Boulders Golf Club in Carefree: Magical, mystical landscape transcends into scenic golf

By David R. Holland, Contributor

CAREFREE, Ariz. -- The moon is in full bloom above The Boulders Resort. It's a mystical setting.

Boulders Golf Club - South course
Jay Morrish completed the South Course at Boulders Golf Club in 1983.
Boulders Golf Club - South courseBoulders Resort in Carefree
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The Boulders Golf Club - North Course

3.5 stars out of 5 (based on 2 reviews)
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The Boulders Golf Club in Carefree offers two championship courses, the North and the South. The courses are both known for their rugged beauty, sprawling across a Sonoran Desert landscape covered with towering cacti and ancient boulder formations. The North Course is surrounded by the desert foothills of Black Mountain, which provides a stunning backdrop for most of the holes.

18 Holes | Resort/Semi-Private golf course | Par: 72 | 6959 yards | Book online | ... details »

The Boulders Golf Club - South Course

5 stars out of 5 (based on 2 reviews)
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Meandering across 1,300 acres of pristine Sonoran Desert, the Boulders Golf Club offers two stunning championship courses that play through the foothills of the Black Mountain. Both the North and the South Courses were carved from the hillsides, offering stunning views throughout. The South Course is the newer of the two and many say it is more scenic.

18 Holes | Resort/Semi-Private golf course | Par: 71 | 6917 yards | Book online | ... details »

Giant granite formations and mammoth rock balls, 12 million years in the making, cast shadows across the peaceful and sleepy Sonoran Desert. Stately saguaros, hundreds of years old, mark the ghostly landscape like sentinels.

On moonless nights the stars are big and bright. You are deep in the heart of the desert. A coyote howls in the distance. Everything is in tune with nature.

Even though it's only a short, dark desert highway trip from the shimmering night-time lights of sprawling Phoenix, man is insignificant here. The environment rules.

Construction of this world-class golf resort, covering 1,300 acres, failed to drive away the wildlife. Every day golfers are surprised to see a bobcat while hunting for a wayward shot. A "coyote rule" allows you to replay a shot without penalty in case a coyote sprints out and purloins your Titleist.

Rabbits "hog" the fairways at dusk munching on the green grass. And if you walk at night under a tree you will disturb roosting birds of all kinds including dove and Gambel quail.

Red Lawrence built the first nine holes on this site in 1969 as the Carefree Municipal Golf Course. Phoenix's Jack Snyder completed the 18 holes a few years later. Could they have forecast this land's future?

Today's 36 holes have designer Jay Morrish's stamp on them. He completed the South Course at Boulders Golf Club in 1983 and remodeled the North Course in 1985. He applied another facelift to the North in 1999.

Since its opening in 1985, Boulders Golf Club has been visited by lovers of the desert and golf in multitudes.

"The North Course (6,811 yards, par 72, slope 137) was the original," said Tom McCahan, Director of Golf. "But most people believe the South Course (6,726 yards, par 71, slope 140) is the most scenic and they know it has holes that go right up to the boulder piles. It's dramatic scenery, but I think the members enjoy the North because has more fairway to work with.

"I really think the back nine of the North from the back tees is the toughest stretch of holes," he continued. "You have five par-4 holes over 425 yards in distance and it can get tough. The greens are subtle so you won't have any really ridiculous putts."

The two courses, strikingly beautiful and characterized by rugged desert terrain, are continually alternated, allowing one to be kept private while the other is used by hotel guests.

The South Course's beginning sets the tone for a golf day you won't forget. No. 1 is a 447-yard par-4 that requires a target drive that stops short of two stacks of boulders that narrow the fairway at 110 yards out. The green rests just short of a massive boulder pile, where no doubt, many photos are snapped.

You will face a stacked pile of granite balls in sight for the tee shot at No. 2, a 150-yard par-3. Be precise and don't come up short because a deep bunker guards the front and another is in the rear.

The par-5, fifth leads you right up to the base of the signature "Boulder Pile" and you have a harrowing cart drive up to the par-5, sixth, which requires a tee shot from a box cut into the side of the giant boulder outcropping that sits adjacent to the Resort's main building. Your drive actually flies over the driveway that leads to the reception area.

The back tee is cut right beside "Rosie's Rock" on the par-3, 187-yard No. 7. It's one of the resorts most recognizable formations, since it looks like a giant golf ball on a tee. The name comes from Rusty Lyon, who is the visionary behind the resort. He wanted to honor his wife and scratched the name "Rosie" on the rock on his first visit to the site.

From here on the scenery just stays the same - awesome.

Awards for Boulders Golf Club

The Boulders' South is No. 73 on Golf Magazine's 2000 Top 100 You Can Play List. The and North is ranked No. 83. It is a Golf Magazine Gold Medal Resort. Golf Digest lists it as a Top 25 U.S. Resort. Links Magazine named it Top Five Best of the West.

Golf Digest rated the North Course as the 3rd "Best Public Course" in the state for 1996, the 12th "Best in State" Course for 1995-96, and 19th under the same category for 1997-98. In addition, Golf Digest rated the South Course as the 2nd "Best Public Course" in the state for 1996, the 15th "Best in State" course for 1995-96, and 20th under the same category for 1997-98. The club has a private golf membership, but it also allows guests of the resort public play.

No. 5 Resort in the World by Conde Nast Traveler, 1998. No. 2 Best Golf Resort, The Robb Report, 1999. No. 5 U.S. Resort, Zagat Hotel Survey, 1997. Best U.S. Resort Hotel 14 straight years by Andrew Harper's Hideaway Report.

David R. HollandDavid R. Holland, Contributor

David R. Holland is an award-winning former sportswriter for The Dallas Morning News, football magazine publisher, and author of The Colorado Golf Bible. Before launching a career as a travel/golf writer, he achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force reserve, serving during the Vietnam and Desert Storm eras. Follow Dave on Twitter @David_R_Holland.

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