Newcomers’ Guide to the Best Golf Courses in the Valley

Editorial StaffNovember 1, 2022
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Swing for the hills – or the desert washes – on one of the Valley’s many fabled fairways and award-winning golf courses.

Photo Courtesy Arizona Biltmore
Photo Courtesy Arizona Biltmore

Arizona Biltmore Golf Club
2400 E. Missouri Ave., Phoenix, 602-955-9656,
Presidents, Hollywood luminaries and various VIPs have all trod the fairways at this classic Central Phoenix golf club, the brainchild of chewing gum magnate William Wrigley Jr., who also built the eponymous mansion up the street. Choose between the Adobe course, built in 1928, or the shorter Links course, which offers striking vistas of the Downtown Phoenix skyline from the 15th hole.

Blackstone Country Club
12101 W. Blackstone Dr., Peoria, 623-707-8700,
A Golf Digest award-winner, this 18-hole, par-72 course located in the luxury community of Vistancia was designed by Jim Engh and features deep channels and black volcanic rock.

The Boulders Club
34631 N. Tom Darlington Dr., Carefree, 480-488-9028,
This challenging duo of golf-ball-devouring desert courses may drive you wild, but so will the drop-dead gorgeous setting among copper-toned boulders, Jay Morrish’s GOLF Magazine Gold Medal Award-winning layout and the occasional bobcat sighting.

Eagle Mountain Golf Club
14915 E. Eagle Mountain Pkwy., Fountain Hills, 480-816-1234,
The elevation changes offer striking views of the saguaro-striped Sonoran Desert at this Fountain Hills golf course. Pristine greens and memorable holes make this top-ranked course a winner.

Gold Canyon Golf Resort & Spa
6100 S. Kings Ranch Rd., Gold Canyon, 480-982-9449,
The Dinosaur Mountain Course gets the accolades at this 36-hole club in the Superstition Mountains. Elevation changes and undulations make this a thinking person’s course where club choice is key, but you’ll be rewarded with eye candy in the form of cactus-studded scenery and mammoth monoliths.

Grayhawk Golf Club
8620 E. Thompson Peak Pkwy., Scottsdale, 480-502-1800,
If it’s good enough for Phil Mickelson, it’s good enough for the rest of us. “Lefty” has been the ambassador for this award-winning club since its inception. After you play the Raptor course, dine at Phil’s Grill and check out his memorabilia from ASU.

Photo Courtesy Grayhawk
Photo Courtesy Grayhawk

Golf Club of Estrella
11800 S. Golf Club Dr., Goodyear, 623-386-2600,
This highly ranked course in far-flung Goodyear makes a great precursor to an Indians or Reds spring training game at Goodyear Ballpark. But even if you’re not a Buckeye State fan, this Jack Nicklaus Jr.-designed desert course is worth the drive, for its lush desert setting (not an oxymoron), mountain vistas and epic closing stretch.

Las Sendas Golf Club
7555 E. Eagle Crest Dr., Mesa, 480-396-4000,
With contoured fairways leading to elevated greens that slope into bunkers, this course requires a bit of strategy. But it prides itself in its nature-respecting, artifice-free Robert Trent Jones Jr. design as much as its views of Mesa’s Usery Mountains.

McCormick Ranch Golf Club
7505 E. McCormick Pkwy., Scottsdale, 480-948-0260,
McCormick Ranch’s two resort-style courses boast breathtaking views of Camelback and McDowell mountains. The Palm Course features 10 water holes that give golfers of all skill levels a challenge, while the Pine Course is a regional qualifier site for the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Ideal for guests of the nearby Scottsdale Resort.

Mountain Shadows
5445 E. Lincoln Dr., Paradise Valley, 480-624-5433,
In the mood for a quickie? Mountain Shadows’ 18-hole boutique “short course” is a 54-par charmer that’s tailor-made for beginners and duffers on a schedule. Set at the foot of Camelback Mountain, it also affords grand views of Paradise Valley, aka “PV.”

Lookout Mountain Golf Club
11111 N. Seventh St., Phoenix 602-866-6356,
A Troon Golf Experience, Lookout Mountain Golf Club at Pointe Hilton Tapatio Cliffs Resort offers excellent views of both its namesake and Piestewa Peak. Twelve holes on the course play through preserve land, giving golfers uninterrupted views.

