Tag Archives: arizona

The Best Golf in Phoenix

The Top 25 Golf Courses in Phoenix

arizona snowman
Winter in Arizona

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)

troon north monument 16
The view from the long par-3 16th at Troon North Monument

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

Continue reading The Best Golf in Phoenix

Wickenburg Ranch Golf & Social Club

Wickenburg Ranch Golf & Social Club in Wickenburg, AZ

wickenburg ranch
Sean and I relaxing on a random couch

The Stats

Tee Time: August 21, 2015, 11:15, 100 F, partly cloudy

Designer: Bill Brownlee and Wendell Pickett, 2015

Playing Partners: Sean Cohan

Tees: Blue, Par 71 (70.6 rating/134 slope/6,486 yards)

Course Handicap: 9 (8.0 index)

Stats: 77 (36-41); 36 putts; 9/13 fairways; 11/18 greens; 0 penalty strokes

The Course

If Phoenix is the sun, then the 101 freeway is like the orbit of Mercury. The 202 is Earth or Mars. The newly discovered 303 is like Neptune. That would place Wickenburg Ranch Golf & Social Club, in this Valley of the Sun solar system, somewhere out where Pluto resides. And just like Pluto, the journey out to this distant location is well worth it. Located in a new housing development in Wickenburg, this might be the most exciting thing to come to this part of Arizona since all the gold was mined out of Vulture Mountain many years ago. The course just opened in 2015 and I can guarantee you’ll be seeing it rated on a few lists in the near future. For now, while the houses are still being built and sold, the plan is to stay open to the public for a couple years. Just like the gold, come out and get it before it’s too late.  Continue reading Wickenburg Ranch Golf & Social Club

We-Ko-Pa (Saguaro)

We-Ko-Pa Saguaro Course in Fort McDowell, AZ

wekopa saguaro
Sean, me, Ryan and Mike

The Stats

Tee Time: August 7, 2015, 7:58, 101 F, partly cloudy

Designer: Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, 2006

Playing Partners: Ryan Cohan, Sean Cohan, Mike Harvey

Tees: Purple, Par 71 (70.2 rating/132 slope/6,603 yards)

Course Handicap: 10 (8.1 index)

Stats: 83 (41-42); 36 putts; 9/14 fairways; 9/18 greens; 1 penalty stroke

The Course

Four years in the desert and I finally made the trip out to We-Ko-Pa Golf Club with summer rates begging me to play. The pair of courses, Saguaro and Cholla, come heralded as two of the finest places to play golf in the entire Southwest. It’s always a battle between the two here and the two at Troon North for the top spot in many rankings. The best part about being a resident is I can play all four and judge for myself. We started with the Saguaro, and I’ll be sure to loop back for the Cholla shortly. The Saguaro course is younger by a few years, having been commissioned after the Cholla course proved successful. Saguaro was designed by the elite duo of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, who have a “lay of the land” philosophy to designing the courses that has led to some world-class golf around the world. Just take a look at this resume! On top of the fantastic golf, We-Ko-Pa features some stunning desert scenery. I’d love to take my clubs and camera out for a twilight round and catch a radiant Arizona sunset over this layout. Even a morning with some rain produced some stunning photos. So stunning you might just look at the pictures and ignore all my three-putts. Continue reading We-Ko-Pa (Saguaro)

Quintero Golf Club

Quintero Golf Club in Peoria, AZ

quintero golf club hole 3
The dangerous par-4 3rd

The Stats

Tee Time: May 24, 2015, 10:46, 84 F, breezy

Designer: Rees Jones, 2000

Playing Partners: Bob, Bud and Jim

Tees: Gold/Silver Combo, Par 72 (72.0 rating/140 slope/6,655 yards)

Course Handicap: 10 (8.1 index)

Stats: 89 (43-46); 30 putts; 8/13 fairways; 3/18 greens; 3 penalty strokes

The Course

Long weekend and the need to get away from the house led me an hour northwest to the highly-recommended Quintero Golf Club. It’s a long trek from Scottsdale, especially considering there are about 300 golf courses closer than this joint in Peoria. So instead of going through the tedious process of getting someone to drive with me to check it out, I just booked it on a 3-day weekend before the heat comes in. It all worked out, and I had the pleasure of playing with Bob, Bud and John Flanagan of New Jersey. They were as Jersey as they come. Not Jersey Shore, thankfully, but more Sopranos. Fun guys, though. They had no idea the battle they were about to put themselves through. Continue reading Quintero Golf Club

