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
Tee Time: December 9, 2012, 9:55, 68 F, Light Wind
Designer: Scott Miller (1996)
Playing Partners: Steve Walker, Rick and Ingrid (Calgary couple)
Tees: Ironwood/Acacia Gold, Par 72 (69.3 rating/122 slope/6,337 yards)
Course Handicap: 14 (12.7 index)
Stats: 90 (48-42)
Well I originally had no plans to write a review of Kierland Golf Club at the Westin in Scottsdale. Nothing against them, I’ve just logged a lot of rounds and written many words already in 2012. I figured I’d go enjoy a nice round of golf at a course I’d heard good things about and relax after a month of moving, sickness and puppy chaos. I didn’t even bother bringing a camera (these are cell phone shots, I apologize for the poor quality). Around the fifth hole of the round, beginning on the Acacia nine, it hit me that this golf course stands up there as one of the prettiest in the state. A resort course that winds through homes and office buildings near Frank Lloyd Wright Boulevard, the scenery is nothing stunning like that of Troon or Eagle Mountain, but from inside the ropes it rivals any I’ve played lately. It’s a team effort, too. This eye candy is partially thanks to the smooth layout, partially the large resort building that dominates landscape and partially the always-excellent Troon greenskeeping. This is the 10th Troon managed golf course I’ve played and I have yet to find even one blade of grass out of place. Even overseeding can’t put a damper on things. Whether it’s 110-degrees of Arizona summer or a frigid Utah morning in Heber, the one constant I’ve noticed throughout all this traveling is that Troon always offers pristine conditions and friendly staff. If you can’t have fun playing golf at their facilities, then maybe golf isn’t for you.