Punch Shots: Favorite golf courses in Phoenix-Scottsdale on three budgets

By Brandon TuckerJanuary 28, 2013, 3:06 pm

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.

Current green fees for Raven Golf Club - Phoenix on GolfNow: $99-150

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.

Current rates for Wigwam Gold on GolfNow: $50-75

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.

Current rates for the Monument at Troon North on GolfNow: $179-249

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.

Current rates for ASU Karsten on GolfNow: $79-110

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.

Current rates for Southern Dunes on GolfNow: $79-99

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Berger more than ready to rebound at Travelers

By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:54 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Daniel Berger hopes that this year he gets to be on the other end of a viral moment at the Travelers Championship.

Berger was a hard-luck runner-up last year at TPC River Highlands, a spectator as Jordan Spieth holed a bunker shot to defeat him in a playoff. It was the second straight year that the 25-year-old came up just short outside Hartford, as he carried a three-shot lead into the 2016 event before fading to a tie for fifth.

While he wasn’t lacking any motivation after last year’s close call, Berger got another dose last week at the U.S. Open when he joined Tony Finau as a surprise participant in the final group Sunday, only to shoot a 73 and drift to a T-6 finish.

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

“It was one of the best experiences of my professional golf career so far. I feel like I’m going to be in such a better place next time I’m in that position, having felt those emotions and kind of gone through it,” Berger said. “There was a lot of reflection after that because I felt like I played good enough to get it done Sunday. I didn’t make as many putts as I wanted to, but I hit a lot of really good putts. And that’s really all you can do.”

Berger missed the cut earlier this month to end his quest for three straight titles in Memphis, but his otherwise consistent season has now included six top-20 finishes since January. After working his way into contention last week and still with a score to settle at TPC River Highlands, he’s eager to get back to work against another star-studded field.

“I think all these experiences you just learn from,” Berger said. “I think last week, having learned from that, I think that’s even going to make me a little better this week. So I’m excited to get going.”

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Rory tired of the near-misses, determined to close

By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:46 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Rory McIlroy has returned to the Travelers Championship with an eye on bumping up his winning percentage.

McIlroy stormed from the back of the pack to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March, but that remains his lone worldwide win since the 2016 Tour Championship. It speaks to McIlroy’s considerable ability and lofty expectations that, even with a number of other high finishes this season, he is left unsatisfied.

“I feel like I’ve had five realistic chances to win this year, and I’ve been able to close out one of them. That’s a bit disappointing, I guess,” McIlroy said. “But at least I’ve given myself five chances to win golf tournaments, which is much more than I did last year.”

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

The most memorable of McIlroy’s near-misses is likely the Masters, when he played alongside Patrick Reed in Sunday’s final group but struggled en route to a T-5 finish. But more frustrating in the Ulsterman’s eyes were his runner-up at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, when he led by two shots with eight holes to go, and a second-place showing behind Francesco Molinari at the BMW PGA Championship in May.

“There’s been some good golf in there,” he said. “I feel like I let Dubai and Wentworth get away a little bit.”

He’ll have a chance to rectify that trend this week at TPC River Highlands, where he finished T-17 last year in his tournament debut and liked the course and the tournament enough to keep it on his schedule. It comes on the heels of a missed cut at the U.S. Open, when he was 10 over through 11 holes and never got on track. McIlroy views that result as more of an aberration during a season in which he has had plenty of chances to contend on the weekend.

“I didn’t necessarily play that badly last week. I feel like if I play similarly this week, I might have a good chance to win,” McIlroy said. “I think when you play in conditions like that, it magnifies parts of your game that maybe don’t stack up quite as good as the rest of your game, and it magnified a couple of things for me that I worked on over the weekend.”

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Sunday run at Shinnecock gave Reed even more confidence

By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:08 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – While many big names are just coming around to the notion that the Travelers Championship is worth adding to the schedule, Patrick Reed has been making TPC River Highlands one of his favorite haunts for years.

Reed will make his seventh straight appearance outside Hartford, where he tied for fifth last year and was T-11 the year before that. He is eager to get back to the grind after a stressful week at the U.S. Open, both because of his past success here and because it will offer him a chance to build on a near-miss at Shinnecock Hills.

Reed started the final round three shots off the lead, but he quickly stormed toward the top of the leaderboard and became one of Brooks Koepka’s chief threats after birdies on five of his first seven holes. Reed couldn’t maintain the momentum in the middle of the round, carding three subsequent bogeys, and ultimately tied for fourth.

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

It was a bittersweet result, but Reed is focusing on the positives after taking a couple days to reflect.

“If you would have told me that I had a chance to win coming down Sunday, I would have been pleased,” Reed said. “I felt like I just made too many careless mistakes towards the end, and because of that, you’re not going to win at any major making careless mistakes, especially on Sunday.”

Reed broke through for his first major title at the Masters, and he has now finished fourth or better in three straight majors dating back to a runner-up at the PGA last summer. With another chance to add to that record next month in Scotland, he hopes to carry the energy from last week’s close call into this week’s event on a course where he feels right at home.

“It just gives me confidence, more than anything,” Reed said. “Of course I would have loved to have closed it out and win, but it was a great week all in all, and there’s a lot of stuff I can take from it moving forward. That’s how I’m looking at it.”

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Koepka back to work, looking to add to trophy collection

By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 8:53 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Days after ensuring the U.S. Open trophy remained in his possession for another year, Brooks Koepka went back to work.

Koepka flew home to Florida after successfully defending his title at Shinnecock Hills, celebrating the victory Monday night with Dustin Johnson, Paulina Gretzky, swing coach Claude Harmon III and a handful of close friends. But he didn’t fully unwind because of a decision to honor his commitment to the Travelers Championship, becoming the first player to tee it up the week after a U.S. Open win since Justin Rose in 2013.

Koepka withdrew from the Travelers pro-am, but he flew north to Connecticut on Wednesday and arrived to TPC River Highlands around 3 p.m., quickly heading to the driving range to get in a light practice session.

“It still hasn’t sunk in, to be honest with you,” Koepka said. “I’m still focused on this week. It was just like, ‘All right, if I can get through this week, then I’m going to be hanging with my buddies next week.’ I know then maybe it’ll sink in, and I’ll get to reflect on it a little bit more.”

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Koepka’s plans next week with friends in Boston meant this week’s event outside Hartford made logistical sense. But he was also motivated to play this week because, plainly, he hasn’t had that many playing opportunities this year after missing nearly four months with a wrist injury.

“I’ve had so many months at home being on the couch. I don’t need to spend any more time on the couch,” Koepka said. “As far as skipping, it never crossed my mind.”

Koepka’s legacy was undoubtedly bolstered by his win at Shinnecock, as he became the first player in nearly 30 years to successfully defend a U.S. Open title. But he has only one other PGA Tour win to his credit, that being the 2015 Waste Management Phoenix Open, and his goal for the rest of the season is to make 2018 his first year with multiple trophies on the mantle.

“If you’re out here for more than probably 15 events, it gives you a little better chance to win a couple times. Being on the sidelines isn’t fun,” Koepka said. “Keep doing what we’re doing and just try to win multiple times every year. I feel like I have the talent. I just never did it for whatever reason. Always felt like we ran into a buzzsaw. So just keep plugging away.”