The Top 25 Golf Courses in Phoenix
The new Golf Magazine course rankings are out, so I’ve gotta update my map. Included are state-by-state rankings, from AK to WY, including AZ. I’ve been here in the stifling heat of Scottsdale for almost five years now and have played rounds at around 30 courses in the Phoenix area, so why not provide all you snowbirds and Spring Training visitors with a quick and easy guide on where to play. I’ve only played one private course here for one of those Golf Channel tournaments. The rest, such as Whisper Rock and Estancia, are above my paygrade and celebrity status. So unless you’re coming into town with some well-connected friends, stick to this list.
Best Course: Troon North – Monument, Scottsdale ($59-$295)
Ten years ago, I went on a road trip to every baseball stadium in the Major Leagues. I lived in the Bay Area then, so we started by going south to Los Angeles and all around the country before getting through Denver and back home. And after visiting all those stadiums, I found out that the San Francisco Giants’ AT&T Park is still the nicest ballpark on the planet. That’s a lot like Troon North’s Monument course is. It’s the first course I ever played in Arizona, and all these rounds later, it’s still the best. Beautiful scenery, fun holes and world-class service make it tough to top.
Runners up: We-Ko-Pa – Saguaro, Fort McDowell; Wickenburg Ranch, Wickenburg
Toughest Course: Quintero, Peoria ($125)
This course is not for the faint of heart. So if your trip out here includes some twice-a-year golfer, maybe leave them at the bar. There’s elevation change, fast greens, blind shots and a lot of vegetation to make your round hell. It’s not unfair, just hard. The scenery is breathtaking, with some of those elevated tees offering vistas of unmolested desert for miles into the horizon. It’s a long drive from anywhere in the valley, but worth the challenge.
Runners up: Southern Dunes, Maricopa; SunRidge Canyon, Fountain Hills
Easiest Course: Talking Stick – North, Scottsdale ($40-$175)
This is the place I always book a time at when my game is in the mud and I need to kick it back in gear. It’s flat, open and the greens are easy. The desert along the holes is sparse, leaving plenty of chances for recovery shots after wayward drives. The par 5s are reachable and the par 3s present no real challenge. It’s still fun, and with the casino and Salt River complex right next door, a great spot to take those weekend hackers out.
Runners up: Phoenician, Phoenix; Ocotillo, Chandler
Best Value: McCormick Ranch – Palm and Pine, Scottsdale ($39-$164)
If you paid $164, you obviously didn’t do your research. In the dead of summer this course is usually $29 on GolfNow. Even in the high season, it’s a bargain compared to many other courses in the area. There are two 18s here, the Palm and Pine, and both are fun. Having 36 holes also keeps the courses from getting too crowded. I prefer the Pine as there’s some more interesting holes, but the Palm is tougher, with some nasty water holes. And the central location in the heart of Scottsdale makes this an easy place to get to for an early wake-up call.
Runners up: Southern Dunes, Maricopa; Ocotillo, Chandler
Worst Value: Kierland, Scottsdale ($69-$209)
There is definitely not a more overpriced golf course than that at the Westin Kierland. It’s a perfectly fine course, with three 9s that all have a different feel. But even in the dead of summer they charge $69 with no discounts when no one else is charging more than $50 it seems. They do have those fantastic misted golf carts, but I’d gladly pay less and instead use an icy towel.
Runners up: TPC Scottsdale – Stadium, Scottsdale; The Boulders, Carefree
Prettiest Course: Wickenburg Ranch, Wickenburg ($55-$90)
And that deal comes with a freeshirt! This new course is worth the drive up to Wickenburg. The course is shiny and has that new car smell still, with exquisitely manicured fairways and gorgeous ponds and creeks. The views of the desert in the distance, in a place like Wickenburg that still has an Old West feel, are priceless.
Runners up: Troon North – Monument, Scottsdale; We-Ko-Pa – Saguaro, Fort McDowell
Worst Course: ASU Karsten, Tempe ($28-$99)
Definitely the worst course ever. I can’t wait until they pave over it to make way for the new Coyotes arena. Why? Well, it’s Pete Dye on steroids, or crack. Bunker mounds from tee to green leave no fair bounces or even lies. The course is crammed into a small footprint. Bring a helmet, because for some reason there’s a few greens that are next to fairways of other holes, and I have seen more than once a drive land on or near the green. Just, skip it. Unless you like paying for misery and that lovely view of smoke stacks.
Runners up: Scottsdale Silverado; Talking Stick – North, Scottsdale
Those are just some of my thoughts on various courses around the valley. Below is my OFFICIAL RANKING, to be taken as Gospel:
- Troon North – Monument, Scottsdale (review)
- We-Ko-Pa – Saguaro, Fort McDowell (review)
- Wickenburg Ranch, Wickenburg (review)
- Troon North – Pinnacle, Scottsdale (review)
- Quintero, Peoria (review)
- Southern Dunes, Maricopa (review)
- We-Ko-Pa – Cholla, Fort McDowell
- TPC Scottsdale – Stadium (review)
- TPC Scottsdale – Champions
- Grayhawk – Raptor, Scottsdale
- Boulders – South, Carefree (review)
- Grayhawk – Talon, Scottsdale
- Talking Stick – South, Scottsdale
- SunRidge Canyon, Fountain Hills (review)
- McCormick Ranch – Pine, Scottsdale
- Camelback – Padre, Scottsdale
- McCormick Ranch – Palm, Scottsdale
- Camelback – Ambiente, Scottsdale
- Apache Stronghold, Globe (review)
- Kierland, Scottsdale (review)
- Ocotillo, Chandler (review)
- Phoenician, Phoenix
- Talking Stick – North, Scottsdale
- Scottsdale Silverado (review)
- ASU Karsten, Tempe