Photo Courtesy Lookout Mountain Golf Course
Photo Courtesy Lookout Mountain Golf Course

Papago Golf Club
5595 E. Moreland St., Phoenix, 602-275-8428,
As Caddyshack star Rodney Dangerfield would have said, city-owned courses get no respect. The exception is Papago. As the Valley’s best muni, it was deemed worthy of hosting an LPGA championship in 2009. Designed in 1963 by Billy Bell of Torrey Pines fame, this challenging traditional course got spruced up to the tune of $5.8 million in 2008. Now it’s as stunning as its views of the Martian-like Papago Buttes.

The Phoenician Golf Course
6000 E. Camelback Rd., Scottsdale, 480-423-2450,
Akin to a golf-themed Biosphere, The Phoenician’s 18-hole course – recently redesigned by architect Phil Smith – name-checks several ecosystems, featuring vertiginous elevation changes, holes carved out of Camelback Mountain’s foothills, palm trees, saguaros, fountain- and flower-decked lakes, and Arizona’s only sand-island green.

SunRidge Canyon Golf Club
13100 N. Sunridge Dr., Scottsdale, 480-837-5100,
This saguaro-dotted course offers expansive views of surrounding mountain ranges. Water hazards won’t pose much of a problem, but desert wash areas rippling across several fairways will keep you on your toes. You may want to chug an Arnold Palmer before tackling the final sextet of swing-testing holes, dubbed the “Wicked Six.”

Troon North Golf Club
10320 E. Dynamite Blvd., Scottsdale, 480-585-7700,
Tom Weiskopf carved the Monument and Pinnacle courses out of the desert. His ingenious design, plus pristine greens and stunning views, is the reason these boulder-strewn beauties consistently get ranked as some of the state’s best courses.

Photo Courtesy Troon North Golf Club
Photo Courtesy Troon North Golf Club

TPC Scottsdale
17020 N. Hayden Rd., Scottsdale, 480-585-4334,
Every year the pros and crowds throng the TPC for the Waste Management Phoenix Open (see pages 84-85 for more information and tips). Re-create their glory on the Tom Weiskopf- and Jay Morrish-designed Stadium Course, or the equally eye-pleasing Champions Course. Pro tip: Look for the odd 13th-hole bunker.

We-Ko-Pa Golf Club
18200 E. WeKoPa Way, Fort McDowell, 480-836-9000,
Saguaros and mountains ripple away from the undulating fairways at this award-winning pair of 18-holers on the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation. Thanks to a lack of view-marring buildings, the original Cholla Course and newer Saguaro Course make golfers forget they’re close to civilization.

The Westin Kierland Golf Club
15636 N. Clubgate Dr., Scottsdale, 480-922-9283,
With the options to tool around on a Segway or a Kierland TurfRider (two-wheeled scooter), these three Scott Miller-designed nine-hole courses are perfectly calibrated to the modern golfer. It’s also in the center of Scottsdale’s shopping and dining scene, with easy access to Kierland Commons.

Wildfire Golf Club
5350 E. Marriott Dr., Phoenix 480-473-0205,
Nick Faldo and Arnold Palmer each designed a lush, 18-hole desert course at this JW Marriott club. The Palmer course is longer and perhaps more challenging; the Faldo course sports generous fairways but profuse (108, to be exact) bunkers so strand-like you’ll feel like you’re on a beach course.

The Wigwam
300 E. Wigwam Blvd., Litchfield Park, 800-909-4224,
These resort greens offer a trio of 18-hole championship golf courses (including two courses designed by the legendary Robert Trent Jones Sr.), dubbed The Gold, Blue and Red courses. The Gold course is a favorite, stretching 7,430 yards from the tees and presenting myriad challenges, including copious sand traps and ultra-narrow fairways. The easy part? Enjoying the palm-dappled views.

Photo Courtesy The Wigwam
Photo Courtesy The Wigwam
This article first appeared in the 2023 City Guide, published by PHOENIX magazine in November 2022.