Arizona Grand in Phoenix: An unusual golf course you're sure to enjoy
PHOENIX -- The five most unusual characteristics of the Arizona Grand golf course:
• It has three par 5s and five par 3s.
• It's a par 71 but only measures 6,288 yards from the tips.
• The front nine is old-school golf, with rolling hills and water on the first four holes.
• The back nine is a desert course.
• No. 18 is a 202-yard, downhill par 3.
"It's different than your normal course," said Steven Mahaffey, director of golf at Arizona Grand.
That's what makes it so much fun.
Arizona Grand, which sits on the base of South Mountain in Phoenix and is part of the Arizona Grand Resort, is a nice change-of-pace play from the traditional desert courses that define golf in the Valley.
Is it on a par with Troon North Golf Club or We-Ko-Pa Golf Club? Maybe not. But know this: You'll enjoy Arizona Grand because it's so unusual.
Take the course design. How many golf courses are water-bound on the outward nine and surrounded by desert terrain on the inward nine? The dichotomy makes it seem as if you're playing two completely separate courses in 18 holes.
The other factor that makes Arizona Grand unique is its length -- or lack of it. Clearly, having five par 3s plays into the course's yardage. But even then, the Grand is hardly a grip-it-and-rip-it track. Nine of the 10 par 4s are less than 400 yards.
The course really shortens up on the back nine, at just 2,920 yards from the tips. But don't let the yardage fool you into thinking Arizona Grand is a gimme.
The back nine, in particular, has several blind shots off the tees. The fairways are narrow and have a lot of natural slope to them. Spray your driver, and those 2,920 yards will seem like they roll on forever.
"A lot of people see 6,300 yards and think it's really short and easy, but there are a lot of holes that really force you to hit iron off the tee so you keep something in play," Mahaffey said.
Prime examples are Nos. 16 and 17, par 4s that measure 325 and 307 yards, respectively. Well-placed bunkers force golfers to leave the driver -- or even the 3-wood -- in the bag. Hitting 5-iron off the tee may not seem like much fun, but it harkens back to a time when golf courses were built for shot-makers.
The best hole on the course -- and one of the best in the Valley -- is the par-5, 538-yard 13th. Golfers face a blind shot off the tee and then a difficult decision with their second shot. To go for it, they have to clear a mammoth three-tiered sand trap that's about 75 yards long and runs all the way up to the elevated green.
Playing safe isn't so simple, either. The fairway narrows to about 30 feet wide in front of the trap. And the elevated green isn't the most welcoming to approach shots.
"It really takes three good shots to make par," Mahaffey said.
One of Arizona Grand's best attributes is its elevation changes on the back nine. Holes 14 and 18 -- both par 3s -- feature tee boxes that are at least 30 yards higher than the greens. Club selection is paramount.
Some misguided golf snobs might pooh-pooh Arizona Grand. It isn't 7,200 yards long, it sits next to a freeway. Golfers have to use plastic balls on the practice range.
But the golf course itself has no need to apologize. Its difference is what makes it distinctive.
Arizona Grand: The verdict
Arizona Grand's lack of facilities can be off-putting, and it takes some getting used to playing next to a freeway. But the golf course itself is a hoot, only because it's so different, with each nine having its own separate identity and five par 3s, including No. 18.
Is it worth a few hours of your time? Absolutely.
March 29, 2011