The Best Golf Courses in Arizona
The best golf courses in Arizona are frankly quite a spectacular bunch with their spectacular holes. Rocks and barren desert are not the usual terrain for a golf course – after all the game was developed in Britain’s linksland with its combination of grass and natural sand bunkers – but a little imagination and money (okay, a lot of money in some cases), and some of the results are just stunning. Here we round up some of the best golf courses in Arizona.
Southern Dunes of Ak-Chin
The goal here was to bring a golf element to the design, rather than just creating a typical desert course. Thus, undulating fairways and bunkers are the order of the day here. And did the boy order a lot of bunkers. The bunker shapes the holes and protects the greens. Doglegs abound too, many running from left to right, so this design favors the fade rather than the draw.
The rocks (south)
When, in 2013, Golf Digest compiled its US Top 50 Women’s Course, The Boulders South Course came second in the nation. Although back tees usually involve many forced carries, front tees do not. There are striking rock formations on this most scenic course that sometimes takes on the aura of a modern art sculpture park. The 7th hole (above) is an example of this with its distinctive rock structure near the tee and the sand trap to the right of the green with a cactus in the middle.
This design by Jack Nicklaus and Bob Cupp stands out for its generous fairways on what is, almost by definition, a desert layout, a test of target golf. Another notable aspect – you can’t miss it, you can’t miss it – is Pinnacle Peak which dominates the course and offers stunning backdrops, like the 14th hole (above). A special feature of the layout is that it ends in consecutive par 3s followed by consecutive par 5s.
Desert Mountain (Chiricahua)
There are several splendid holes on this course which was the fifth of seven Jack Nicklaus Signature courses to be laid out in this complex. But the hole you’ll probably talk about the most is the par-3 14th (above) which has a bunker in the middle of the green. On higher ground than some of its neighbours, the layout uses elevation changes, with the bad news that eight holes play downhill but nine uphill. The other? Well, that plays aside.
The front nine is the flatter half and is dominated by Pinnacle Peak towering over it before this Tom Fazio design gains height for the back nine. The par 3s are standouts, of which the 11 (above) is probably the pick and shows how great a design power short holes can be. Only 137 yards at most, it plays on a small raised green with rocks and a greenside bunker to contend with. The 174-yard 7th is another gem of a short hole, from a slightly elevated tee.
Forest Uplands (Canyon)
The par-4 9th (above), which dips from the tee to a fairway with bunkers left and right and a specimen ponderosa pine tree, has become one of Arizona’s most famous and admired holes . The second shot must land a piece of water to land on the green in regulation. You can also use the bailout area to the left of the course’s largest green.
Gray Falcon (talon)
The typical green here is large and stepped, with generous bailout areas around the greens. Careful placement of approach shots is rewarded, but wayward ones can often escape without damaging your map too much. But one hole that requires you to hit the green or else is the par-3 17th, called Devil’s Drink, which is played on an island green between 84 and 126 yards.
Stone Canyon meanders through ancient rock outcrops in the Tortolita Mountains. Considerable sums have been spent to transform this plot of land into a spectacular and distinctive golf course. A reputed $2 million went on the fairly short, 145-yard 6th hole (above) which has a waterfall flowing to the left of the hole and curving past the green. The advice is to play long rather than short on 6, as anything short can revert to a sandy or wet conclusion if unlucky.
This course has been designed to create an exciting finale to a tour event – the final stretch of four holes is a par 5 island green; a short par 3; a fair par 4 and a closing par 4 with water running along the left bank of the fairway for its entire length. It has one of the most famous holes on the tour, in its 16th (above) due to loud crowd turnout during the Phoenix Open. There are permanent grandstands that wrap around this hole and can accommodate 20,000 people. There are better hole designs on this layout than 16, but none of them are as famous.
North Troon (Monument)
Characteristic boulders on the fairways provide imaginative hazards on the early holes, notably on the par-5 3rd called The Monument – which has a huge boulder rising from the middle of the fairway as it heads straight to the green, It was told this rock needed to be moved during construction of the course but proved too heavy.) There are a few par 4’s where the green is passable by heavy hitters. Generally this is a course where it is useful to play long – three of the par 3s are over 200 yards, and the longest, the 16th (above) is 244 yards, and the longest par 5 is 570 meters uphill to a convex green.
North Troon (Pinnacle)
The first hole is a delightful par 4 left dogleg with a forced carry over rocky outcrops on the drive and approach. While Royal Troon has the 8th 123 yard postage stamp, Troon North has the 16th postage stamp. Played from 95 to 140 meters depending on the chosen tee, the green is behind a mass of rocks and a water hazard. The putting surface narrows towards the right side and when the pin is on the far right it is a difficult target, especially since sand traps lurk to the right front and side of the green .
We-Ko-Pa means Four Peaks in the Yavapai language and Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw’s design was built on the principle of using the naturally hilly terrain – little earth was moved when it was created – to provide a strategic test rather than a target golf. . It is also designed to be a traditional course, with the tee near the previous green, in order to be accessible on foot.
Whisper Rock (upper)
There are two courses at the very exclusive Whisper Rock. The Lower, designed by Phil Mickelson (who is a member) and Upper, designed by Tom Fazio. Upper takes its name from a section of the back nine, with 13, 14 and 15 all played from elevated tees. The par-3 14th (above) is perhaps the prettiest of this trio. Scoring well around this layout requires careful approach shots to some tricky greens, as drives are often to landing areas that are often quite generous in size.