What are the “Best” courses in Arizona? If I had a nickel for every time I’m asked this question…,
In The Valley, which is the sprawling Phoenix and Scottsdale metro area of 2,000+ square miles, you’ll find over 300 courses. Add to that several hundred more courses in the rest of the State and you can begin to understand the challenge of answering the (seemingly) simple question… What are the “Best” courses in Arizona?
North Scottsdale is home to some of the most widely known courses in Arizona like TPC Scottsdale, Grayhawk, Troon North, and The Boulders. These courses, along with the many others in the area offer some of the best “desert style” golf in the State.
TPC Scottsdale – Stadium Course and Champions Course
The course is most famous for it’s par-3, 16th hole that transforms into “The Coliseum” during the Waste Management Phoenix Open and provides fans with one of the most exciting settings in professional sports. Throughout the rest of the course, players will find an ideally balanced layout that blends challenge and playability while appealing to all levels of ability.
The Champions course was crafted to balance strategy with design, so as not to favor any one type of play. Each hole can be played a multitude of ways – providing golfers of all skill levels with a challenging experience that can be significantly different each time they play. A quartet of challenging finishing holes adds an acclaimed ending stretch that promises to leave even the best players with goose bumps.
Grayhawk Golf Club – Talon and Raptor Courses
Home of two of Scottsdale’s premier golf courses, Grayhawk Golf Club is not to be missed. The Talon Course provides breathtaking views of the nearby McDowell Mountains as well as the Phoenix/Scottsdale skyline. And uniquely, Talon’s back nine was built around a series of deep box canyons with a handful of holes skirting steep drop-offs and thick stands of Mesquite, Palo Verde and Ironwood trees.
The Raptor course is generally considered to be one of the finest daily-fee golf courses in Arizona and is listed among the “Best Public Golf Courses in Arizona” by Golf Magazine. No stranger to professional golf events, Raptor was the host site of the 2007-2009 Frys.com Open, a Fall Series PGA Tour event. Other events held on Raptor since opening in 1995 include the inaugural Williams World Challenge; the semi-finals and finals of the Andersen Consulting World Championship of Golf; Tommy Bahama’s Desert Marlin; AJGA Thunderbird International Junior and Waste Management Phoenix Open Pro Ams.
Troon North Golf Club – Monument and Pinnacle Courses
Troon North Golf Club offers two 18-hole courses that meander through the natural ravines and foothills in the shadows of Pinnacle Peak. Giant granite boulders lie strewn across the rugged landscape of Arizona’s Sonoran Desert, where Troon North Golf Club combines iconic golf with the visual sensation of desert landscape, providing a standard unmatched in the American Southwest.
Troon North’s Monument and Pinnacle courses consistently rank at the top of every golfer’s must-play list. Recent course renovations by original designer and British Open Champion Tom Weiskopf have created two new layouts that bring his original concept to life. Golfers in search of the classic desert golf experience are returning to Troon North Golf Club again and again to enjoy Weiskopf’s true vision. Whether you’re playing for the first time or a regular at Troon North, these two Scottsdale courses in sunny Arizona offer golf connoisseurs the best in desert golf!
The Boulders – North and South Courses
On both the North and the South Courses, experience challenging play on the sun-splashed terrain of The Boulders Golf Club, where you’ll test your handicap on award-winning, Jay Morrish-designed courses that stretch across an enchanting desert landscape and are listed among the finest in the United States.
Other “must-play” courses in the area are Quintero, WeKoPa, and Rancho Mañana. And, just south, you’ll find Gold Canyon’s Dinosaur Mountain, which is well worth the drive. These courses may not have the worldly fame of the above courses (they might soon!), but they are definitely on par in playability, enjoyment, and challenge!
Quintero Golf Club
Rees Jones has taken a pristine piece of lush Arizona desert and created Quintero Golf Club, often described as the “Purest Golf Experience” in the Southwest.
Created in the tradition of some of the world’s most renowned golf courses, Quintero’s focus is to provide members and their guests with the finest playing surfaces, warm personal hospitality and the ultimate challenge for their individual games.
We-Ko-Pa Golf Club – Cholla and Saguaro Courses
We-Ko-Pa’s two championship courses, Cholla and Saguaro, have much in common – both are meticulously maintained, both have received high praise from the golf media and consumers alike, and both offer a tranquil golf experience free of houses and roads, thus preserving the unobstructed mountain views of the Sonoran Desert. That is where the similarities end.
