Legend Trail Golf Club: A hidden gem in north Scottsdale


SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Here's the thing about golf in north Scottsdale: There are so many world-class courses that a place like the Legend Trail Golf Club can go overlooked.

Rees Jones designed Legend Trail, located just south of Carefree. But it's what Jones didn't do at Legend Trail that's noteworthy. Essentially, he employed the KISS principle: Keep It Simple, Stupid.

Legend Trail, a 6,845-yard par 72, doesn't feature many of the tricked-out elements that are characteristic of other Valley desert courses. Golfers won't stand on the tee and see nothing but cactus and trouble. The few forced carries are manageable -- rarely will a golfer have to bang it 200 yards to clear desert -- and the greens aren't elevated to the point of nose bleeds.

Does that take away the wow factor? Probably. Legend Trail isn't one of those courses that's a photographic wonder or a layout golfers will be talking about for weeks afterward. But the flip side is positive: It's simple to navigate and easy to enjoy.

'It's a public golf course,' General Manager John Jackson said. 'Rees Jones made it very playable. If you do have a hidden tee shot it's because of the terrain, not because that's how he designed it.'

The first thing golfers will notice at Legend Trail Golf Club are the jumbo-sized fairways. It's an unusual sight in the desert, to be able to stand on a tee and see more green than brown. The key is not to get too aggressive with the tee shot. Jackson said golfers should aim for the middle of the fairway, rather than try to cut off too much of a dogleg.

'Don't try to bite off more than you can,' he said. 'If you play the golf course like it's designed you'll score well, but if you try to cut the corner you'll either be in the desert or have a sloping or downhill lie.'

The safe route works because Legend Trail is short by today's standards. The longest par 5 is 540 yards, the longest par 4 is 435 yards. From the middle tees the longest par 4 stretches just 400 yards. Average-length hitters shouldn't have more than a mid-iron from the fairway.

Legend Trail's difficulty comes on and around the greens. The bunkers are small -- unlike so many of the huge caverns built today -- but strategically located, particularly the greenside traps. The greens, meanwhile, are exceedingly hard to read. A putt that looks like it will break right will go left. The secret: Remember that every putt will break toward the Valley below.

Legend Trail's front side isn't particularly memorable other than the 495-yard, par-5 seventh hole. On their second shot, golfers can't see how far the lake on the left (the only water on the course) cuts into the fairway and meanders along the green.

The green itself is dissected by a huge swale that funnels balls left. When the pin is tucked in the back, three-putts are the norm rather than the exception.

The back nine is far more noteworthy, particularly the uphill par 4s on Nos. 11 and 13 and the downhill 235-yard par-3 12th. The par-5 16th features two washes, the second stretching in front of the green. Like No. 7, it's a classic risk-reward hole.

Legend Trail has won numerous awards, but the truth is it's not one of those north Scottsdale courses everyone talks about. But Legend Trail can hold its head up and be proud of what it is -- a friendly desert layout.

'It's a really nice golf course,' Jackson said. 'It's kind of like a hidden gem.'