Central Arizona

Five favourite golf courses in Arizona

Five stunning Arizona golf courses that will keep you coming back

Sedona Golf Resort. Hole #10, Par 3. Photo
Sedona Golf Resort. Hole No.10, par 3. — Dennis Begin photo

Having golfed throughout Arizona over the last decade, coming up with five favourite golf courses is not an easy task. Some of the criteria used in making my selections are playability, esthetic value, cost and the desire to return. The five courses chosen are fully equipped with a driving range, PGA instructors, restaurant and a pro shop with equipment/apparel for sale. Golf courses that are flat, tree-lined and costly, such as the TPC Scottsdale/Stadium Course, while nice, did not make the list.

5. Turquoise Valley Golf Course

This desert golf course, located south of Bisbee, Arizona, and only a tortilla toss from the U.S.-Mexico border is very different. The name of the little border village, Naco, comes from a native Indian word for a local cacti. Turquoise Valley is the oldest continuously operating golf course in the state, dating back to 1908. It is not an upscale PGA course, but designed to cater to the local ranching and mining communities, as well as compete with the better courses in Tucson. 

The golf course has one unique feature that draws golfers, the 15th hole called The Rattler.  This distinctive hole is a rare par 6 at 747 yards, being the second longest hole in the United States and fifth longest in the world. The Rattler is long and narrow, with two snake-eye bunkers guarding the green. A fourth shot to the green is over water and usually into the wind, adding to the challenge. A course rule states “…a ball lying a club length of a rattlesnake may be moved two club lengths without penalty and without disturbing the snake.”

Another exceptional hole is No. 11, a par 3 over the Green Bush Creek at 199 yards from the back tees. This is the course's signature hole with a great view of the valley and the Mule Mountains.

4. Emerald Canyon Golf Course – Jewel of the Desert

This golf course opened in 1989 and continues to attract snowbirds. It is located between Parker and Lake Havasu, Arizona, just off Highway 95. The golf architect designed the course to follow the contours of the canyons, such as holes No. 3, No. 8 and No. 15. On other holes, golfers tee off from the high bluffs, such as No. 7, No. 16 and No. 17. From the bluffs, there is a great view of the Colorado River and the Whipple Mountains of California. Some holes, such as No. 4 and No. 6 are cut through the canyon walls, while others border the six lakes along the course. A favourite hole has to be No. 17, a par 5 at 524 yards, with a risk-and-reward shot over a 130-foot cliff to an elevated green. Golf Digest magazine has given this course a four-star rating.  

Emerald Canyon Golf Course. Hole #17, Par 5.
Emerald Canyon Golf Course. Hole No.17, par 5. — Dennis Begin photo

3. Sedona Golf Resort

The only golf courses in Canada that can compare with the beauty of Sedona would be Kananaskis and Banff in the Rocky Mountains. The course is actually located in Oak Creek Village, just off Highway 179, seven miles south of Sedona. This is a resort course, 6,646 yards (back tees) and a par 71. Sedona is often described as a championship course in one of the most beautiful places on earth. Phrases such as “jaw-dropping splendour” and “spectacular” have been used to describe the course, which is not far from the truth. Hole No. 2, a par 3 at 183 yards, is a teasing hint of what lies ahead.

It is the back nine that keeps you coming back. It starts with the course's signature hole, No. 10, a par 3 at 210 yards, one of the most photographed holes in the entire Southwest. The next two holes work themselves up the foothills, then back down into the valley. There is not a bad hole on the back nine, finishing with a short par 4 at 336 yards, with water and sand down the left side.  All the while, Castle Rock and Bell Rock provide a picturesque backdrop on the way to the classy clubhouse. 

This is an upscale course, surrounded by red rock mountains, evergreen vegetation, lush green fairways and expensive residential homes. Sedona has a four-star rating from Golf Digest magazine and partners with Hilton Sedona Resort at Bell Rock for stay-and-golf packages. 

2. Quarry Pines Golf Club 

This is a very unique golf course. In 2000, the decision was made to close a sand and gravel quarry pit in the City of Marana, a suburb of Tucson. Adjacent to the quarry was a nine-hole course called Pines. Instead of leaving a 100-foot-deep hole in the ground, a new course was built in and around the old quarry, opening for business in 2003. Some of the existing holes were upgraded around the top of the quarry, while other holes such as No. 2, No. 10 and No. 11 were built in the quarry. The topography allowed the golf architect to be creative, resulting in one-of-a-kind holes like No. 14 and No. 16, which are cut out of a gully and the side of the hill. With many elevated tees, golfers are faced with having to carry the desert floor, ravines, arroyos, sand traps and rock outcroppings.  Water only comes into play on holes No. 3 and No. 4. My favourite hole is No. 11, a par 3 at 222 yards (back tees), over a ravine onto a sloped green that is carved out of the side of the quarry. No one ever said the game had to be easy!  This course has a four-star rating from Golf Digest magazine.   

Quarry Pines Golf Course, #10, Par 4.
Quarry Pines Golf Course, No.10, par 4. — Dennis Begin photo

1. Dove Mountain

This golf course is part of a golf resort community, consisting of 3,000 homes, three golf courses (81 holes) and the Ritz-Carleton Hotel.  

Dove Mountain, Tortolita Course, #3, Par 3.
Dove Mountain, Tortolita Course, No.3, par 3. — Dennis Begin photo

Located in Marana, a suburb of Tucson, Dove Mountain was used by the PGA for the World Golf Championship-Accenture Match Play from 2007 to 2014. Two nine-hole courses, the Saguaro and Tortolita, were designed by Jack Nicklaus with PGA tournaments in mind. 

Located in the foothills of the Tortolita Mountains, the course starts with a relative flat landscape for the front nine and then climbs up into the foothills on the back nine, before emerging back onto the Sonoran Desert. Leaving the fairway results in desert shrubs, washes or arroyos, and every possible cacti, especially the large saguaro.The greens are very large, undulating and fast. This is an upscale course designed for serious golfers and plays 7,849 yards from the back tees, the longest on the PGA Tour. My favourite hole on the Saguaro course is Hole No. 3, a par 3 at 208 yards, which also serves as the signature hole. On the Tortolita course, Hole No. 6, 343 yards, a par 4 uphill, over a large waste area will certainly grab your attention. The course is a challenge! Needless to say, Dove Mountain has a four-star rating from Golf Digest magazine.

Arizona has many fine golf courses and the best part is that there are still many more courses to play.

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