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Cream of the crop: Grayhawk Golf Club's Talon and Raptor Courses in Scottsdale, Arizona

David R. HollandBy David R. Holland,
Grayhawk Golf Club -Talon course - hole 16
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Grayhawk Golf Club boasts the scenery of Pinnacle Peak, the McDowell Mountains and the Sonoran Desert. (Courtesy of Lonna Tucker/Grayhawk G.C.)

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Since opening in 1994, Grayhawk Golf Club has remained a rock in the world of today's roll-the-dice golf business.

Phil Mickelson, the club's ambassador, still has the Grayhawk G.C. logo on his golf bag even though he spends more time at the ultra-exclusive Whisper Rock, just eight miles away.

Peter Kostis and Gary McCord remain Grayhawk "celebrities" even though the learning center no longer wears their name -- you could still hire them for a lesson.

Grayhawk Golf Club's Talon Course, first to be opened, was designed by former PGA and U.S. Open champion David Graham and Gary Panks. It measures 6,973 yards at par 72 and is still hanging on the No. 99 in Golf Magazine's "Top 100 You Can Play" list. The Raptor Course at Grayhawk, which is 7,135 yards at par 72, was designed by Tom Fazio. Both courses now roll with Bermuda mini-verde grass on the greens.

Grayhawk Golf Club: The layouts

Both courses at Grayhawk Golf Club have the scenery of Pinnacle Peak, the McDowell Mountains, the Sonoran Desert, saguaros, ironwood, ocotillo, Gambel's quail and desert critters dashing through the rough areas -- so you will have plenty to observe if your golf mind isn't keyed in on a score.

"Talon is a little more scenic with a box canyon and island green," said Joe Shershenovich, director of golf. "Raptor is also scenic and has wider fairways, but you will face tougher saves from off the green. The greens are very tough -- there's lots of undulation and hard putts, typical of Fazio.

"If you poll our guests, you will find a split -- 50 percent like Talon, 50 percent like Raptor. But I find most people get their butts kicked on Raptor and want to come back and try it again."

Talon's No. 1 -- named Farrview after the late LPGA's Heather Farr (complete with a statue in her honor) -- is a tough start at 428 yards, but the most fun hole is probably 17, named Devil's Drink. It's a 126-yard island green demanding a precise strike.

Elevated greens are a trademark of Talon, with large and undulating greens. And water hazards come into play on two holes. The 11th -- a 175-yard par 3 called "Swinging Bridge" -- requires a carry over a desert hollow and a deep front bunker to a wide and deep green, which has two levels.

Shershenovich likes Raptor's Horace Greeley hole -- the 345-yard, par-4 sixth. "I'm from Pennsylvania, so it reminds me that I came west like Greeley proclaimed," he said. "My heart starts palpitating on the tee, because, depending on pin placement, you can over think this hole and get a five or six on a short, little hole."

Raptor's 18th is a model finishing hole, a par 5, 588 yards with water tantalizing you to go for it in two with clubhouse viewers watching. In a recent Frys.com Open, Jamie Lovemark skidded one off the water on to the green but lost in a playoff to Troy Matteson with Rickie Fowler also in the playoff.

Grayhawk Golf Club: The experience is constantly good

Since the opening of Grayhawk, the independent management has pretty much stayed the same. "And I think that's one thing folks like about Grayhawk," Shershenovich said. "Whether it is your second or 10th visit, I hear golfers say they like that we have remained familiar.

"We still have the rock music at the range, we have served corn chowder at Phil's Grill from day one and golfers like that we treat everyone the same," he said. "And you still might bump into Mickelson, McCord, Kostis or even Mickelson's caddy, Jim (Bones) MacKay, who has a home at Grayhawk."

Look for Mickelson memorabilia throughout, including in the men's locker room.

In challenging economic times, Shershenovich also says that buddy trips have remained a constant.

"A group of 12 or 16 guys may come out every year, and if one of the guys has had a challenging year money-wise, I see the others chipping in to help," he said. "The golf trip becomes good for the soul and healthy for their relationships to have retreats. I can see stress go away."

Grayhawk Golf Club: The verdict

The first time I opened the door of Grayhawk's awesome 40,000-square-foot clubhouse, I really didn't notice the huge, circular McDowell Room -- Miller Barber was on his way out and said "howdy" to me.

It may be cliche, but the Grayhawk experience is the closest you will come to a real country club atmosphere without forking over $50,000 just for the first payment. Grayhawk is a must-play when you come to Scottsdale. The golf courses are top shelf and the amenities are superb.

The practice facilities at Grayhawk are massive (two separate areas). There are three putting greens, and a short game area near the Talon Course features a large sand bunker and chipping-pitching green.

The conditions at the practice area are outstanding, and the attendants are courteous and helpful. Someone will also come looking for you near your tee time. When you are ready to book lessons, look for the Grayhawk Learning Center. It has a new name but many of the same excellent teachers.

Where to stay

Xona Resort Suites (www.xonaresort.com) in Scottsdale is only five miles from Grayhawk. It offers a home away from home. You will appreciate a one-bedroom suite with a full kitchen and access to laundry facilities, ideal for a stopover on a three-week road trip.

Other features include access to wireless Internet, LCD televisions in living rooms and bedrooms, living rooms with convertible sofa sleepers, a pool and hot tub. And in the main building, there's Asada Desert Grille and the Orange Iguana for dining.

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Grayhawk Golf Club -Talon course - hole 11Grayhawk Golf Club - Raptor course - hole 15Grayhawk G.C. - Raptor golf course - hole 8

David R. Holland is an award-winning former sportswriter for The Dallas Morning News, football magazine publisher, and author of The Colorado Golf Bible. Before launching a career as a travel/golf writer, he achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force reserve, serving during the Vietnam and Desert Storm eras. Follow Dave on Twitter @David_R_Holland.

Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • Grayhawk

    Jim wrote on: May 1, 2011

    Grayhawk is a little pricey, but beautiful. Great story as usual by the author. Just glad Donald Trump hasn't added a fake waterfall to Grayhawk. Just came back from California where the golf magazines love Trump because he buys advertisements from them.