The Cholla course is recognized as the reference course for the quintessential target style desert golf course. Whereas, the Saguaro course was designed as a more traditional style golf course where greens are close to tees, ideal for walking, and the course follows the natural movement of the land.
Rancho Mañana Golf Club (Cave Creek – North Scottsdale)
Rancho Mañana Golf Club, located in the heart of the Sonoran Desert in historic Cave Creek, Arizona, features a Scottsdale area par 70, championship course with dramatic elevation changes and unspoiled desert terrain. Our stunning, high desert course invites you to match your skills against nature while enjoying the unparalleled and unforgettable surrounding desert. It’s where Mother Nature plays!
Gold Canyon – Dinosaur Mountain
Located at the base of the Superstition Mountains just south of The Valley, you’ll find the small town of Gold Canyon, home of Gold Canyon Golf Resort and Dinosaur Mountain Golf Course. Dinosaur Mountain has consistently been rated one of the best courses to play in Arizona for several years running! The course meanders around its namesake – Dinosaur Mountain, which treats you to lots of elevation changes and majestic views throughout your round. Tricky greens and fairways challenge the golfer to bring their “A” game to this course! While shorter than most courses in yardage, don’t be fooled – the par 3’s can be brutal. Also, if you are lucky enough to get paired with a local, be sure to ask them to share “local knowledge”, which will take several strokes off your round!
If you’re willing to venture out of The Valley, both Tucson (south) and Sedona (north) offer some spectacular choices. Down South in Tucson, you will be rewarded with several outstanding courses to add to your golf vacation. Most notably, these include Ventana Canyon, Dove Mountain, and Arizona National.
Up north in Sedona, you’ll find some of the most beautiful scenery in the State, which is a combination of the higher elevations, the giant red rock formations, and the beautiful, green forests surrounding the area. Here are some “best” courses to play in both Tucson and Sedona.
The Lodge at Ventana Canyon – Mountain and Canyon Courses
Winding through the canyons and arroyos of this fabulous 600-acre high Sonoran Desert preserve are the two spectacular Tom Fazio-designed championship golf courses that are on every list of the nations very best. The golf experience at Ventana Canyon offers a unique blend of challenge and playability. Both the Mountain and the Canyon courses meander from one unique hole to another. Four sets of tees allow each player to test his or her ability on a well-marked and manicured course. A classic desert-style, target course, the Mountain course has many changes in elevation and several elevated tees. Home of the “most photographed hole west of the Mississippi” is the Mountains’ 3rd hole Par 3. Putting is a challenge because the greens are undulating and typically fast. The Canyon Golf Course winds through the inspiring beauty of Esperro Canyon and incorporates the massive rock formation known as Whaleback Rock.
Golf Club at Dove Mountain – Saguaro, Tortolita, and Wild Burro Courses (27 Holes)
Nestled in the high Sonoran Desert against the Tortolita Mountains, this Jack Nicklaus 27 hole property (Saguaro, Tortolita & Wild Burro) offers unique challenges and a distinct character, blending naturally among noble saguaros and the surrounding Tortolita Mountain Range. Host to the Accenture Match Play Championship, this luxury golf resort has elevations ranging from 2,300 to 3,200 feet to challenge even the most seasoned pro. Enjoy executing the same golf shots that require the imagination and creativity from the world’s leading champions at this breathtaking resort. Nicklaus purposefully designed this luxury golf course to be challenging yet enjoyable to play time and time again.
Arizona National Golf Club
Arizona National is desert golf at its finest. Designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr., the golf course meanders among the foothills of Tucson`s beautiful Santa Catalina Mountains as it follows the rugged natural flow of the land across shady mesquite-lined arroyos and skirts craggy rock outcroppings. The classic golf-in-the-desert challenges you to test the very limits of your ability. As compensation for the challenge, you`ll also get to enjoy some of the most spectacular scenery of any golf course in the Southwest, including panoramic mountain vistas, forests of giant saguaros, and the rare beauty of nine natural springs.
Seven Canyons (Sedona)
Designed by PGA legend and renowned golf course architect Tom Weiskopf, the Seven Canyons golf course is set in the heart of Sedona, surrounded by towering red rock formations and ancient ponderosa pines. And with classic-style bunkering and varying elevations, the course was designed for pure enjoyment and to be every bit as challenging as it is breathtaking.