SunRidge Canyon

SunRidge Canyon in Fountain Hills, AZ

sunridge canyon graig cj
CJ, Jim, Al and me

The Stats

Tee Time: March 22, 2015, 9:58, 84 F, calm

Designer: Keith Foster, 1995

Playing Partners: CJ Phelan, Al, Jim

Tees: Gold, Par 71 (70.1 rating/134 slope/6,403 yards)

Course Handicap: 9 (7.4 index)

Stats: 82 (37-45); 31 putts; 9/13 fairways; 7/18 greens; 3 penalty strokes

The Course

CJ came down for his first desert golf experience. Also, my first taste of golf since October, almost six months! (No, the 9-hole, 7-iron round doesn’t count). So after two planned days at Wildfire, to check out the LPGA, and Southern Dunes, a favorite of mine, CJ wanted more. My wallet and wrist were hurting, but who says no to more golf? Thankfully, we got a prime spot at SunRidge Canyon. If you’d been out with us, you might even notice we were golfing. We were paired up with another twosome, Jim and Al who made the day much more fun. Jim and CJ became best friends by the third hole, carrying conversations from tee to green while Al and I watched in amusement. They’d still be telling stories mid-backswing and be just fine. I was thankful for the company, because toward the end of the round, SunRidge Canyon features the “Wicked 6.” It is the selling point of this course, a tough 6-hole slog back up the canyon to finish your round. I laughed it off. I was wrong. Continue reading SunRidge Canyon

2013 in Review

Last year, my USGA index skyrocketed to embarrassing heights and I scrambled for excuses in this year end post of 2012. And then I played the same type of schedule in 2013 and dropped down to my pre-season goal of a handicap in the 8’s, finishing at an 8.8. So I guess all my logic from last year didn’t hold water. Out of about 35 rounds, at least 20 were on courses new to me and I shaved 4 strokes off anyway. Only five rounds crept into the 90’s, and two of those were in February when I only had one working wrist. But only two rounds snuck into the 70’s, one of which won me $200. So now I’ve settled into a low 80’s threat in the midst of what are supposedly my prime physical years (though at the moment I look more like the “before” pic). So then what changed?

graig mantle kierland
This awesome swing was never the problem

Continue reading 2013 in Review

TPC Scottsdale

TPC Scottsdale (Stadium) in Scottsdale, AZ

TPC Scottsdale Stadium Course
Steve, me and Mike

The Stats

Tee Time: June 23, 2013, 8:34, 102 F, Breezy

Designer: Tom Weiskopf/Jay Morrish (1986)

Playing Partners: Steve Walker, Mike

Tees: Blue, Par 71 (71.1 rating/129 slope/6,525 yards)

Course Handicap: 12 (10.9 index)

Stats: 95 (42-53); 32 putts; 7/14 fairways; 3/18 greens; 4 penalty strokes

The Course

The 16th during the Waste Management Open (see below for the look during every other weekend). Courtesy of theaposition.com/
The 16th during the Waste Management Open (see below for the look during every other weekend). Courtesy of theaposition.com.

The Stadium Course at TPC Scottsdale in Arizona is famous namely for one hole. You may have seen it before. It’s like the rodent on Groundhog Day. It comes out every February to a huge celebration, signaling the coming of spring. Only instead of hundreds of townspeople decked out in mittens and windbreakers gathering around a stage at Gobbler’s Knob to watch for Punxsutawney Phil to see his shadow, there are 20,000 sunbathing partygoers donning Rickie Fowler outfits and sun dresses, cheering for Phil Mickelson and booing Boo Weekley. It’s the 16th at the Stadium Course, and for four days each year during the Waste Management Open, this 162-yard chip shot is the most exciting shot in golf. A temporary arena with 172 skyboxes is erected for the crowd to pack in and boo every missed green, cheer for colors during the caddy races and down pints of beer during downtime. There is no other hole like it in all of golf. By mid-June things change dramatically. Patches of brown matted grass mark where the supports for the grandstands once stood and the stoic McDowell Mountains replace the shouting frat boys as the backdrop of the green. Stepping up to the tee and seeing no resemblance to this glamorous rockstar hole is striking, like seeing a porn star without makeup. Continue reading TPC Scottsdale

