By Josephine Matyas
From the mystical red rocks of Sedona down to the famed fairways in Phoenix’s Valley of the Sun, and on to the ponderosa pine lined greens at Williams, Arizona boasts more than 300 golf courses, each with its own unique terrain and challenges. With a climate to be envied – yes, year round play is the reality – golf is never out of season in Arizona.
Two-thirds of the courses are concentrated in the metropolitan Phoenix area (and most of the rest in the south part of the state, near Tucson) but the more out-of-the-way parts of the state still boast endless sunshine and drop-dead gorgeous scenery, along with the bonus of affordable play, special packages and getaways designed especially for golfers.
Want to point your clients to some top-notch tee off spots? Arizona has something to suit every skill level, budget and landscape preference
Tucson & Southern AZ
The Tubac Golf Resort & Spa boasts a 27-hole championship course designed by renowned golf course architects Robert “Red” Lawrence and Ken Kavanaugh. Many of the scenes in Kevin Costner’s move Tin Cup were filmed here. Top-notch practice facilities include a full-length driving range, putting green, pitching hole and bunker facility. Three Class A PGA professionals on staff provide individual and clinic instruction for everyone from novices to budding amateurs.
Designed by Arnold Palmer, Mesa del Sol Golf Club near Yuma features 18 championship holes of golf in a picturesque desert setting. A recently upgraded clubhouse, full practice facility with four putting greens and professional golf instruction, plus rock bottom green fees make this an affordable and memorable experience.
Selected as one of Golf Digest’s “75 Best Golf Resorts in North America” the Omni Tucson National Resort overlooking the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains has hosted countless PGA Tour and NCAA events at two distinctly different 18-hole courses (the PGA pros rank the last hole as one of the most challenging finishing holes on the tour). The new desert-style target course designed by Tom Lehman combines native desert vegetation with strategic fairway bunkering. Players can approach each hole in a variety of ways, keeping the course challenging and unique with each new round.
The municipal Tucson course at the Fred Enke Golf Course is known for its hilly terrain (golf carts recommended), vast teeing areas, large greens, strategic bunkers and sand traps. With its semi-arid, limited turf design, grass is used only on the tees, ball landing area, and greens, with undisturbed native plants comprising the remainder of the landscaping.
Players can custom build golf getaways at the Mountain and Canyon courses of The Lodge at Ventana Canyon. Designed by world-renowned golf architect Tom Fazio, these unique resort courses are surrounded by lush, native Sonoran desert vegetation and spotted with majestic saguaro cacti. The changes in elevation and large rolling greens of these award-winning courses create exciting challenges for even the most experienced golfer.
The JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort & Spa offers packages that combine golf at their three award-winning courses, with fine dining and spa. The luxury property is surrounded by a forest of saguaro cacti in Tucson Mountain Park. The resort’s three nine-hole courses (Rattler, Coyote and Roadrunner) each have their own driving range and putting green, equipment rentals and lessons.
Phoenix – Valley Of The Sun
Just minutes from Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, the Whirlwind Golf Course at the AAA Four Diamond Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort boasts turfed areas, along with desert landscape of cottonwood, mesquite, saguaro, native grasses and rolling terrain. The two courses (Devil’s Claw and Cattail – both managed by world famous Troon Golf) feature gradual elevation changes, great bunker designs and multi-tiered greens developed to challenge golfers of all skill levels. Whirlwind is home to the PGA’s Nationwide Insurance Tour, Gila River Golf Classic held every year in October.
Ranked Number One in the state by Golfweek the Talking Stick Golf Club, located on and owned by the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community near Scottsdale, offers two uniquely different golf courses in an uninterrupted desert setting with spectacular vistas of the distant mountains. From links style adventure through the grasslands and ingenious bunkering on the North Course to a traditional style of play on the tree-lined fairways of the South Course, there are play options for golfers of all skill levels. Those who want to improve their game can sign up for the Sunday afternoon two-hour clinic, an in-depth look at all aspects of the short game. Multi-day Golf School packages combine a stay at the resort and training at the academy.
The Championship Golf Package at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess includes green fees at some of Arizona’s best courses including the TPC Stadium Course (home to the PGA Tour’s WM Phoenix Open), the TPC Scottsdale Champions Course and Tom Fazio’s challenging links at Grayhawk. Packages are available year-round and include accommodation at the Fairmont resort, transportation to and from the course, golf fees, use of the practice facility and the services of the resort’s golf concierge.
