The Phoenician – A full-service luxury resort and spa in the heart of Scottsdale. Acres of swimming pools await your return from the golf course. From $399/night double. 6000 East Camelback Rd.
Where to Dine
Dynamite Grille – There’s a great view of the desert in addition to food for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The better-than-your-average country club fare includes angus beef burgers, tacos, jambalaya and its signature Saguaro Steak. 10320 E. Dynamite Blvd., 480-585-5300 ext. 219
Phil’s Grill – Named for golfing great Phil Mickelson, this welcoming spot offers indoor and patio seating for its selection of wraps, tacos, sandwiches, soups, salads and American entrées. Selected wine lists. 8620 East Thompson Peak Pkwy., 480-502-1800
Saguaro Grille – For guests teeing it up on the Saguaro course at We-Ko-Pa, this convenient eatery offers hot and cold food options as well as cold beverages. Located at the intersection of Saguaro’s 1st, 9th, 10th and 18th holes, the Saguaro Grille is the perfect spot to grab a quick bite before, during or after your round. 18200 East Toh Vee Circle, 480-836-9000
Bandera – This popular steakhouse in Old Scottsdale may be part of a chain but you’d never know from the quality of the food. The wood-fired rotisserie chicken is divine. 3821 N Scottsdale Rd., 480-994-3524
Renegade by MOD – International cuisine by chef Michael O’Dowd, taken to inventive new horizons in an edgy atmosphere and rock-and-roll ambiance. 9343 E. Shea Rd., 480-614-9400