Troon North Golf Club
Troon North (10320 E. Dynamite Blvd., Scottsdale, Web site) offers up authentic desert golf, the way you'd expect it to be depicted in the full-color, glossy pages of Arizona Highways magazine.
"Aesthetically speaking, I don't think you'll find 36 better holes in the High Sonoran Desert," head pro Travis McDowell said proudly.
And the courses here are as approachable as they are spectacular.
"The two courses [Monument and Pinnacle] here were designed to be the prototypical desert courses, and they were the first to be accessible to the public," McDowell said.
Before Troon North opened in 1995, all the classic desert courses in the valley were private country clubs.
Troon North is open to all comers, but it just might make you feel like you're at a country club.
Like TPC Scottsdale, the Monument Course was designed by Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish; the Pinnacle course, meanwhile, was Weiskopf's first solo effort as a designer. Both feature a Weiskopf/Morrish trademark – a reachable par-4 on the sixth hole.
Because these are true desert courses, be sure to bring a couple of extra sleeves of golf balls. McDowell notes that a recent Golf Digest survey suggested a typical 10-handicapper would need nine golf balls to make it through a round. McDowell has one more piece of advice.
"Regardless of your handicap," McDowell said, "pick a tee box wisely. With snakes, cactus and other things in the desert, it's not always worth chasing down an errant ball."
The Monument Course derives its name from a 50-foot tall boulder in the middle of the fairway on the 3rd hole – a 564-yard par-5.
Legend Trail Golf Club
Legend Trail (9462 E. Legendary Lane, Scottsdale, Web site) has a distinctly Southwestern feel, with its adobe-style clubhouse and wide-open desert vistas.
"It's a true desert landscape," said head pro Josiah Solberg.
Five sets of tee boxes offer a challenge for all levels. The Long Trail course plays at 6,845 yards, while the Short Trail comes in at 5,000 yards. Every tee box is an island, so, as Solberg noted, "Each tee feels like a launching pad."
Legend Trail is one of just two Arizona courses – and its only public links – designed by Rees Jones, the son of legendary course architect Robert Trent Jones.
The course ends with back-to-back par 5s followed by a par-4 on the 18th hole.
"No. 16 and No. 17 present good challenges," Solberg said. "If you're a gambling man, it's a good way to finish up a round of golf."
Local resident Alice Cooper is a regular here and calls Legend Trail his favorite course in the valley. If you want to catch a glimpse of the rocker of "School's Out," "I'm Eighteen" and "No More Mr. Nice Guy" fame, arrive early.
"When Alice Cooper plays," Solberg said, "he's out there as soon as the sun comes up. And he's a scratch – if not better – golfer."
Built in 1995 before the surrounding community was developed around it, Legend Trail retains a remote, Western feel.
The TPC Scottsdale Champions Course opened in December 2007. The par-71, 7,115-yard course was designed by Randy Heckenkemper at a cost of $12 million. It will highlight the natural beauty of the Sonoran Desert while offering a challenging round.
Like its sister course, the Champions Course figures to finish with a flurry: There's a reachable par 4 at No. 15, followed by a par 3 at No. 16. Then comes a 605-yard par 5 on No. 17, before a 460-yard par 4 on No 18.
A new 11,000-square-foot clubhouse also will open in conjunction with the Champions Course.
Doug Ward is a southern California-based freelance writer.
This article was originally published in September 2007.