Desert playground: Why Scottsdale’s public golf programs are one of the best within the US

Scottsdale, Arizona, has all the time been a well-liked golf trip vacation spot. No main U.S. metropolis rivals this thriving scorching spot — and by extension neighboring Phoenix — on the subject of accessible, high-quality public golf programs with ample sunshine that enables for year-round play.

Certain sufficient, summers in Arizona are extraordinarily scorching, however costs modify accordingly, typically dropping by 75% or extra and making a uncommon “in the event you can take the warmth” discount for top-quality venues.

Whether or not it’s for a enterprise journey or a non-golf household trip, Scottsdale has many optimistic attributes for these with the time and inclination to squeeze in a spherical or two.

What makes Scottsdale particular?

Distinctive desert structure


Maybe Scottsdale’s best enchantment is its Sonoran Desert ecosystem. There are many totally different deserts, from the darkish purple sands of the Australian Outback to the towering dunes of Namibia, however the Sonoran is the stuff “Highway Runner” cartoons are made from, with the distinctive “don’t shoot, my palms are up” saguaro cactus and an countless number of smaller cacti and vegetation.

It recollects the various, fantastical fantastic thing about the ocean flooring with its reef-like rock formations. A kind of cactus or bush will mirror nearly each sponge and coral you’d see diving.

The phrase desert evokes starkness, however that is nature at its most stunning, and there are solely a handful of locations, and no different main cities, the place you possibly can play nice golf within the Sonoran Desert, which extends from the Southwest down Mexico’s Baja peninsula. For that reason, your complete architectural fashion often called desert golf was invented and has flourished proper right here.

“If you happen to haven’t performed within the Arizona desert earlier than, it’s a mind-blowing expertise. You simply don’t get that surroundings anyplace else, and it’s undoubtedly one of the best setting for desert golf,” stated Robert Pedrero, founder and former writer of The Golf Insider journey publication.

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Sustainable approaches

Water was all the time scarce, so lengthy earlier than current droughts and sustainability issues, desert golf centered on a “restricted turf” strategy and minimized the footprint of water-intensive grass by planting solely the place it was wanted for tees, greens and fairway touchdown areas.

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Uncovered desert waste areas not solely enhance performance but in addition showcase the area’s magnificence. As a substitute of tee-to-green and tree-line-to-tree-line plush grass carpet discovered elsewhere, you could have islands of grass set within the desert — the place you play from one to the following — with plenty of sandy, rocky, cacti-strewn cross hazards.

The result’s typically known as “goal golf,” but it surely’s much less difficult than it sounds. Few water hazards, no forest to lose your balls in, and waste areas typically help you discover your ball and recuperate again into play. You take pleasure in eye-opening landscapes all over the place you look, as programs typically sit in valleys between boulder-strewn hillsides.

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Entry and availability

Golf programs in Scottsdale are additionally conveniently positioned and comparatively straightforward to get to, not like in lots of cities the place they lay within the suburbs — within the case of New York, one, two and even three hours from the metro space.

Even with out advance planning, you’re seemingly to have the ability to spontaneously tee off on a standout course right here, and in city areas, that’s not often the case.

It looks like a non-public membership, but it surely’s open to all

New York, San Francisco, Chicago and Los Angeles are flush with extremely rated and historic golf programs, however they’re virtually totally extremely unique non-public golf equipment that are just about inconceivable to play with out figuring out a member.

Troon North was one of many nation’s first “high-end each day payment” or “member for a day” programs, the golf business’s concept to duplicate the service and services of a non-public membership for most people. Troon grew to become a world golf administration powerhouse, and in consequence, the service ranges, course situations, clubhouses, meals, membership leases, follow ranges and all golf-related facilities have remained at a really high-quality degree within the area.


It’s regular to point out up and be handed a bit of present bag and complimentary yardage e-book, which you’d be charged $20 further for at Pebble Seashore.

Lastly, virtually all the higher golf programs in Scottsdale are at 36-hole services, so that you all the time have a alternative of two programs underneath one roof, and wherever you keep you’re prone to be near one among these.

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Bargains abound

One different factor many vacationers don’t understand is how wonderful the summer time offers are. Play programs just like the Boulders in peak season and it’s near $300 a spherical. Nearly all the highest layouts are within the $250-plus vary, however in summertime you possibly can play them for $55-$60. We’re speaking reductions over 75%, and it’s the identical for rooms, even at luxurious accommodations.

The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess often has summer time stay-and-play packages that embrace a resort room, lunch and golf for 2 for simply over 300 bucks whole, and that’s what it fees in winter only for one particular person to play golf, with no lodging or extras. There are virtually no different choices for taking part in prime programs on this nation for underneath $70.

Luckily, the height winter season is brief right here, from January to mid-April, and even spring and fall see important (roughly 35%) value reductions with wonderful climate and values in late April, Might and October to December.