Apache Stronghold Golf Club

Apache Stronghold Golf Club in San Carlos, AZ

Apache Stronghold Geronimo statue
Geronimo, after his legendary skirmish with Harvey Nash, now waits to attack any golfer who dares to search for lost balls

The Stats

Tee Time: April 7, 2013, 8:00, 79 F, Light wind

Designer: Tom Doak/Jim Urbina (1999)

Playing Partners: None (it was completely empty, I finished in 122 minutes)

Tees: Warrior, Par 72 (72.1 rating/138 slope/7,007 yards)

Course Handicap: 15 (12.5 index)

Stats: 93 (50-43); 37 putts; 4/14 fairways; 4/18 greens; 3 penalty strokes

The Course

The vast expanse of desert east of Phoenix is rich with the history of Arizona’s frontier days, tales of Geronimo’s adventures and also a golf course. Keep a sharp eye out for that last one. Apache Stronghold Golf Club meanders through the lands of the San Carlos Apache tribe in Tonto National Forest, about 10 minutes east of Globe and 90 miles from downtown Phoenix. The fairways and greens mesh seamlessly with the surrounding wild grasses and sand, giving the whole course a natural look so often absent from nearby places that would have you believe lush green Bermuda grass, brilliant blue lakes and fluffy bunkers are “desert” golf. The length, design and elevation are very similar to Rochelle Ranch in Wyoming, while the rustic style and idea that the desert alone can be a worthy foe evokes memories of Southern Dunes in Maricopa. Then there are other factors that make Golfweek’s #39 Casino Course unique. Continue reading Apache Stronghold Golf Club

Scottsdale Silverado Golf Club

Silverado Golf Club in Scottsdale, AZ

graig mantle pat spomer
Pat and I

The Stats

Tee Time: March 23, 2013, 12:04, 75 F, Breezy

Designer: Ross Graves/Jack Gilmore (2000)

Playing Partners: Pat Spomer, Ray and Dwight

Tees: Gold, Par 70 (68.0 rating/116 slope/6,313 yards)

Course Handicap: 13 (12.9 index)

Stats: 82 (43-39); 29 putts; 3/12 fairways; 5/18 greens; 2 penalty strokes; 1 eagle

The Course

Scottsdale Silverado Golf Club has the benefit of being the nicest golf course in the immediate vicinity of Old Town. That being said, it isn’t on par with the other tracks that make Scottsdale a prime golf destination. There is enough here to make it memorable, however. An excellent back nine saves the place from mediocrity and challenging greens make even the most straightforward holes just a bit tougher. Unfortunately, this course skews more toward the executive style of play rather than the fantastic resort style of Talking Stick, its closest neighbor.

Continue reading Scottsdale Silverado Golf Club

Manifest Destiny

So in 2012 I got a new job, new car, moved into a new house, published a book and got a black lab puppy (which I now know can be more exhausting than a new job, new car, new house and publishing a book). Despite all that, I still managed to log over 30 rounds of golf and get to 5 new states. Now that all that craziness is over I can get around to focusing on playing better golf in 2013. I did start ’12 as an 8.5 and rocketed all the way up to a 13.2 before settling at my current 12.5. That’s not acceptable, and my new goal is to work that down to an 8.0. I’m not a man to make excuses, but if I were, they’d go something like this:

  1. Out of those 30+ rounds, only 6 were on courses I had played before. A wise man I played with at Lookout Mountain mentioned that just knowing a course can save 4-5 strokes. I agree, which is why it’s my fake excuse #1.
  2. I did get brand new irons and a new 3-wood, which took a few rounds to get adjusted to. But I do love those Cleveland TA7’s and the Taylor Made Rocketballz.
  3. I was hungover during 1 or 2 rounds, possibly.
  4. I’m pretty sure the holes at the Stadium Course in La Quinta were smaller than the specified 4-1/4″. Yeah, that’s it.
  5. Raising a puppy is exhausting.
  6. According to the Chineze Zodiac calendar, it was the Year of the Dragon. We Tigers don’t play our best golf during years of the Dragon, Rat or Rabbit. So sayeth ancient Chinese folklore (see author’s illustration below).
Pictured: The chaos of the Zodiac Chart
Pictured: The chaos of the Zodiac Chart

What about 2013 then? I still expect it to contain the required 20+ rounds of desert golf as I remain a resident of Arizona. But I still need 5 new states. I’ve got a few ideas and what my odds are of actually getting there.

Continue reading Manifest Destiny