If you’re a 36-holes-a-day person, then Arizona’s Valley of the Sun is your kind of place.
By Tom Mackin
At more than a handful of facilities you don’t even have to leave the property for your second 18! Just grab some lunch in the clubhouse and head to your second first tee of the day. Herewith, some of the best doubleheader options in and around Scottsdale.
TALKING STICK GOLF CLUB
Does a flat piece of property mean 36 holes of boring golf? Not when Bill Co- ore and Ben Crenshaw design the two courses. Their efforts here on the land of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community date back to 1998. What the layouts may lack in geographic drama is more than made up for in the strategic choices placed in front of you. Lower handicappers dig the O’odham course, especially if they play the angles correctly. Even with raised greens, the Piipaash course doesn’t bite as badly if you are not on your game. Discounted green fees are available for 36 holes played on the same day, but also check out stay-and-play deals at neighboring Talking Stick Resort.
GRAYHAWK GOLF CLUB
I have often flipped a coin to decide which course to play here: both the Talon (by Gary Panks and David Graham) and Raptor (Tom Fazio) are that good. The former has my favorite par 3—the 11th, where you stroll across a swinging bridge to access the back tee—while the Raptor has one of the area’s best closing holes: the par-5 18th with a fairway that tiles from left to right, with water on the right naturally. You can fuel up for your second round at Phil’s Grill in the clubhouse (with walls covered in memorabilia from Mr. Mickelson) or at Isabella’s, across the street and set between the 10th and 18th holes on the Talon Course. Raptor has host- ed multiple professional events over the years, and in 2022 and ’23, it will welcome the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Division I golf championships each May.
Who doesn’t want to play where the pros play? The Stadium Course here is home to the famously rowdy Waste Management Phoenix Open (WMPO). You’ll pay a high price ($300+) in peak season here, but you get excellent course conditions and quick greens. Play there between November and February and the legendary par 3 16th hole will be surrounded by stands that fill up for the WMPO (minus the heckling for poor shots). It’s a big venue in every sense; just keep your ball out of the rough. Right across the street is the very underrated Champions Course, which hosts a PGA TOUR Champions Qualifying Tournament. It’s not quite as a dramatic as its sibling, but it remains a stellar test, very walkable and far more affordable.
WE-KO-PA GOLF CLUB
If there are any courses in the Valley that might render you speechless, it’s the two at this property owned by the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation, a short drive east of Scottsdale. The Cholla Course, designed by Scott Miller, is exactly what you would expect of a desert layout. The Saguaro Course, created by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, is built for walking, with massive fairways that are tough to miss and greens situated close to the next tee. Golfweek ranks it No. 1 on its Best Courses You Can Play in Arizona, and you’ll get no argument here. A 36-hole package is available, with both rounds to be played within 72 hours (cost is $460 from January 14, 2022 through April 3, 2022).
WHIRLWIND GOLF CLUB
Head south of downtown Phoenix for a short drive to play two stellar courses by architect Gary Panks at Whirlwind Golf Club at Wild Horse Pass. The slightly longer Cattail course includes more water features than its counterpart, plus the greens are tougher to read. The primary challenge on Devil’s Claw involves the approach shot; most greens have two tiers, so miss the right one and two-putting or more often becomes a reality. The wind usually kicks up in the afternoon at this wide-open property, so club selection could get a little harder during your second round of the day. A 36-hole special rate is available. Between rounds, try the wings—reported to be among the best in the Valley—in the Sivlik Grill.
- A 10-minute shuttle or drive from the JW Marriott Camelback Inn Resort & Spa, CAMELBACK GOLF CLUB offers two very different layouts: the original Padre Course, with tree-lined fairways and multiple hazards, and the more modern Ambiente Course, a links-style effort with fairways guarded by native grasses.
- When the LPGA played at WILDFIRE GOLF CLUB between 2011 and 2019, it used a hybrid layout featuring holes from both its Arnold Palmer and Nick Faldo-designed layouts. The latter has more than 100 bunkers while the former features large greens with tricky breaks.
- The massive rock formations through-out the North and South courses at BOULDERS RESORT & SPA SCOTTSDALE are no hallucination. They are real… and they are spectacular. The courses alternate daily between public and member play, so you can’t do both 18s in a single day.
Tom Mackin is a Phoenix-area contributor to Colorado AvidGolfer.
This article was also featured in the Winter 2021 Issue of Colorado AvidGolfer.