Best Golf Courses In Arizona

The best golf courses in Arizona rely on a lot of imagination by the designers to make use of some spectacular terrain

Desert Mountain Chiricahua 18th
Desert Mountain Chiricahua's 18th hole
(Image credit: Desert Mountain)

The best golf courses in Arizona

The best golf courses in Arizona are frankly a pretty darn spectacular bunch with their dramatic holes. Rocks and barren desert are not the usual terrain for laying a golf course over – the game after all was developed on the British linksland with its combination of grass and natural sand bunkers – but a bit of imagination and money (okay one heck of a lot of money in some cases), and some of the results are simply superb. Here we round up some of the best golf courses in Arizona, featuring private country clubs like Whisper Rock, which is home to the likes of Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, to public gems like Phoenix Open venue TPC Scottsdale.

Ak-Chin Southern Dunes

14th hole at the Ak-Chin Southern Dunes Golf Club

The short par four 14th hole at the Ak-Chin Southern Dunes Golf Club

(Image credit: Getty Images)
  • Location: Maricopa
  • Designed by: Lee Schmidt, Brian Curley and Fred Couples
  • Par: 72
  • Yardage: 7,546 yards
  • Green fee: $126-$282 

The aim here was to bring an element of links golf to the design, rather than simply create a typical desert course. So undulating fairways and bunkers are the order of the day here. And boy did they order a lot of bunkers. Bunkering shapes the holes and guards the greens. Doglegs abound too, many running left to right, so this design favours the fade rather than the draw.

The Boulders (South)

Arizona - The Boulders (South) 7th hole

The Boulders (South) 7th hole 

(Image credit: Courtesy of the Boulders Resort & Spa Scottsdale)
  • Location: Carefree, Phoenix
  • Designed by: Jay Morrish
  • Par: 71
  • Yardage: 6,726 yards
  • Green fee: $169-$205

When, in 2013, Golf Digest drew up their America's Top 50 Courses for Women, The Boulders' South course came second in the country. Although the back tees typically involve many forced carries, the forward ones do not. There are some striking boulder formations at this most scenic of courses which at time takes on the aura of a modern art sculpture park. The 7th hole (above) is one such example with its distinctive boulder structure by the tee and the sand trap right of the green has a cactus in the middle.

Desert Highlands

Arizona - Desert Highlands 14th

Pinnacle Peak towers over Desert Highlands' 14th hole

(Image credit: Desert Highlands)
  • Location: Scottsdale
  • Designed by: Jack Nicklaus and Bob Cupp
  • Par: 72
  • Yardage: 7,105 yards
  • Green fee: Private

This Jack Nicklaus and Bob Cupp design is notable for some generous fairways on what is, almost by definition being a desert layout, a test of target golf. Another notable aspect – well you can hardly miss it can you – is Pinnacle Peak which towers over the course and provides some stunning backdrops, such as on the 14th hole (above). A quirk of the layout is that it ends with back-to-back par 3s followed by back-to-back par 5s.

Desert Mountain (Chiricahua)

Best golf courses in Arizona - Desert Mountain Chiricahua 14th hole

Desert Mountain (Chiricahua) 14th hole

(Image credit: Desert Mountain )
  • Location: Scottsdale
  • Designed by: Jack Nicklaus
  • Par: 72
  • Yardage: 7,347 Yards
  • Green fee: Private

There are several splendid holes on this track which was the fifth of the seven Jack Nicklaus Signature courses to be laid out at this resort. But the hole you will probably leave talking most about is the par-3 14th (above) which has a bunker in the middle of the green. On higher ground that some of its neighbours, the layout makes uses of the elevation changes, with the bad news that eight holes play downhill but nine play uphill. The other one? Well that plays sideways.

Estancia

Arizona - Estancia 11th hole

Estancia 11th hole

(Image credit: Michael Paul Photoworks)
  • Location: Scottsdale
  • Designed by: Tom Fazio
  • Par: 72
  • Yardage: 7,314 Yards
  • Green fee: Private

The front nine is the flatter half and is dominated by Pinnacle Peak which looms over it before this Tom Fazio design takes to the higher ground for the back nine. The par 3s are notable, of which the 11th (above) is probably the pick and shows how short holes can be the strength of a design. Only 137 yards at it utmost, it plays to a small elevated green with boulders and a greenside bunker to contend with. The 174-yard 7th is another gem of a short hole, from a slightly elevated tee.

Forest Highlands (Canyon)

Forest Highlands

Forest Highlands (Canyon) 9th hole

(Image credit: Forest Highlands)
  • Location: Flagstaff
  • Designed by: Tom Weiskopf & Jay Morrish
  • Par: 71
  • Yardage: 7,001Yards
  • Green fee: Private

The par-4 9th (above), which plummets from the tee to a fairway with bunkers left and right and a specimen Ponderosa Pine tree, has become one of the most famous and admired holes in Arizona. The second shot must carry a water feature to get on the green in regulation. Alternatively make use of the bail-out area left of the largest green on the course.

Grayhawk (Talon)

Greyhawk (Talon) 18th hole

Greyhawk (Talon) 18th hole

(Image credit: Greyhawk )
  • Location: Scottsdale
  • Designed by: David Graham and Gary Panks
  • Par: 72
  • Yardage: 6,973 Yards
  • Green fee: $308-$392

The typical green here is large and tiered, with generous bail-out areas around the greens. Careful placement of approach shots are rewarded but wayward ones can often escape without too much damage to your card. But one hole which requires you to hit the green or else is the par-3 17th, called Devil’s Drink, which is played to an island green from between 84 and 126 yards.

