Arizona boasts more than 300 golf courses, and the Valley offers roughly 200 tracks. This panoply of venues provides low and high handicappers alike the opportunity to experience some of the country’s finest collection of fairways, greens and 19th holes.
In that spirit, The Entertainer! takes readers on a tour of the 18 finest golf holes as picked from Golfweek’s roster of the Best Courses You Can Play in Arizona.
Tee it up!
Front 9: Par 36
- We-Ko-Pa (Saguaro), Fort McDowell
This Bill Coore/and two-time Masters Champion, Ben Crenshaw design stuns with beauty and challenges players to think their way through each hole. One of two 18-hole venues at We-Ko-Pa (Cholla the other), Saguaro tests a player’s imagination and provides free-flowing fairway contours set against the rugged desert landscape. The course’s Par 4s are works of art, perhaps none better than the 13th hole, a left-to-right shape with a perfectly situated front greenside bunker to collect the errant approach.
- Quintero GC, Peoria
This fabulous layout designed by distinguished architect Rees Jones displays all of the characteristics of a championship course: length where needed, driving options, demanding approach shots, subtle green complexes and short game artistry. The best hole and most challenging, the Par 4 third hole creates stress on the tee shot with water down the left side of the fairway. Next, the approach requires a forced carry over desert to a well-protected green.
- Ritz-Carlton Golf Club at Dove Mountain (Saguaro/Tortolita), Marana
The club boasts three nine holes tracks designed by the Golden Bear, Jack Nicklaus—Saguaro/Tortolita/Wild Burro. Players are able to experience three distinct 18-hole rounds. Hole one on Tortolita, a Par 4, forces players to get their round going quickly as the long hole demands a quality opening tee shot and a carry over a desert wash to reach the rectangular-shaped green.
- Wickenburg Ranch, Wickenburg
The hour-plus drive from Phoenix to Wickenburg Ranch is worth the time. Big Wick, designed by Bill Brownlee and Wendell Pickett, is a treat to play with immaculate course conditions. The Par 4 16th hole, Vulture, will test players coming down the stretch hoping to beat their personal best score. A demanding tee shot, and equally tough approach, must be executed to record a Par on this arduous hole.
- TPC Scottsdale (Stadium), Scottsdale
Home of the Waste Management Phoenix Open, this exquisite Tournament Players Club track designed by 1973 Open champion, Tom Weiskopf, brings thrills to patrons on the closing stretch of the back 9. Take your shot at glory where tour pros have walked. While you won’t have thousands of screaming fans cheering or booing your efforts on the Par 3 16th hole, you will feel the surge of adrenaline as you try to stick your Titleist close!
- Ak-Chin Southern Dunes, Maricopa
An Ak-Chin Indian Community offering, the Southern Dunes course brings the design talents of Lee Schmidt, Brian Curley and PGA Champions legend, Fred Couples. Aptly named Trickster, the short Par 4 third hole requires precision off the tee, and into a small green well protected by a massive front bunker.
- Troon North (Monument), Scottsdale
Both of Troon North’s courses—Monument and Pinnacle—receive high ratings from players and golf publications. Designed by Tom Weiskopf, the Monument track’s Par 5 third hole requires the player to navigate an enormous boulder directly in the middle of the fairway, which plays into your position off the tee, as well as affecting your lay-up options.
- We-Ko-Pa (Cholla), Fort McDowell
Designed by Scott Miller, the Cholla layout stands in contrast to Saguaro with a more traditional, target, desert, shot making feel. The Par 5 10th hole stands out with a tough tee shot followed by the need for a solid lay-up, and precise short iron to a tough green flanked by two left bunkers.
- Troon North (Pinnacle), Scottsdale
Weiskopf’s second masterpiece at Troon North, Pinnacle, is a sight for the eyes and a difficult test for players of all skill levels. As Par 3s go, you can’t do much better than 16, a tough tee shot to a small green (aptly named Postcard) blanketed by bunkers with a carry over water.
