No second fiddle: The Talon at Grayhawk Golf Club holds its own among the best courses in Scottsdale

By Scott Bordow, Contributor

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- As golfers head to the clubhouse after playing the Talon course at Grayhawk Golf Club in north Scottsdale, they can't help but notice a sign on the bridge over the cart path.

Grayhawk Golf Club -- Talon course - hole 11
A large canyon box surrounds the tee and extends to the front of the green on the 11th hole at Grayhawk Golf Club's Talon course.
Grayhawk Golf Club -- Talon course - hole 11Grayhawk Golf Club -- Talon course - hole 16
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Grayhawk Golf Club - Talon Course

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This facility has two dynamic eighteen hole courses. These desert courses have an ample amount of rough lining their wide-open tifdwarf fairways.

18 Holes | Public golf course | Par: 72 | 6973 yards | ... details »

It reads: "We hope you enjoyed your day."

Well, that depends on whether you like a golf course that will tempt and torment you -- sometimes all on the same hole.

Talon, among two golf courses on the Grayhawk property, is shorter than the Raptor, which measures 7,135 yards. Raptor is also better known among golfers, as it's hosted a PGA Tour fall series event for the past several years.

But Talon is no slouch. It's been voted among the top 100 U.S. golf courses you can play by Golf Magazine.

"It's a very scenic, target-style desert course," Head Professional Doug Hodge said. "The back nine is probably as pretty a nine holes as I've played in Arizona."

Talon, designed by David Graham and Gary Panks, isn't long. It plays 6,973 yards from the tips. But the rating (73.6) and slope (143) indicate the difficulty of 18 holes, even at that manageable distance.

So should some of the hole's names. Take the par-3 17th hole. At just 126 yards, it's a gimme, right?

Not when you see the island green and the wind is swirling: Thus, the name: Devil's Drink.

Or No. 13, the short, 303-yard par-4. It's called Heaven Or Hell for a reason. Bomb your drive into the perfect spot -- just left of the green -- and you'll find an easy birdie chance. But if your drive angles right, you're dead, because the fairway drops down into a deep box canyon.

"There's a ton of risk-reward, especially on the back nine," Hodge said.

Two things stand out about the golf course:

First, from the tee boxes, it appears you're trying to hit fairways that are about as wide as a supermodel's waist. But it's an optical illusion. There's plenty of grass; Graham and Panks just don't let you see the expanse of green.

"It's visually intimidating," Hodge said.

Also, it's imperative players take enough club on approach. Deep, front bunkers guard several greens. Come up short, and par will be a difficult score. Additionally, the greenside bunkers on the third and ninth holes feature railroad ties and measure at least five feet deep. Get stuck in one, and you'll feel like you're playing in the British Open.

Grayhawk's Talon and Raptor golf courses are always among the best-conditioned layouts in the Valley. The greens are quick but not exceedingly fast. One word of warning: Place your approach shot on the proper tier, and you'll get a fairly routine putt. But what happens if you leave it on the wrong level on the green? You could have a 50-foot putt with three feet of break.

"There's not a lot of break on the greens, but the tiers are pretty dramatic," Hodge said.

The short, par-3 island hole gets most of the attention, but don't overlook the 175-yard par-3 11th. A huge box canyon surrounds the tee bx and stretches to the green, guarded by four bunkers

"I think it's the premier hole on the golf course," Hodge said.

At Talon, many holes could earn that label. Even if you don't score well, you'll undoubtedly enjoy your day.

Grayhawk Golf Club's Talon course: The verdict

There's a reason Grayhawk Golf Club's Talon course receives so many national accolades. It's a fantastic layout. The golf course starts off slow but builds to a big finish, and the back nine features several outstanding holes about which that you talk long after your round ends. There are several elite golf courses in north Scottsdale, but you'll do yourself a disservice if you don't play Talon.

Stay and play at Grayhawk Golf Club

Several resorts, hotels and up-scale restaurants sit within 15 minutes of the golf course. But make sure you check out the on-course Grayhawk Learning Center, formerly known as the Kostis/McCord Learning Center. It's typical for Peter Kostis or Gary McCord to stop by and offer a few tips, and Stan Utley is one of the most renowned short-game specialists in the business.

Scott BordowScott Bordow, Contributor

Scott Bordow is the golf columnist for the Arizona Republic. Follow him on Twitter at @sbordow.

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