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Courses at Talking Stick in Scottsdale, Arizona feature minimalist golf and maximum enjoyment

David R. HollandBy David R. Holland,
Talking Stick Golf Club
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Talking Stick Golf Club features two top-shelf courses by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw. (Courtesy of Talking Stick G.C.)

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The 36-hole Talking Stick Golf Club complex -- built on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian community -- has been a premiere example of minimalistic course architecture since opening in 1998.

Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, two of the most respected authors of minimalistic design, crafted the courses here. There's nothing cookie-cutter about Talking Stick, according to Coore.

"One of the things we are most proud of is that every one of our designs are different," Coore said. "Minimalism is just a current catch phrase. We try to let the site dictate our design. If we are designing a course in Hawaii, the course is going to look like Hawaii. Go to Sand Hills in Nebraska and it is totally different. We take what is given to us and lay it as quietly on a piece of ground as we can."

The Talking Stick design "uses the flow of the land and never feels artificial," General Manager Steve Leonard said. "There are no houses and you feel the remoteness of it even though the city is very close.

"Golfers love the character of the golf courses."

In 2014 Talking Stick was voted the no. 1 golf course in Arizona by readers of Ranking Arizona, a list devoted to "The Best of Arizona Business." It's a gem for walkers as there are wide fairways, deep bunkers and fast greens.

Talking Stick Golf Club's North Course

The North Course at Talking Stick, a 7,133-yard par 70, presents golfers with views of Papago Buttes, Red Mountain, the McDowell Mountains and Pinnacle Peak, with a flat landscape. You will see palo verde trees, creosote and mesquite and coyotes and wild horses have been spotted by many golfers.

"There's an element of strategy here," Leonard said. "You must take the correct angles to hit your approaches close, and the greens are subtle and run 11 on the Stimpmeter. To putt well stay below the hole, but there is no Valley effect. You just need to play it a few times to become better on the greens."

Grip-it-and-rip-it golfers are going to love the North's 72-yard-wide fairway on the 552-yard, par-5 second hole. There are no bunkers until you reach the putting surface, and the entrance to the green is wide open.

Coore describes the North Course as open, windswept, low profile and a course that encourages you to play a lot of different shots, depending on what angle you take. One can fly the ball to the hole, roll it from off the greens, chip and run -- anything your imagination can handle. The greens are only slightly crowned.

You will use that imagination on the 12th, a 392-yard par 4 called Red Mountain Gambler. A huge waste bunker and ravine dissects the entire hole, with just a tiny target left, bordered by a barbed-wire fence that is OB. The smart play is to the huge fairway segment right, which appears as a dogleg left on the yardage sheet.

Talking Stick Golf Club's South Course

The South Course at Talking Stick is 6,833 yards at par 71. Coore said this one is more straightforward. What you see on the tee will tell you what to do. It is more parkland style, with trees and water, but you know where to play.

The South also features subtle elevation changes, fingered bunkers, tiered landscaping and native cottonwoods and hardwoods.

Talking Stick Resort

The huge Talking Stick Resort next door is a Four-Diamond Scottsdale property, with 240,000 square feet of entertainment and luxury. Rooms include free Wi-Fi and a Southwestern design with many types of suites available. Panoramic views can be found at the award-winning Orange Sky Restaurant and the Wandering Horse Buffet is superb. There's also Vegas-style entertainment and local favorites as they take the stage in the TSR Showroom. The Spa at Talking Stick will host you for a relaxing spa treatment overlooking views of the Valley.

The resort is also home to Arizona's largest poker room, known as The Arena Poker Room. It features Texas Hold 'em, Omaha and Seven-Card Stud, as well as daily, weekly and monthly tournaments.

Fairway to Heaven is the stay-and-play golf package, but Talking Stick also has Major League Baseball spring training, romance and spa packages.

First Tee at Talking Stick

Talking Stick has a brand-new designation as a First Tee program host, the first of its kind on tribal lands. Vision54 provides golf instruction.

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Talking Stick Golf Club - an award winnerTalking Stick - North golf course - 8thTalking Stick - South golf course - hole 13th

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
  • Talking Stick GC

    TK wrote on: Feb 10, 2015

    I have played Talking Stick North about a half a dozen times and it has quickly become one of my favorite courses in the OHX / Scottsdale area. Always in immaculate condition, great, friendly staff and the holes always allow you to play different shots depending on your talent. Bump and run, fly it to the pin, it all works @ TSN. You will not regret stopping and trying your luck @ this facility.