Back 9: Par 35
- Ventana Canyon (Mountain), Tucson
Players can explore two Tom Fazio designs—Mountain and Canyon—at the Lodge at Ventana Canyon. The course professionals boast the Par 3 third hole as the course’s signature, and I will not argue. Stretching only 107 yards from the tips, the green is tucked into a rocky canyon, and hitting the target necessitates a carry over a swath of desert cactus. A truly gorgeous hole with a brilliant design.
- Verrado GC, Buckeye
John Fought and PGA Champions star Tom Lehman crafted the Founder’s Course, a feast for the eyes with the White Tank Mountains as a backdrop. The golf is equally impressive with the Par 4 ninth hole requiring a solid tee shot, followed by a crisp short iron with water on the right to catch any slight push.
- Boulders Resort (North), Carefree
With 36 holes (North and South courses) Boulders, designed by Jay Morrish, provides an exciting test of ball striking and strategy. Take hole three, a Par 5 requiring a well struck tee shot to avoid fairway bunkers on the right; a finely positioned lay-up to the player’s perfect distance, and lastly a precision short iron over water to set up a birdie putt.
- Sewailo GC, Casino del Sol, Tucson
PGA Tour player and now commentator Notah Begay III, along with Ty Butler, crafted a gem on Pascua Yaqui Indian lands. Hole three, only a 155-yard Par 3 from the tips, will have players trembling on the box, as the tee ball must carry water to land on the putting surface. Short, left or right and a Titleist finds a watery grave.
- Laughlin Ranch, Bullhead City
A David Druzisky design, hole two, a short Par 4, requires a tee shot over the corner of the desert, and as the hole is named Ascent, an upward approach to a tough to hit green complex. A Par is no sure thing on this deceiving, sub 300-yard challenge.
- Boulders Resort (South), Carefree
The South Course’s 13th hole, a medium-length Par 4 requires a center-cut tee ball followed by a forced carry over desert, to a well-guarded green with bunkering left and right. Consistent shot making at the Boulders is a necessity for good scoring.
- Apache Stronghold, San Carlos
Famed architect Tom Doak is the brains behind this desert masterpiece. Hole 12, a Par 3 playing 239 yards from the tips, is a monster and it demands an impressive tee ball to find and hold the putting surface. Walk off with a 3 and you have bragging rights with your playing partners on the 13th tee.
- Grayhawk (Raptor), Scottsdale
One of two courses at Grayhawk, the Raptor designed by Tom Fazio, boasts a plethora of phenomenal holes, the finest the 18th, a Par 5 reachable in two shots, but only with a splendid tee ball, and subsequently a perfect laser second shot off a downhill lie to a green, bordered by water on the right and bunkering left. An Eagle 3, or Birdie 4 for that matter, is quite an accomplishment on final hole of the Raptor.
- Talking Stick (North-O’odham), Scottsdale
Another gem from Coore/Crenshaw, which tests a player’s ability to pick site lines and execute quality shots. The best hole, 12, a split fairway Par 4 that provides options on the tee shot and precision for the fairway approach to a small protected green. You’re sure to want to play this hole twice to appreciate its optionality and intelligent design.
Missed the Cut:
- Grayhawk (Talon), Scottsdale
- La Paloma GC (Ridge/Canyon), Tucson
- Gold Canyon Golf Resort (Dinosaur Mountain), Gold Canyon
- Papago Municipal Golf Course, Phoenix
- SunRidge Canyon Fountain Hills
- Victory at Verrado, Buckeye
- Los Caballeros Golf Club, Wickenburg
- Kierland GC, Scottsdale
- Camelback GC (Ambiente), Scottsdale
- Wigwam Golf Club (Gold), Litchfield Park
- Ventana Canyon (Canyon), Tucson
- Wildfire at Desert Ridge (Faldo Course), Phoenix
Every player has a favorite hole on the tracks they play. Agree or disagree on these choices, but at the very least, head out and enjoy these terrific Arizona venues.