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|The 10th hole on the Pinnacle Course at Troon North Golf Club plays toward Pinnacle Peak. (Jason Scott Deegan/TravelGolf)|
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The debates rage on in grill rooms across the Valley of the Sun.
Is the Talon course really better than Raptor at Grayhawk Golf Club? Why does Troon North Golf Club's Monument Course always get the better of the gorgeous Pinnacle Course in golf publications? And what about We-Ko-Pa? If you've got time for only one round, how do you pick between those two desert delights?
Phoenix-Scottsdale offers more spectacular 36-hole public facilities than any other golf destination in the world. Nobody -- not Orlando, not Myrtle Beach, not SoCal -- can compare. The best 36-hole properties hog the spotlight, dominating the rankings of the best courses in Arizona. A handful of them are nationally rated as well.
Clubs with two courses are perfect for those two-rounds-a-day golf benders where players can swing from sun up to sun down. And with an average of more than 330 days of sunshine a year, there's sunlight to spare here, especially in the dead of winter.
Troon North Golf Club is the flagship golf facility run by Troon Golf, a management company based in Scottsdale.
When original architect Tom Weiskopf made the bold decision to reroute the Pinnacle and Monument Courses during a two-year renovation project completed in 2007, these two sisters instantly became even more gorgeous.
Troon North's Pinnacle Course, now starting out with its original back nine and finishing with the Monument's original back nine, transformed into a more-walkable, 7,025-yard, par-71 layout that might even be a touch tougher than the Monument.
Weiskopf and Jay Morrish opened the Monument Course at Troon North in 1990, named after the massive boulder in the middle of its third fairway. Its new, 7,070-yard routing -- starting with its original front nine and finishing with a dramatic nine holes that climbs and falls around Pinnacle Peak -- became viable when the Pinnacle's former 17th hole was shortened from a par 5 to a daunting par 4.
With both courses featuring Pennlinks Creeping Bentgrass greens, Troon North packs the best 1-2 punch in the Sonoran Desert.
Morrish struck gold with the North and South at the Boulders Club in Carefree.
Many believe the South Course is more scenic and tougher than the original, 6,811-yard Boulders North Course. The 6,726-yard South intimately flirts with the rocky landscape, including formations called "Rosie's Rock" and the signature "Boulder Pile."
There isn't much sense bolting straight after 36 holes, however. The accommodations at the Boulders Resort & Golden Door Spa are exquisite.
Need a break from desert target golf? Take a detour to Talking Stick Resort, home to a casino resort and two Troon Golf-managed courses with wall-to-wall grass and no residential component.
They're more forgiving than most top-ranked desert courses, yet still don't offer any guarantees of a good round. Coore and Crenshaw made sure of that when they designed both Talking Stick Golf Club's North and South Courses, which opened in 1998.
The 6,833-yard, par-71 South Course at Talking Stick feels like a traditional, tree-lined parkland course. The more highly regarded North, a 7,131-yard par 70, plays a bit more linksy with fewer trees on the same flat terrain.
Once-private, the two courses at Superstition Mountain are renowned for their conditioning. Jack Nicklaus and his son, Gary, designed Superstition's Prospector Course first in 1998.
Nicklaus and Jack Jr. tacked on the Lost Gold Course in 1999. The 7,225-yard Prospector hosted the LGPA Tour's Safeway Classic from 2004-2008 with its wide fairways and speedy greens.
The 7,351-yard Lost Gold, where smaller putting surfaces demand more precision, challenged the Champions Tour players at the 2002 Senior Slam, won by Fuzzy Zoeller. Both tracks are accompanied by stirring views of the property's namesake mountain.
Whirlwind, another Troon Golf-managed club in Chandler on Gila River Indian Community land south of Phoenix, hosted the Nationwide Tour's Gila River Golf Classic from 2001-2005, using the Devil's Claw Course the first two years and the Cattails Course the final three.
Two notable names, Ben Crane (2001) and former U.S. Open champ Lucas Glover (2003), won there. Three lakes and a river define the 7,334-yard Cattail Course. The 7,029-yard Devil's Claw features a unique ninth hole called "Eagleman's Gamble" that plays to a split fairway.
The party that the PGA Tour calls the Waste Management Phoenix Open attracts players from around the world to tee it up on the Stadium Course at TPC Scottsdale.
The Morrish-Weiskopf design, which opened in 1986, can be severe for short-game-challenged amateurs, but it creates a charismatic risk-reward theater for the pros. The drivable, par-4 17th usually has a hand in determining the million-dollar winner.
Just a short drive away to its own clubhouse, TPC Scottsdale's Champions Course -- the old Desert Course was redesigned by Randy Heckenkemper in 2007 -- is more walkable and more affordable, while still delivering the same slick greens and desert experience near the McDowell Mountains.
Grayhawk has hosted the PGA Tour's Frys.com Open, the Andersen Consulting World Match Play Championship (now the Accenture Match Play Championship) and the first installment of what is now Tiger's Chevron World Challenge.
The golf is great, but it's the laid-back atmosphere of the club that fits Scottsdale's party persona perfectly. Golfers love to hang out at Phil's Grille -- named after Phil Mickelson -- after a round.
The 6,973-yard Talon Course at Grayhawk, designed by major champion David Graham and architect Gary Panks, spurred on the growth of public desert golf, opening in 1994, followed by Tom Fazio's 7,135-yard Raptor Course in 1995. Both are defined by a single heroic shot over water. The Raptor's comes at No. 18, a par-5 tilted to feed balls into the water along the right side of the fairway and green. No. 17 on the Talon plays over "Devil's Drink" to an island green.
Look for miles in either direction. There are places at We-Ko-Pa Golf Club where golfers feel cut off from the outside world. There are no roads, no houses, no people in sight. That's how secluded We-Ko-Pa feels tucked away in Fort McDowell.
Since opening in 2007, We-Ko-Pa Golf Club's Saguaro Course, designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, has gotten the nod as the top public course in the state by Golfweek, although the 7,225-yard Cholla Course, designed by Scott Miller in 2001, gets just as much love from industry insiders and players alike. This is one competitive sibling rivalry.
February 13, 2012
Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed more than 700 courses and golf destinations for some of the industry's biggest publications. His work has been honored by the Golf Writer's Association of America and the Michigan Press Association. Follow him on Twitter at @WorldGolfer.
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