The very best public golf programs in Scottsdale

Fairmont Scottsdale Princess — TPC Scottsdale


This luxurious full-service resort might be the one enterprise vacationers are almost certainly to seek out themselves at for a conference or such. Its golf membership can also be pretty centrally positioned for these staying in downtown Scottsdale.

The large deal on the Fairmont, although, is that the TPC Stadium Course is dwelling to the one most attended golf event on the earth, the WM Phoenix Open, aka “The Biggest Present on Grass.” With live shows, late-night get together tents and properly over 600,000 annual stay spectators, it’s to skilled golf what Mardi Gras is to city festivals: the most important and loudest of all of them.

Because of this, just about all golf followers have seen it on tv — and golf followers love enjoying programs they’ve seen on tv. It’s this familiarity and long-running event historical past that makes it fascinating, greater than the standard of the course itself.

As a result of it’s a Event Gamers Membership, or TPC, course, it was constructed particularly to host tournaments and accommodate numerous spectators, and the result’s a bit flat and boring. But it surely has its highlights, and the most important of those is undoubtedly the par-3 sixteenth, the one gap on the PGA Tour performed in its personal stadium, an enclosed amphitheater with stands the dimensions of a Main League Baseball discipline. It is without doubt one of the most iconic golf holes on the planet, and the place Tiger Woods as soon as famously wowed the group with a hole-in-one.

The second 18 at TPC Scottsdale is the Championship Course, even much less fascinating, and its foremost enchantment is as a summer time add-on when charges drop and bargain-priced “replay” rounds can be found for these desirous to deal with 36 in sooner or later.

The Phoenician


The following almost certainly place enterprise vacationers may discover themselves, this luxurious resort is the closet to pedestrian-friendly Outdated City Scottsdale. It is also essentially the most handy for golfers staying in Phoenix, because it sits near the border between the 2 cities.

For years The Phoenician had three nines, but it surely has completely shifted from 27 to 18 holes. The golf course is a hybrid design, a desert setting that performs extra like a parkland course, with no blind photographs, hidden hazards or scary surprises.

It’s fantastically maintained, and whereas it lacks the epic Sonoran drama many come for, it’s a enjoyable and high-quality golf expertise, welcoming and the least difficult or intimidating of all these programs. In case you are staying right here or close by it’s a simple alternative.

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We-Ko-Pa Golf Membership


Scottsdale’s 36-hole temples to abandon golf are the place the actual motion lies, and that is one of the best of one of the best. With a barely farther-flung suburban location, it is essentially the most easterly of the highest services.

We-Ko-Pa is owned by the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation and it additionally has an on-site on line casino resort, of the humbler selection, and is a bit remoted. It’s the highest-ranked Scottsdale duo by Golf Journal, and each designs — named for cactus varieties — have landed within the nation’s prime 50 public programs.

If you happen to can solely play one, the slight edge goes to Cholla, which can come as a shock to visiting golfers as a result of it’s the work of little-known architect Scott Miller; the Saguaro course was the work of acclaimed duo Invoice Coore and Ben Crenshaw, who persistently ranked among the many world’s greatest and most well-known designers. Each programs deal with strategic worth and mix one of the best of the native desert magnificence panorama with quite a few risk-reward choices.

These are programs for the considering golfer and on virtually each par 4 or par 5 you possibly can select from a number of golf equipment, teeing off with every part from low iron to fairway wooden — they’re undoubtedly not “simply seize the driving force once more” programs. They’re additionally essentially the most walkable in a area the place carts are prevalent, so in the event you wish to stroll the course, it’s one more reason to decide on We-Ko-Pa.

Each programs are distinctive, and all yr spherical We-Ko-Pa presents a 36-hole bundle to play each in sooner or later, which ranges from $600 within the peak season all the way down to $165 in the summertime.

Speaking Stick Golf Membership


Speaking Stick is one other very high-quality 36-hole and on line casino resort combo, however this one is way more centered on lodging and facilities, and the resort is top quality all the way in which, with nice eating places and leisure.

Between the lodging and programs, it’s arguably the nation’s greatest on line casino golf resort exterior Las Vegas. It is also essentially the most centrally positioned of all the standard choices — proper in the midst of Scottsdale, simply off the freeway — and simpler to get to from most lodging.

Each programs at Speaking Stick Golf Membership had been designed by Coore and Crenshaw (and they’re managed by Troon Golf) and the result’s an especially nice and constant expertise.

As a result of it’s nearer to downtown Scottsdale than the standard desert programs farther north (Grayhawk, Boulders, Troon North), the terrain is totally different. As a substitute of desert target-style golf, these flatter programs each characteristic wall-to-wall turf with virtually no timber.

In contrast to the blind photographs over rocky ridges, right here what you see is what you get and, in true Coore-Crenshaw fashion, there are numerous risk-reward decisions, however they’re extra delicate than at We-Ko-Pa and also you don’t need to be a pupil of the sport to like a spherical right here.

