You don't need big money to play the best golf courses in Phoenix-Scottsdale. Brandon Tucker and Mike Bailey share their favorite plays on three different budgets.
Brandon Tucker's top picks on three budgets in Phoenix-Scottsdale:
Top Shelf ($150+ peak): Cholla at We-Ko-Pa
Scottsdale has a hearty collection of high-end clubs with splendid desert scenery like Troon North and Boulders Resort. But for beauty uninterrupted by any development, head to the East Valley for We-Ko-Pa Golf Club's 36 holes set on a Yavapai Nation native American reservation. The Coore-Crenshaw-designed Saguaro Course is a popular pick for the best public course in state. That said, I curry a little more favor to the original Cholla Course, thanks to a few more spectacular (albeit more manmade) holes, like the tumbling, par-5 8th. The panoramic mountain vistas, quiet surrounds and varying hole designs of the 7,225-yard layout make for a thrilling, yet dead quiet round.
Current green fees at We-Ko-Pa: $179-225
Mid-range ($100-149 peak): Raven Golf Club - Phoenix
If you've stepped on one too many 'Jumping Chollas' while fishing for errant golf balls in the desert, head to the Raven Golf Club - Phoenix. Big, rolling fairways, blooming red bougainvillea and thousands of pine trees make for a setting for golf entirely more akin to the Carolina Sandhills. As green and lush as the property is throughout, the course design is loads of fun with great risk-reward holes and interesting, large and lightning fast green complexes.
Bargain (under $100 peak): Wigwam Resort Gold Course
Many of the area's great bargain courses can be found in the West Valley, and the Wigwam Resort Gold Course, part of a pleasant, casita-style resort village, is my favorite play out here. It's a parkland-style layout with classic bones, designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr., but is still plenty tough to host top collegiate events in the spring. Flat, grassy fairways dotted with a mix of ponds, palm trees and some more northern style oaks make for a most pleasant environment, especially considering tee times here are well under $100 all year round.
Mike Bailey's top picks on three budgets in Phoenix-Scottsdale:
Top Shelf: Monument course at Troon North
Phoenix-Scottsdale has so many good high end courses, but if I had to pick one that combined beauty, challenge, conditioning and variety of holes, it would have to be the Monument Course at Troon North Golf Club in Scottsdale. The Monument Course is one of two terrific championship courses at Troon North (the other is the Pinnacle), both designed by Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish and redesigned in a new and better configuration in 2007 by Weiskopf. Besides the variety of holes and incredible views, though, the course brings in an element of links golf design, such as a reincarnation of St. Andrew's Hell Bunker. At more than 7,100 yards, it isn't particularly long, but certainly long enough, considering the challenge of the tee shots and approaches. Practice facilities and dining are five-star as well.
Mid-range: ASU Karsten Course
The Karsten Course at Arizona State University might be the best of the bargain golf courses. After all, this Pete Dye gem was good enough for the likes of Phil Mickelson, Billy Mayfair and Grace Park as collegians, and it's good enough for most of us as well. There's water, peninsula greens, pot bunkers and good conditioning, all in the backdrop of one of America's largest campuses.
Bargain: Ak-Chin Southern Dunes Golf Club
Formerly the all-men's Royal Dunes Golf Club, Ak-Chin Southern Dunes in Maricopa is unlike any other course in the Valley of the Sun. It certainly isn't desert golf, and while it isn't links golf, it's the closest thing you'll find in the area. Brian Curley of Schmidt-Curley Design (with Fred Couples consulting) took a flat piece of land and molded in elevation change, moguls, blind shots, gamma grasses, large undulation greens and 109 bunkers covering 12 acres of sand. And after the round, try the club's incredible Albondigas meatball soup.