Papago Golf Course is considered one of the finest municipal golf courses in the United States. A very popular and affordable course, it is home to the Phoenix Open Qualifying. The historic course was redesigned less than two years ago, adding yardage, a new irrigation system, improved greens, fairways, bunkers and tee boxes.
The Golf Academy at The Boulders Resort in Scottsdale combines professional instruction with play on the resort’s award-winning courses. There’s a full range of options, from one day with the pro (to tune up your swing and short game) to the complete three-day golf school with digital video analysis, and personalized full swing diagnosis and correction. All this on the two championship-level, Jay Morrish-designed courses, listed among the finest in the United States.
Guests of Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North enjoy special privileges at both The Pinnacle and The Monument championship golf courses at Troon North Golf Club, the birthplace and flagship property of Troon Golf. Known for its eye-popping scenery, the course’s elevated tees offer breathtaking views in every direction. The ball-flight simulator at the club’s Callaway Golf Performance Center provides instant feedback on every swing, allowing players to elevate their play using the same advanced technology used by the pros.
Golf at The Wigwam Golf Resort & Spa, west of Phoenix, is a truly classic experience. Established in the 1930s, Wigwam is among the Southwest’s last remaining golf resorts built for a pure golf experience featuring canals, streams and lakes and majestic parkland trees. The Wigwam’s three 18-hole courses include 54 holes of championship golf on two courses designed by the legendary Robert Trent Jones, Sr, and each offers a unique challenge.
There’s plenty of Western soul in sleepy Wickenburg, a town of cowboys and ranches just 90 minutes from Phoenix. The semi-private club at Los Caballeros Golf Club is one of the top five rated courses in the Phoenix area and one of the top 100 courses in the country (the course recently underwent a $2.2 million renovation). Set at the foot of the scenic Bradshaw Mountains, this traditional championship desert course offers beautiful driving ranges in rolling terrain, putting greens, and a short game practice area.
Golf Digest calls the Emerald Canyon Golf Course overlooking the Colorado River at Parker as the “best bargain in Arizona.” The neighbouring Blue Water Resort & Casino offers “play all day and play all night” golf packages that combine green fees and cart on the 18-hole par 72 championship course (package guests receive preferred tee times) with luxury overnight stays and casino access.
Near Lake Havasu City, affordable play is found at The Courses at London Bridge Golf Club where memberships can range from unlimited golf to twilight golf to monthly passes on their two courses. Players have a view of the famous London Bridge (transplanted here in the late 1960s), Lake Havasu and the surrounding high desert.
The Alpine Country Club is built at an elevation of 2,500 metres (the highest golf course in the Southwest) with many scenic vistas in an area nicknamed the “Alps” of Arizona. The elevation and breezes create the coolest summer golfing in the state. Alpine’s course fairways are surrounded by dense groves of aspen trees, blue spruce and ponderosa pines, and the majority of greens are small and fast.
Open to the public, the Continental Country Club Golf Course in Flagstaff is an interesting mix of narrow undulating tree-lined fairways and more open meadow-like holes, with moderate to fast greens. The pros on staff teach all levels from individual to small group classes, as well as regular clinics.
Several hotels in the Lake Powell area offer “stay and play” packages at the Lake Powell National Golf Course in Page. The 18-hole championship course sits on a high mesa with stunning vistas of the Vermillion Cliffs, Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell. The course includes full practice facilities with a driving range and two putting greens.
Designed by course architect Gary Panks, the 18 holes of the Sedona Golf Resort flow through a cedar-strewn valley between the area’s massive red rock mesas. The sweeping view of Cathedral Rock from the tee on the tenth hole is often heralded as the most breathtaking in all of Arizona golf. Packages at the Hilton Sedona Resort include accommodation and unlimited golf and club rentals.
Visitors to the Grand Canyon can take a break at Elephant Rocks Golf Course in Williams (one of the gateway towns to the National Park). Elephant Rocks is an affordable course that winds through a forest of tall ponderosa pines and tree-lined fairways. In 2000, architect Gary Panks was hired to redesign the layout creating a championship 18-hole golf course. At 2100 metres above sea level, it usually takes golfers a few holes to adjust to the extra distance their ball is flying.