As a par 70, ASU Karsten Golf Course in Tempe is a true Pete Dye test

By Mike Bailey, Senior Staff Writer

The recent conversion of Karsten Golf Course at Arizona State University from a par 72 to a par 70 course probably won't affect the average golfer that much. The former home of collegiate stars Phil Mickelson, Billy Mayfair and Grace Park is still a great-looking course with reasonable green fees.

ASU's Karsten Golf Course - Hole 4
Plenty of hazards await on the 420-yard fourth at ASU's Karsten Golf Course in Tempe, Ariz.
ASU's Karsten Golf Course - Hole 4ASU's Karsten Golf Course - Hole 5ASU's Karsten Golf Course - Hole 9ASU's Karsten Golf Course - Hole 12
If you go

TEMPE, Ariz. - As Pete Dye courses go, Arizona State University's Karsten Golf Course was pretty tame. Not a pushover mind you, but at just a little more than 7,000 yards and a par of 72, it wasn't exactly bringing the best college players in the country to their knees. At least not in recent years.

Named for Karsten Solheim, Ping Golf founder, the golf course was built in 1989. It wasn't long, though, when other universities started building courses that were 7,400 yards or longer. After all, these kids today hit it a country mile, so you almost have to have a 500-yard par 4 to take the wedge out of their hands for the second shot.

Even then, some young players can hit a 350-yard drive and a 150-yard pitching wedge. Most mortal players, of course, will have considerably longer on their second shots.

In truth, the old course as a par 72 was just fine for the majority of players. Most of us will play the converted par 5s as par 5s anyway; it'll just be bogey now when we make 5 on the hole.

That the Karsten Course is now a par 70 really doesn't matter much to most players. When you tell someone you shot 84, you usually don't include the phrase, "But it came on a par 70." An 84 is an 84.

Changes at Karsten mostly just mean change in par

Although the golf course is only two decades old, it already has a pretty good history. This is where Billy Mayfair, Phil Mickelson and Grace Park honed their college games, among others, as members of a very fine ASU golf team.

The course was originally built to stage top-notch collegiate and amateur events, and it did just that. Located right on campus, it was a great setting - and still is - but the decision was made a couple of years ago to toughen it up.

So in 2008, the course was changed to a par 70. The 500-yard fifth hole, which was a par 5, is now a 493-yard par 4. The 10th hole, formerly played as a 546-yard par 5, is now a 498-yard par 4.

"With advancements in technology, coupled with the strength and athleticism seen by many young athletes, we felt as though the change was necessary," said ASU Karsten Director of Golf Daryl Crawford.

What it really means for the best players is that they lost two opportunities for easy birdies and possible eagles. Really, it just brings the course in line with other championship-caliber courses. Many of the USGA's events are held at par-70 courses throughout the country anyway. For those guys, it's all about scores relative to par. For us, it's just a better chance to break 80.

And if you don't play the "professional" (or back) tees, you're looking at 446 yards on the ninth and 478 on the 10th from the "champion" tees - still a pretty good poke but a little more manageable for good amateurs.

ASU Karsten Golf Course: The verdict

Focusing on dropping two par 5s, however, doesn't do this course justice.

This 7,002-yard course is somewhat reminiscent of a Scottish links course with Dye's signature pot bunkers on many holes, mounding and undulating greens mixed in with a few railroad ties here and there.

And there are plenty of good holes besides the two newly created, long par 4s.

The fourth, a 420-yard par 4, is one of four holes with water on it, and the hazards are prominent. There's a pot bunker right in the middle of the fairway to catch drives off all the appropriate tees, and the water wraps around the left side of the green and in front and in back.

The ninth is short at 311 yards, but it has water down the entire right side. Big hitters can try to drive the green, but the risk is great. Even hitting an iron off the tee isn't easy to this narrow fairway.

The course also has a nice variety of par 3s, with two of them back-to-back on six and seven. They are so different that you almost don't even notice it.

Perhaps the best part about the course is that it's affordable and open to the public. During the summer, you can play the course for under $25, which is pretty good in any market, much less Phoenix-Scottsdale.

Practice facilities, as you might expect at the home of a perennial college golf power, are also excellent. There's the Ping Learning Center, which offers private or group lessons, video analysis and club-fitting. And you can warm up or work on your game on an expansive range, practice putting green and short-game area.

The two-story clubhouse is also superb with a well-stocked golf shop, casual dining, an expansive outdoor patio overlooking the course and a permanent tribute to former ASU golfer Heather Farr, who died of cancer in 1993.

Mike BaileyMike Bailey, Senior Staff Writer

Mike Bailey is a senior staff writer based in Houston. Focusing primarily on golf in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America with an occasional trip to Europe and beyond, he contributes course reviews, travel stories and features as well as the occasional equipment review. An award-winning writer and past president of Texas Golf Writers Association, he has more than 25 years in the golf industry. Before accepting his current position in 2008, he was on staff at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeBaileyGA and Instagram at @MikeStefanBailey.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • Horrible experience at ASU Karsten

    Erik wrote on: Jul 7, 2009

    I had my TaylorMade R9 driver stolen after my round at Karsten. The last time I saw it was when the Karsten staff was taking my bag to the bag drop area. After eating lunch in the clubhouse I get my bag and my R9 driver is gone. The golf pro, Joey, gave me attitude when I reported it stolen and told me their director of golf would call me on Monday. By 4pm on Monday, Daryl the director of golf, had not called so I went up there. Daryl agreed to replace my driver, but has provided no timeframe when I will receive it. I have let him know that I leave for a trip to Pebble Beach in a week and need my driver. Still no action on his part. At this point, he claims to be "playing phone tag" with their TaylorMade rep.
    I would avoid this course at all cost. I take customers golfing once a week and have played courses all over Phoenix. Trust me there are tons of courses that are better and the service at these other clubs is far superior.


    • RE: Horrible experience at ASU Karsten

      Ingelbert Humperstink wrote on: Oct 26, 2009

      Waaaaah! Quit your were probably drunk on the 16th and threw your driver in the water.
      Go DEVILS!