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Phoenix-Scottsdale's celebrity golf course designs satisfy the star-struck

By S. Adam Cardais,
Wigwam Resort - Blue course
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The Wigwam Resort in Litchfield Park boasts two Robert Trent Jones Sr.-designed courses. (Chris Baldwin/WorldGolf.com)

They command million-dollar payouts; they travel in private jets; their names often find their way into sentences that include the word genius. No, we're not talking about rock stars. We're talking about celebrity golf course architects.

This is the age of course-designer mania. Architects like Pete Dye, Tom Fazio and Jack Nicklaus make millions designing courses around the world, many of which are hinging their futures on those big names.

There's reason for this. People have become enamored with playing - or just being able to say they played - "a Nicklaus" or "a Dye."

"It's all about the architect," Chris Baldwin wrote of the phenomenon last year at TravelGolf.com. "A fun play? Course conditions? ... Yada, yada, yada. Just let us know who came up with the routing."

That said, there's little debate about the track record of most of the all-star designers. The Phoenix-Scottsdale area has plenty of "name-brand" courses, and some are absolutely worth the hype.

The Wigwam Resort

Originally designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr., Wigwam Resort's Gold course and Blue course recently underwent a $5 million makeover. Course-renovation specialist Forrest Richardson used aerial photos from the 1960s to re-create Jones' original bunkering.

Wigwam's Blue course had the most work, but the renovation of the now-7,300-yard Gold course has had more of an impact, resulting in some seriously daunting Jones-style bunkers.

"It's all part of the delicate balancing act of bringing in the new while maintaining a celebrity-golf-architect legend's dream," Chris Baldwin wrote in a GolfArizona.com review.

TPC Scottsdale - Stadium Course

Famed course architects Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish designed this 7,089-yard track in the Sonoran Desert. Home to the Phoenix Open, TPC Scottsdale's Stadium Course challenges with deep rough and more than 70 bunkers.

Raven at Verrado

Nearly 9,000 acres - that's how much space John Fought got for this track in the foothills of the White Tank Mountains. Designers usually get around 200.

"We didn't know where to begin," Fought said a little over two years ago. "It was like being a mosquito in a nudist colony - you know exactly what you want to do, but you don't know where to begin."

But Fought and collaborator Tom Lehman were able to take that space and make something special at Raven at Verrado.

"Nobody in Arizona owns a living room carpet better than The Raven's fairways and greens," Brendan McEvoy wrote in a 2004 review at GolfArizona.com. "The iridescent patches contrast brilliantly against the brown and red desert."

ASU Karsten Golf Course

ASU Karsten Golf Course proves the importance of a big name: Though many believe Perry Dye did much of the hands-on work, the course is still credited to his legendary father.

Known as one off the most difficult college courses, Karsten is run by Arizona State University in Tempe, where a guy named Phil Mickelson used to play.

The course "is capable of testing that caliber of talent," Chris Baldwin wrote in a review for GolfArizona.com. "The expected, almost demanded, Dye toughness is upheld at Karsten. With its un-desert-like rolling hills and narrow links-look fairways, this is a course that will make a dumb player curse at the hot air."

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Raven Golf Club at Verrado
Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • The Raven @ Verrado

    Don Ecken wrote on: Oct 16, 2006

    Just got back from Phoenix and had a chance to play the Raven @ Verrado for $40
    It's a great desert course!
    Generous fairways, but don't take the course for granted, because it well get you. Playing away from well placed fairway bunkers leads to desert shots.
    A great course for all levels of golfers
    Play it if you get the chance.