Nearly each gap presents a tighter driving line that pays off with a a lot simpler strategy shot. The thought is which you could make straightforward bogies by enjoying it protected off the tee and seize birdies by taking dangers. Many holes on each programs characteristic one massive and distinguished bunker within the fairway that it’s important to resolve whether or not to play in need of, over or round.

The O’odham Course is taken into account the marquee structure, however the high quality distinction is slight. Nonetheless, it’s noticeably harder, with closely bunkered greens and thicker brush surrounding the fairways. The Piipaash Course is extra scenic, assorted and enjoyable, with a few water hazards (uncommon within the space). The O’odham is totally dry.

Decrease handicappers ought to lean towards O’odham, larger handicappers Piipaash, but it surely’s higher in the event you can play each as they actually complement one another.

Grayhawk Golf Membership


One other well-known Scottsdale 36-hole facility, Grayhawk is conveniently positioned for a lot of guests, simply north of the Fairmont and its TPC Programs, and strange in that it has no related lodging.

Each its programs, Talon and Raptor, have hosted high-profile occasions, together with the Fry’s Electronics Open, received by Masters champion Mike Weir, and the Williams World Problem, received by native legend Tom Lehman. On three events, it is also performed host to the Andersen Consulting World Championship of Golf, received by Barry Lane, Greg Norman and Colin Montgomerie.

Raptor was designed by famous person architect Tom Fazio and stretches simply over 7,000 yards, with beneficiant fairways and enormous greens protected by deep greenside bunkers and water. Talon was designed by US Open and PGA Championship winner David Graham and golf architect Gary Panks, a Southwestern desert specialist. It’s identified for its massive multitiered greens, which give room for error however place a giant premium on accuracy with the intention to rating properly.

Grayhawk is among the many space’s hottest daily-fee services. These large, in-your-face programs are meant to show desert shock and awe, with creeks, ravines, elevation modifications, mountain vistas, deep pot bunkers and do-or-die heroics. There’s even an island inexperienced on Talon. When it comes to technique and architectural design, Grayhawk sits under stars We-Ko-Pa and Speaking Stick, however they’re laborious programs in a memorable and dramatic means, and just about everybody has numerous enjoyable and loves the problem of enjoying them.

4 Seasons Scottsdale, Troon North


The programs on the 4 Seasons predate the resort, and also you wouldn’t have to be a visitor at this luxurious property to play right here.

Troon North was the unique high-end public course that put administration firm Troon Golf on the map. Each programs provide frequent views of native landmark Pinnacle Peak and are visually beautiful, identified for showcasing large granite boulders and eerie rock formations with steadily elevated tee bins, and there’s a shocking quantity of elevation change.

Each programs are ranked within the prime 100 by Golf Journal. Monument was the unique course conceived by Jay Morrish and Tom Weiskopf, the design that put Scottsdale’s desert programs on the world golf radar. It’s well-known for its iconic namesake towering boulder in the midst of the third fairway.

The second course right here, Pinnacle, was not as beloved. It had an extended hole between two holes that made it unwalkable and a decade after it opened, the 2 programs had been rerouted.

As we speak, many of the two authentic entrance nines kind Monument and many of the two backs are Pinnacle, so you could have two walkable layouts of comparable high quality, and might’t go flawed. Golf Journal truly ranked the brand new Pinnacle larger, however most visiting golfers can not resist the possibility to deal with Monument’s photogenic signature gap.

The Boulders Resort & Spa Scottsdale


One in all Scottsdale’s northern suburbs is aptly named Carefree, dwelling to one of many area’s longest-running luxurious resorts, the 1,300-acre Boulders Resort & Spa, a Hilton Curio Assortment resort.

The resort obtained a large, multimillion-dollar renovation in 2017, and the golf programs had been improved to the tune of $4 million in 2022, with all new greens, bunkers and cart paths.

Curiously, one new addition is an elective caddie program, uncommon within the area and enjoyable if in case you have by no means performed caddie golf earlier than.

As its identify suggests, The Boulders embraces its rocky, rugged desert setting, and all lodging is in irregularly formed freestanding adobe casitas that appear like they had been dropped in from “The Flintstones.”

The Boulders Golf Membership is without doubt one of the farthest from the town heart and infrequently ignored by guests not staying right here, however shouldn’t be missed. The North and South programs are classics of Sonoran Desert golf, each by an architect very skilled within the style, Jay Morrish. Even earlier than the current facelift, they had been identified for his or her stunning, strategic designs, which had been extraordinarily properly maintained and featured beautiful greens.

It is robust to decide on between them. Each showcase 12-million-year-old rock formations, with towering stacks of boulders set behind greens to border strategy photographs. Boulders North is usually given a slight edge, and whereas the South is a bit of bit shorter, it has extra water hazards, and they’re each difficult. The resort additionally has a standout follow facility.

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