Tee it up on the best courses to play less than a day’s drive away
An Ak-Chin in Your Heart
Discover why Southern Dunes is a perennial must-play
Although nestled in the desert, Ak-Chin Southern Dunes really plays more like a links-style course. Brian Curley and Lee E. Schmidt are listed as the designers but Masters champion Fred Couples served as a consultant on the project. The course underwent a renovation in 2014, which was designed to make it more “player-friendly”— to wit: the bunkering was reduced by 83,000 square feet, and the par-3 17th, once an approximate 240-yard blind shot, was shortened to just over 200 yards. Another nice touch was the addition of “Golf’s version of a bunny slope.” The practice area, #miniDunes, is designed to appeal to a younger crowd.
The Ak-Chin Indian Community owns the 320 acres that houses Ak-Chin Southern Dunes. Part of its original May 1912 reservation, the community lost the land as the result of an executive order later that year. It was reacquired almost 100 years later, in 2012.
Pinnacle or Monument, Troon North is still the desert standard-bearer
Thirty years ago, Tom Weiskopf came upon a piece of land that he said was so good, “anybody could have (designed them) and had them turn out pretty good.” Of course, the former British Open champion was being modest. From paying homage to his predecessors in golf design (the opening hole on the Pinnacle course is a 392-yard par-4 called “Mackenzie”— named for architect Alister MacKenzie, who designed Augusta National), to “The Monument,” the impossibly large boulder that challenges players off the tee on the 566-yard, par-5 third hole that inspired the facility’s second 18, Troon North Golf Club, designed with Jay Morrish, may well be Weiskopf’s magnum opus.
The Eagle Has Landed
That is, if you can successfully navigate the greens at Eagle Mountain
The newcomer to Eagle Mountain Golf Club may well be heartened by a quick glance at a scorecard that shows a tantalizing length of about 6,800 yards from the tips. However, visions of course records will likely become so many delusions of grandeur before long—most likely at the first misplaced approach shot. The challenge at Eagle Mountain comes from its immaculately-manicured greens, which feature multiple tiers and rolling contours. If you want a course where you can come out and channel your inner Loren Roberts, showing your friends that you’re indeed “The Boss of the Moss,” then Eagle Mountain may well be the place for you.
River of Dreams
Rio Verde—golf and a lifestyle that will make others green with envy
The two 18-hole Tom Lehman-designed golf courses at Rio Verde stand as centerpieces of a vibrant community and together, they make up one of the best- kept secrets in the Valley of the Sun. The courses, Quail Run and White Wing, play to only about 6,600 yards from the tips, but the abundance of elevated greens, with subtle contours and shaved down edges, creates its own particular challenges. Then again, living a peaceful, relaxed life is the idea behind Rio Verde—why should playing 18— or even 36—holes of golf be any different?
A NEW WAY OF CLUBBING DOWN
Located in the McDowell foothills next to Tonto National Forest, there’s much more than golf to Rio Verde. The facility also features clubs for hikers, bikers and horse lovers, as well as an art studio. It also recently completed a $3.75 million clubhouse renovation.
This article was also featured in the Winter issue of Colorado AvidGolfer.