Stone Canyon

Stone Canyon 6th hole

Stone Canyon 6th hole

(Image credit: Getty Images)
  • Location: Tucson
  • Designed by: Jay Morrish
  • Par: 72
  • Yardage: 7,059 Yards
  • Green fee: Private

Stone Canyon snakes a way through ancient rock outcroppings within the Tortolita Mountains. Some serious money was spent turning this plot of land into a spectacular, distinctive golf course. A reputed $2m of it went on the shortish hole, the 145-yard 6th (above) which has a waterfall running down the left of the hole and round in front of the green. Play long rather than short on 6 is the advice, as anything short can roll back to either a sandy or damp conclusion if not lucky.

TPC Scottsdale

TPC Scottsdale 16th hole

TPC Scottsdale 16th hole

(Image credit: Getty Images)
  • Location: Scottsdale
  • Designed by: Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish
  • Par: 71
  • Yardage: 7,261 Yards
  • Green fee: $398-$499

This course was crafted to create an exciting finale to a tour event – the final four-hole stretch is an island green par 5; a short par 3; a drivable par 4 and a closing par 4 with water hugging the left bank of the fairway for it full length. It has one of the most famous holes on tour, in its 16th (above) due to the boisterous audience participation there during the Phoenix Open. There are permanent grandstands which envelop this hole and which can seat 20,000. There are better hole designs on this layout than the 16th, but none of them are as famous.

Troon North (Monument)

Troon North (Monument)

Troon North (Monument) 16th hole

(Image credit: Getty Images)
  • Location: Scottsdale
  • Designed by: Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish
  • Par: 72
  • Yardage: 7,039 Yards
  • Green fee: $206-$362

Feature boulders on the fairways provide some imaginative hazards on the early holes, not least on the par-5 3rd called The Monument – which has a huge boulder rising up from the middle of the fairway as it doglegs right towards the green, It was said this boulder was due to be moved during construction of the course but proved too heavy.) There are a couple of par 4s where the green is drivable by big hitters. Generally this is a course where it helps to play long – three of the par 3s are over 200 yards, and the longest, the 16th (above) is 244 yards, and the longest par 5 is 570 yards uphill to a convex green.

Troon North (Pinnacle)

Troon North (Pinnacle) Post Card

The Post Card 16th hole at Troon North (Pinnacle)

(Image credit: Troon North )
  • Location: Scottsdale
  • Designed by: Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish
  • Par: 71
  • Yardage: 7,009 Yards
  • Green fee: $237-$378

The first hole is a delightful par 4 dogleg left with a forced carry over rocky outcrops on the drive and the approach. While Royal Troon has the 123-yard Postage Stamp 8th, Troon North has the Post Card 16th. Played from 95 to 140 yards depending upon the tee selected, the green is behind a mass of boulders and a water hazard. The putting surface tapers in toward the right side and when the pin is on the far right it is a tough target, especially as sand traps lurk at the right front and side of green.

We-Ko-Pa (Saguaro)

Arizona - We-Ko-Pa (Saguaro)

We-Ko-Pa (Saguaro) 10th hole

(Image credit: Lonna Tucker)
  • Location: Scottsdale
  • Designed by: Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw
  • Par: Par 71
  • Yardage: 6,966 Yards
  • Green fee: $80-$275

We-Ko-Pa means Four Peaks in the Yavapai language and Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw’s design was built on the principle of using the naturally undulating terrain – little earth was moved in its creation – to provide a strategic test rather than one of target golf. It is also designed to be a traditional course, with the tee near the previous green, so as to be walkable.

Whisper Rock (Upper)

Whisper Rock (Upper) 14th

Whisper Rock (Upper) 14th hole

(Image credit: Getty Images)
  • Location: Scottsdale
  • Designed by: Tom Fazio
  • Par: 72
  • Yardage: 7,550 Yards
  • Green fee: Private

There are two courses at the highly exclusive Whisper Rock. The Lower, designed by Phil Mickelson (who is a member) and Upper, designed by Tom Fazio. Upper gets its name from a section of the back nine, with 13, 14 and 15 all played from elevated tees. The par-3 14th (above) is perhaps the prettiest of this trio. Scoring well around this layout requires some careful approach shots to some tricky greens as drives are often to what are often fairly generously sized landing areas.

Is Arizona good for golf?

Yes, it is. There is huge variety and number of courses in Arizona – more than 300 of them. Desert landscapes may not seem initially well suited to golf, but some top designers have used their imagination and the striking landscape to craft some of the country’s most dramatic courses. Among the top courses accessible to the public are Ak-Chin Southern Dunes, Boulders (South), Grayhawk (Talon), TPC Scottsdale, Troon North (Monument and Pinnacle) and We-Ko-Pa (Saguaro). There are also several excellent but exclusive clubs.

What golf course should I play in Phoenix?

TPC Scottsdale, home to the Phoenix Open on the PGA Tour is the obvious starting point. However green fees in the order of $400 and $500 means it will not fall within all golfing budgets. Other local highly rated courses include Troon North’s Monument and Pinnacle ones, and Grayhawk’s Talon course.

Contributing Writer Golf courses and travel are Roderick’s particular interests and he worked as contributing editor for the first few years of the Golf Monthly Travel Supplement. He writes travel articles and general features for the magazine, travel supplement and website. He is a member of Trevose Golf & Country Club and has played golf in around 20 countries. Cricket is his other main sporting love. He is the author of five books, four of which are still in print: The Novel Life of PG Wodehouse; The Don: Beyond Boundaries; Wally Hammond: Gentleman & Player and England’s Greatest Post-War All Rounder.