Remember when reading this that I'm pretty much a hack. I'm about a 14 handicapper, so I'm not what you would call a golf "purist" when it comes to course design, etc. You'll never see me on the practice range hitting 3 irons. (Do I own a three iron?)
I tee it up to have fun, take in the scenery, and hopefully take some of my buddies' pocket change. If you're of the same persuasion, this Top Ten list is for you.
Here we go:
- Gold Canyon - Dinosaur Mountain - still my all-time favorite. It's about a 40-minute drive from Old Town Scottsdale, but well worth it. The dramatic elevation changes, fantastic scenery, and interesting layout make this the best spot in Arizona.
- The Golf Club at Eagle Mountain - Probably the best staff and friendliest environment in all of Scottsdale - I'm also a Scott Miller fan - lots of elevation changes, and bowl-shaped fairways where a hack like me will get a few forgiving bounces now and then.
- SunRidge Canyon Golf Club - Somewhat brutal at times, but one of the more interesting hole-by-hole tracks. Also has the best 3 finishing holes in Arizona - three-shot par 5, then a ridiculous par 3 over the canyon shot of 220 that you're supposed to STOP on a dime. Yeah right. #18 is a wicked dog leg left par 4 up the hill to finish out one of the tougher back nines in Arizona. "We made it! I need a cocktail stat!"
- We-Ko-Pa Golf Club - Cholla Course - Another Scott Miller gem. You definitely have to think your way around this course, and Cholla (and Saguro) are very unique in that they're built on an Indian reservation, so there are ZERO HOMES anywhere on the golf course. Makes for scenery that's tough to beat. Only drawback is that it is typically cart path only, so be prepared to do some walking. It's worth it.
- Grayhawk Golf Club - Talon Course - The Raptor course is where they host the PGA Tour's Frys.com Open, but I have always preferred the tamer sister course, Talon. It's a little more forgiving off the tee, and #17 is an island par 3 - kind of a "Mini 17th at Sawgrass" - great hole for gambling. (It's only a 9 iron, or a big wedge...) Also, Phil's Grill is one of my all time favorite places to enjoy a couple dozen cocktails after Grayhawk whips me into submission.
- TPC Stadium Course - Home to the PGA Tour's FBR Open. Yeah sure, I agree that by itself the golf course is a little overrated, but what can I say - it's fun to play where the pros play, and after watching the tournament on TV, you'll want to get it in. The last 4 holes are the reason you pay what you do, ($250+ in peak season) and they are as fun to play as they are to watch. Service in all aspects is exceptional, and the restaurant is one of the best in Arizona to have a nice breakfast.
- Troon North - Pinnacle Course - The atmosphere in the clubhouse is a little stuffy, but I play this one at least once a year for one reason - the greens are the best in Arizona. Both Troon courses (Pinnacle and Monument) are extremely difficult for me, but the putting surfaces are simply perfect in the winter - fast and brutal. Lots of fun, and a few 3 or 4 puts along the way...
- Rancho Manana Golf Club - This one is more my speed. I can play Rancho from the tips, and rarely have anything more than a 7 iron in on the par 4s. But don't be fooled by the relatively short length. This one is tricky. Rancho is just north of Scottsdale, in Cave Creek, where it's very mountainous, and I'm simply an elevation change junkie. One of the more scenic courses, and the Tonto grill would be in my all time Top 5 restaurants. Great staff - very laid back.
- The Raven at South Mountain - The Raven is unique. It's one of the more traditional layouts and has Georgia Pine lined fairways, which you NEVER see here. Has some water, a lot of beautiful lancscaping, and a great bar. Go for lunch and get the chicken wrap - the best in Arizona.
- The Arizona Grand Golf Club - Formerly known as "Phantom Horse," Arizona Grand gives you a little of everything. Some traditional holes, and some great target golf as well. It's been under renovation all summer and promises to be one of the valley's newest "up and comers." Have dinner and drinks at Rustler's Rooste just up the hill after your round. The finishing hole is a par 3 which you don't see often, and what a par 3 it is. 180 yards from the middle tees, but only requires an 8 iron for me because of the dramatic elevation drop. This is also good for day in / day out golf, as it's a quick 10 minutes from the airport.
O.K. gang - there it is - "CP's Top Ten" - If you're planning a trip to Arizona this year, you can't go wrong with any of these great venues. Stay tuned for my "Top Ten VALUE Courses" next.
Hit em straight!