Seven Canyons Golf Resort is associated with the luxurious Enchantment Resort and Mii Amo Spa. To enjoy the ultimate golf vacation retreat, enjoy your room at Enchantment and one of the many spa services at the Spa.
Finally, we have a few more courses to entice you to visit our great State. These courses are a sampling of the “Hidden Gems” in Arizona. They’re fun and unique, each with their own personality!
Tubac Golf Resort (South of Tucson)
Made famous by Kevin Costner’s 1996 movie “Tin Cup,” Tubac is one of southern Arizona’s finest golf resorts and spas. Sporting a more traditional style course, Tubac Golf Resort offers three nines and four tee boxes at each hole, giving new and interesting shots that will keep you coming back for more. With wide green fairways bordered by stately old growth cottonwoods and mesquites, you have room to maneuver. This is a golf experience you will enjoy again and again as well as being convenient to Tubac Presidio State Historical Park, Tumacacori National Park, and Madera Canyon.
SunRidge Canyon (Fountain Hills – just east of Scottsdale)
SunRidge Canyon’s 6,823-yard, par-71, Keith Foster-designed golf course unfolds around the rugged ridges and shady canyons unique to the desert mountains that divide Fountain Hills from Scottsdale, Arizona. This golf course gradually descends on the way out before doubling back to climb up the slope on the way in. This subtle elevation change lies at the heart of the dramatic golf experience at SunRidge Canyon. The last 6 holes present the golfer with a unique challenge – better known as “The Wicked Six” – an experience not to be missed!
Las Sendas (North Mesa – south of Scottsdale)
Las Sendas offers a world class layout that provides, “A golf experience to remember for a lifetime.”. In 1995, Robert Trent Jones Jr. made his Arizona debut joining an elite list of world class architects who have left their mark in the desert southwest with the opening of Las Sendas Golf Club.
A demanding desert-style layout winding through the Usery Mountains in eastern Mesa, this upscale course is setting the standard for customer service in the Mesa, Scottsdale, and Greater Phoenix areas. Las Sendas’ spectacular views of the Phoenix metropolis and skyline help soften the demand of managing your game through the rugged terrain, nearly 1800 feet above the desert floor. This course has a reputation of humbling even the most veteran golfer!
Trilogy Golf Club at Vistancia – “Best in the West”
Crafted by renowned golf course architect Gary Panks, the championship design at the daily fee Trilogy Golf Club draws upon distinctive land features and a backdrop of stunning Arizona scenery to result in a truly extraordinary setting. Trilogy Golf Club at Vistancia is honored to have recently been recognized by Golf Digest with their highest possible rating: 5 Out Of 5 Stars. Trilogy was the only golf course in Arizona given this designation, and only 24 courses received it nationwide, including Bethpage Black, Pebble Beach, Bandon Dunes, TPC Sawgrass, and Spyglass Hill.
With more than 70 pronounced and transitional bunkers that feed gently into the golf course’s fairways and native areas, Trilogy Golf Club at Vistancia highly rewards careful planning and precise execution by the golfer. There are five different tee boxes from which to choose on this unique 18-hole, par 72-championship golf course. Tees range from 5,573 yards to 7,259 yards, allowing players of every skill level to enjoy this exceptional test of golf.
SO, which courses do you pick as the “Best” in Arizona? On any given day, I have my favorites. But then I go play another course, which undoubtedly jumps to the top of the list! With a grain of salt, I offer the following suggestions to our fellow golfer’s coming to Arizona for a perfect golf vacation.
For a golfer’s first visit to the Valley, I would recommend TPC Scottsdale – Stadium Course (for the experience), Troon North – Monument Course, Quintero Golf Club, Grayhawk – Raptor Course, and Gold Canyon’s Dinosaur Mountain.
For a Tucson destination, I would definitely include Ventana Canyon – Mountain Course (also the Canyon course if you have the time), Golf Club at Dove Mountain – Saguaro and Tortolito Courses, and Arizona National. If time permits, spend a day or two down south at Tubac Golf Resort for a “Spanish Mission” all around experience.
At least once, take the time to leave life behind and enjoy Sedona at it’s best. Stay at The Enchantment Resort and play Seven Canyons Golf Club. After golf, enjoy a massage at Mii Amo Spa – then do it all again the next day! Of course, if you have more time, be sure to visit the nearby Grand Canyon for a once in a lifetime experience!