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
After a great week at the Major League All-Star festivities (I wonder how far Giancarlo Stanton could hit a driver), there was just one last thing to do before heading back to the dry desert. That would be getting an early-morning round in at Southern California’s top golf resort, Aviara Golf Club, home of the LPGA Kia Classic. This course must look amazing during the TV coverage, with pristine lakes and scenic waterfall features throughout. I’ll make sure to catch it next spring.
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.
All I can say after that round is thank goodness I scheduled this course to be last up on the Vegas Trip. Because the Lexington Course at The Revere Golf Club is brutal and will test your resolve. I don’t think any of us brought that A-game this Sunday morning and it ate us all up. I know I’ll need a few days to recover after this shellacking. The best comparison for this course is the pair of 5-star tracks at Troon North in Arizona. Extreme target golf, unplayable desert just yards from the fairway and difficult greens mean a blowup hole is always one poor tee shot away. But ignoring the scorecard, this spot in the hills of Henderson, Nevada south of Las Vegas offers an unforgettable experience. Views of the valley below are abundant and seeing your ball soar above the Vegas skyline is a rush. The course itself is beautiful and very well maintained (still have yet to find a Troon managed course that isn’t in perfect condition). While the first takeaway after a round here is the difficulty, Lexington will test every aspect of your game, from hitting draws and fades off the tee to course management and even deciding whether to fly it on to the green or run it up. It is as exhausting mentally as it is physically. Continue reading The Revere Golf Club→
With all the mounds, hazards and nasty desert conditions of Arizona golf, Ocotillo Golf Resort is a welcome change of pace from the other high-end tracks in the valley. Feeling more like it belongs in the Grapefruit League than the Cactus League, water, palm trees and bermuda grass define this course. There are three 9’s to choose from, the Gold, Blue and White. The White played easier than the Blue, which are the two courses we played. Just eyeballing the scorecard looks like the Gold holes might be the toughest of the 3. Bring at least three sleeves of golf balls, I would recommend. I lost 6, but also I’m not very good. You might have better luck. Continue reading Ocotillo Golf Resort→
The Boulders, a top 100 public golf course according to Golf Magazine, presents everything great about Arizona golf. Desert scenery (the version with soaring saguaros, wind-rounded rocks and colorful mesas, not the barren expanses of badlands only Les Stroud would enjoy), exciting target golf and numerous complimentary amenities. Set in the upper elevation of Carefree, about 45 minutes north of the Phoenix of airport, the whole course is secluded among the hills and winds throughout the villas and homes at The Boulders Resort, a Waldorf Astoria property. While nothing has yet matched the awesomeness of Troon North, The Boulders is very similar, like a Troon North for higher handicappers. Misses are not as devastating, the greens are easier to read and the fairways don’t roll balls into desert rock. That being said, the Boulders is a course that needs to be played smart, as I discovered after a great tee shot on the par-5 5th hole that left 240 yards to the green. It turned out ignoring the way the landing area to the green narrowed like the center of an hourglass brings ol’ #7 back onto the scorecard. This is one of several examples where the risks do not outweigh the potential glory of eagles. Continue reading The Boulders→
I’ve been an Arizona resident for about 9 months, and had never really found a reason to go to Maricopa. Now I’ll definitely be going back and hopefully soon, thanks to Ak-Chin Southern Dunes Golf Club. I finally got to put my Troon Golf Card to use on this blistering hot day in Arizona (as opposed to all those cool summer days the state’s known for). I’ll get the round details out of the way early because I could go on about them all day. It started on the driving range. At the end of a quick ten-swing warmup I had a sand wedge in my hands and the ball cart closing in. I hit a perfect sixty-yard pitch that was tracking right into the windshield. I stood there admiring my shot like Jose Bautista taking in one of his long home runs. Twenty feet, fifteen feet, ten feet, five feet… And then nothing. The driver swerved at the last minute (apparently they’re picking up balls with Mini Coopers out there) and my ball fell harmlessly to the grass. I raised my hands in disappointment and saluted the driver for his evasive maneuvers. He smiled and laughed. I was a cart boy for a couple years and I remember golf balls rattling the steel cage of the cart that made it sound like World War III had just erupted on the Round Hill driving range. But I wasn’t letting him get away with that. He was driving away when I swung at one last ball with him about 80 yards out. Like a perfectly led wide receiver streaking down the sideline, my ball floated through the air and smacked the top of the cart roof a hundred yards away. If only I could snipe like that on the ice rink… Continue reading Ak-Chin Southern Dunes Golf Club→
The Palmer Course La Cantera in San Antonio, TX is an exciting one. It features massive elevation changes and stunning views of the resort as well as the San Antonio skyline off in the distance. Along with its sister Resort Course that once played host to the PGA Tour’s Valero Open, La Cantera is ranked one of the best resorts in the country. I will preface this by saying that my score looks schizophrenic for a reason. It was hot and even the wind was burning and I was largely hungover, so the first nine holes was just spent trying to keep triple-digits from my final score as Greg Ryan and his 33 strokes raced out to a large lead in his eventual 4&3 win. There, I’ve made my excuses. Next time I play in heat like this I will wish to see real snowmen, not the two I put on my card. Continue reading The Palmer Course at La Cantera Golf Club→
Troon North Golf Club’s Monument Course in Scottsdale, AZ is well deserving of its spot at #45 on Golf Digest’s 2010 Top Courses You Can Play list. Due to budgetary reasons, I booked this tee time for the middle of August, during the hottest time of the year in one of the hottest deserts on the planet. Still, even though the sweating started before the clubs were on the cart I enjoyed every second on this course. The practice areas were top tier; the putting green rolled so smooth I came away thinking it would be an easy day after draining a few 20-footers. I came prepared. A solid pre-round meal, plenty of SPF-50, new Adidas clima-cool shirt, comfy Dri-Fit socks and over 120 fluid ounces of Gatorade and water meant the heat would not be as daunting as the triple-digits appeared. Then I teed off. Continue reading Troon North Golf Club – Monument Course→
I set a goal in 2011 of playing at least one round of golf in all 50 states by 2021. This is a quest to play some of America’s finest courses in every state, even the flyover ones…