South Course at The Boulders resort north of Scottsdale delivers a visually dazzling desert experience

By Brandon Tucker, Managing Editor

CAREFREE, Ariz. -- Arizona's Sonoran Desert covers about 120,000 square miles, and few spots have the spectacular visual drama of what can be found at The Boulders, a Waldorf Astoria Resort, located just north of Scottsdale.

Boulders South golf course - No. 5
The most dramatic of the boulder piles is the backdrop to Boulders South's par-5 fifth hole.
Boulders South golf course - No. 5Boulders South golf courseBoulders South - cart pathBoulders South golf course - 7th green
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The Boulders Golf Club - South Course

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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 »

The drive to Boulders from Scottsdale on North Scottsdale Road is a flat, straight shot towards the outskirts of the valley. You know you're getting closer to the resort when a large, granite boulder pile on the horizon grows bigger and bigger.

By the time you arrive and find yourself on the fifth green on The Boulders South Course, you can marvel at this mighty formation from its base. It makes you feel tiny and insignificant -- but once you learn of its age, you at least feel a little younger.

The many boulders that rest throughout the 1,300-acre site at The Boulders are estimated to be as old as 12 million years, while the two golf courses opened in 1984. The question is, "What took so long?"

McDowell Mountain backdrops on the horizon and a collection of boulder piles in various sizes right up close makes for one of the Southwest's most picturesque golf experiences.

The Boulders South Course: The course

The Boulders features two 18-hole layouts, the North Course and South. Each of which were high-profile catalysts in the Valley of the Sun's golf boom in the early 1980s. Architect Jay Morrish laid both courses out, giving the majority of the most up-close boulder encounters to the South Course, which also plays closest to the main resort area.

In the nearly 30 years since opening, the two courses have earned reputations in the Valley for not only some of the most remarkable scenery but also top playing conditions and service, part of both the private club component and the Waldorf Astoria-brand resort. The ambiance at the Boulders Club, just a short shuttle ride from the resort, is certainly more of a private club (down to the "no tipping" policy for non-food and beverage employees) and less of a bustling, large resort that you might find closer to Phoenix.

Once out on the golf course, most holes on the South feature a green site that sits beside some kind of boulder pile, whether large like the fifth hole, or smaller like the par-4 first hole. Perhaps the most famous of the rocks at Boulders is Rosie's Rock, a balancing stone that the golf cart wraps right around and the back tee box of the seventh hole sits right beside.

The one stretch with some real length starts at the par-4 eighth hole, which plays 455 yards. After another 400-plus-yard hole, ball-striking is at a premium on the 221-yard 10th and 601-yard 11th. While it'll be tough for most to reach this brute in two shots, the course culminates with a risk-reward par 5 that is just 514-yard 18th, nearly 100 yards shorter but also features a green guarded by water.

The Boulders South Course: The verdict

Morrish's design is a good one, with some great hole variety -- and no hole here will leave you crying foul.

But it's pretty tough to pay attention to the golf course's architecture when there is such marvelous natural formations beside the fairways at most points along the way.

With a length of less than 6,800 yards from the championship tees, the par-71 South Course is a solid desert challenge but not as difficult from the tips as say, Troon North. The premium placed on accurate tee shots means longer hitters may leave the driver in the bag on a few holes.

After your round

A semi-private facility managed by Troon Golf that shares space with resort guests, the golf club offers some limited daily fee play on each course. But visitors looking to enjoy a peaceful, desert retreat should look into a few nights at the resort, too.

Boulders features spacious, Waldorf Astoria-brand casita accommodations and winding, outdoor walking paths around boulders that make the resort a tranquil retreat. In addition to guest rooms and dining, the resort's Golden Door Spa features massage and beauty treatments, as well as fitness classes that cater to golfers.

At the golf club is a small grill that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as great practice range, putting and chipping green that always seems to be busy with members honing their swings during the winter peak season.

It's here where Director of Instruction Donald Crawley, voted a Top 10 teacher in Arizona by Golf Digest, leads his "Golf Simplified" program and offers individual lessons and golf schools.

Brandon TuckerBrandon Tucker, Managing Editor

Brandon Tucker is the Managing Editor for Golf Advisor. To date, his golf travels have taken him to over two dozen countries and over 500 golf courses worldwide. While he's played some of the most prestigious courses in the world, Tucker's favorite way to play the game is on a great muni in under three hours. Follow Brandon on Twitter at @BrandonTucker and on Instagram at BrandonTuckerGC.

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