Playable Kierland Golf Club remains one of the most unique experiences in Scottsdale

By Scott Bordow, Contributor

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Kierland Golf Club is to the golf experience what Charlie Sheen is to a bit irrational.

Kierland Golf Club - Ironwood course - 9th hole
No. 9 on the Ironwood course at Kierland Golf Club: A classic risk-reward hole.
Kierland Golf Club - Ironwood course - 9th holeKierland Golf Club - Acacia course - 9th holeKierland G.C. - SegwaysWestin Kierland Resort and Spa
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Kierland Golf Club - Acacia/Mesquite

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The Acacia/Mesquite is known for two holes in particular. Acacia's par-4 seventh hole may only be 374 yards, but it is the most photographed hole at this popular club for a reason. The Mesquite nine is also home to one of the most challenging holes at Kierland Golf Club.

18 Holes | Public golf course | Par: 72 | 6913 yards | ... details »

Kierland Golf Club - Ironwood/Acacia

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The 27 holes at Kierland Golf Club share the same desert landscape but there is enough variety throughout the three nines to provide three completely distinct 18-hole courses. Ironwood/Acacia combines the most player-friendly of the nines, the Ironwood, and the club's signature nine, the Acacia.

18 Holes | Public golf course | Par: 72 | 6974 yards | ... details »

Kierland Golf Club - Mesquite/Ironwood

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Kierland Golf Club in Scottsdale is home to 27 holes of championship golf. The holes are divided into three nines, which are played in three different 18-hole combinations. The Mesquite is the most difficult of the three nines, which can be mostly attributed to the par-4 sixth. The Ironwood nine is the most player friendly nine.

18 Holes | Public golf course | Par: 72 | 7017 yards | ... details »

See, you don't just play golf on Kierland's 27 holes. You ride on Segways. You hear bagpipes. You enjoy the outdoor air conditioning. And when the day is done, you luxuriate at the Westin Kierland Resort & Spa, shop at the nearby outdoor mall or dine at one of several outstanding restaurants within a five-minute drive.

Yeah, Kierland is all that.

But for the sake of this article, we'll skip the dining, shopping and, uh, spa-ing, and stick to golf.

Kierland Golf Club is one of the more unusual clubs in the Valley in that it doesn't have a defined 18 holes, a single cactus on the property, or forced carries that define so many of north Scottsdale's high-end golf courses.

Instead, it has rolling hills, huge elevation changes and three sets of nines: Acacia, Mesquite and Ironwood.

Designer Scott Miller's charge was to build golf courses that are friendly to resort golfers, and he's done just that.

The fairways are generous and fairly easy to hit, given the mounding that escorts balls back onto the short stuff. The greens, while large, aren't overly undulating or particularly fast. Simply put, Kierland is there to be had.

"Our courses aren't ones you walk off of and think, 'That was four, four-and-half hours of tough golf,'" said Head Professional Heath Morden. "It's very user friendly for higher handicappers and does provide challenges for better players."

Kierland's Acacia course, a par 36 that stretches to 3,435 yards, is the best of the three nines primarily because of its last four holes.

No. 6 is a 190-yard par 3 to an elevated green, No. 7 is a short, 374-yard par 4 that looks benign until the approach shot; then it's a tricky shot to a narrow green protected by seven bunkers. No. 8 is a 219-yard par 3, and No. 9 is the signature hole at the resort. The 531-yard par 5 features an 80-foot drop from the tee box to the fairway. Mounds to the right of the fairway turn every ball to the left, which is not a good thing given a lake runs all the way up the left side to the green. Westin Kierland Resort & Spa sits behind the green and is a picture postcard waiting to happen.

"Most people like to finish off their round with the ninth hole at Acacia," Morden said.

Kierland's Mesquite nine plays at 3,478 yards. It is the flattest of the three courses, but it also features perhaps the toughest hole on the property, the 468-yard, par-4 sixth hole. No. 9 is also a bear, a 427-yard par 4 with a green that's fronted by a large lake and protected by six bunkers.

Ironwood, a par 36 at 3,539 yards, is a combo-platter. It has some of Acacia's signature mounding but also more of a links feel that makes it arguably the most player-friendly of the three tracks.

Ironwood's signature hole is No. 9, a 495-yard par 5 that's a classic risk-reward. Big hitters can go for the green in two, but the putting surface is protected by a lake to the right and sand traps to the left. Hit in the water, and par likely is gone. Hit in the bunkers, and a downhill sand shot awaits with the water beckoning from the other side of the green.

No review of Kierland would be complete without mentioning some of its added benefits. For example, adventurous golfers can tool around the course on custom-built Segways. The cost includes a one-hour training session.

Musical lovers will appreciate the Irish bagpiper who stations himself near the ninth green of the Acacia course late in the afternoons and regales golfers and resort guests with sounds from across the pond.

Last -- and certainly not least given that it's Arizona -- each golf cart has two air-conditioning units that blow cold air on the back of golfers' necks. Think that doesn't come in handy on a 110-degree day?

Kierland Golf Club: The verdict

Kierland Golf Club doesn't pretend to have the most dramatic -- or spectacular -- golf courses in the Valley. But the Troon Golf-managed property is always in tremendous shape, the three nines are eminently playable and the added touches -- the Segways, bagpipes and air conditioning -- make it unique among the more than 200 golf courses in the Valley.

"When you come we want it to be an experience unlike any other you've had from start to finish," Morden said.

Kierland does just that.

Scott BordowScott Bordow, Contributor

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

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