Grayhawk Golf Club: Talon, Raptor Designs Pose Many Chances for Ambush

By David R. Holland, Contributor

SCOTTSDALE, AZ - Tim Herron will never forget the day, October 21, 1999, he got ambushed at Grayhawk.

"Tim came to the club to just do a little practice putting," said Grayhawk's Director of Golf Joe Shershenovich. "The next thing he knows, three hours later, he has dropped $300 to Phil Mickelson."

Herron joined Mickelson, who was partnered with Rocco Mediate, at the turn of the Talon Course on this unsuspecting day. Two of the better amateurs in the area - Jim Strickland and former Arizona State University assistant golf coach Rob Mangini - were playing a friendly match against Mickelson and Mediate.

Mickelson had just shot 32 on the front nine and it probably took only a few more holes before Herron realized he was a deer caught in the headlights.

Mickelson, one of Grayhawk's Ambassadors, finished the back with a 29, registering the course-record 61. Mediate had his mind on other things that day and shot 84, but his eagle at the par-4 14th and a birdie on No. 4, boosted teammate Mickelson in the money department.

Also ambushed were Mangini, who shot 71, and Strickland, who recorded a 69. "You can see the scorecard, we framed it and its in the foyer leading to Phil's Grill," Shershenovich said.

When Mickelson, the former ASU All-America, comes to play Talon and Raptor, he sees aesthetic desert beauties and the essence of challenging daily-fee golf in the area he calls home.

Talon, designed by former PGA and U.S. Open Champion David Graham and architect Gary Panks, opened in 1991 measuring 6,973-yards at par-72. It's ranked No. 64 on Golf Magazine's Top 100 You Can Play List.

Raptor, considered the tougher of the two, opened for play on December 9, 1995. The 7,108-yard par-71 course was designed by Tom Fazio. It's ranked No. 59 by Golf Magazine.

"Talon is a little more scenic with a box canyon and island green," said Shershenovich. "Raptor is also scenic, has wider fairways, but you will face tougher saves from off the green. The greens are very tough - there's lots of undulation and hard putts, typical of Fazio. If you poll our guests you will find a split - 50 percent like Talon, 50 percent like Raptor. But I find most people get their butts kicked on Raptor and want to come back and try it again."

Hosting 80,000 rounds a year, you know Grayhawk is a popular spot. The Talon Course features elevated greens that are extremely large and undulating with water hazards on two holes and impessive views of the McDowell Mountains and the Phoenix Valley.

No. 6, The Ridge, might be the toughest hole. It's a 459-yard, par 4, requiring a long straight tee shot to a fairway that narrows at 140 yards out.

The most scenic is Devil's Drink, No. 17, a 126-yard par-3 island green beauty, and No. 18, Five Falls, a 588-yard par 5, with three large traps to the right. The approach has a huge elongated trap left, waterfalls and a lake should you go too long.

No. 11, Swinging Bridge, a 175-yard, par 3, was voted one of "The Best 18 Holes You Can Play" by Golf Digest in 1997. You are required to fly over a desert ravine and a deep front bunker to a deep and wide green. Go too far and you are on the upper level of the green, making a tough two-putt.

Raptor opens with Tom-A-Hawk, a 413-yard par-4 that's tough enough because of its length, but it really is mean on the green. If you place your approach above the hole or left a the pin hanging on a center ridge, you might just putt off the green.

Aces and Eights, the par-3 156-yard 8th hole, is formidable. There are three front, deep bunkers that can disguise a front pin placement on this two-tiered green. It's an all-carry tee shot.

The finishing hole, Big Sky, will remind you of Talon's ending. It's a 521-yard par 5 with water on the right. It has a generous landing area, but from 160 yards in the fairway narrows.

Hey McCord

Shershenovich says another story that's often told around Grayhawk is about a discussion Mangini and Stickland had one day while watching the PGA Tour on TV.

"They got in this big discussion about the TV camera angles," Shershenovich said. "They wondered if you looked slimmer or fatter on TV. So they decided to call Gary McCord on his cell phone. It just so happened that Gary was in the locker room after winning his first professional event, the Senior Tour's Toshiba Senior Classic at Myrtle Beach in November of 1999.

"Gary answered the phone and the question was posed. After a short discussion, the phone call was over. And McCord just sat there saying to himself: 'I just won my first tournament and these guys want to know about camera angles!' It was evident the two didn't have a clue about his win. They had been watching the regular tour," Shershenovich said.


Where to Eat

Quill Creek Cafe and Phil's Grill, named for Mickelson. Both are located at Grayhawk.


From Phoenix Sky Harbor. Exit Airport on Hwy. 202 West. Take 202 to Hwy. 51 (Squaw Peak Parkway). Go North on Hwy. 51 to Bell Road. Exit Right/East on Bell Road. Turn Left/North on Scottsdale Rd.. Go North on Scottsdale Rd. to Thompson Peak Pkwy. Turn Right/East on Thompson Peak Pkwy. Go 2 Miles on Thompson Peak Pkwy. Grayhawk Golf Club on Left/North.

Kotis McCord Learning Center


Golf Magazine ranks Grayhawk's Raptor (No. 59) and Talon (No. 64) on its Top 100 You Can Play List for 2000. Golf Magazine rated it as the 18th "Best in State" course for 1997-98. Talon's No. 11, a 175-yard, par 3, was voted one of "The Best 18 Holes You Can Play" by Golf Magazine in 1997. The equally impressive pro shop was recognized among "America's Top 100 Golf Shops" by Golf Shop Operation in 1999. Golf Digest rated the Talon 56th among the "Top 75 Upscale Courses" for 1996, and they also rated it as the 12th "Best in State" course for 1997-98.

Past Events

Andersen Consulting World Championship of Golf - An internationally televised professional golf tournament hosted by Grayhawk in 1995, 1996, 1998 and 1999. The 2000 Williams World Challenge, Tiger Woods' nationally televised charity golf tournament featuring 12 of the world's top professional golfers, was also held here.

Where To Stay

In Scottsdale try the Sonoran Suites (, where you can stay in a furnished apartment complete with full kitchen, washer and dryer, and pool privileges. Call them at 888-786-7848 and ask about their golf packages. Email them at

Golf Packages offered by Sonoran Suites are unparalleled. You get the option of 70 area courses with guaranteed tee times up to 90 days in advance. You can play the area's budget courses, championship or the premium ones. Packages range for one week, five nights, four nights or three nights.

Located in north central Scottsdale, Sonoran Suites, is just minutes from the best dining, top attractions and shopping of Old Town Scottsdale.

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.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • I can just see

    Dana White wrote on: Feb 22, 2006

    I can just see Tim Herron and Phil Mickelson dueling it out here. Thanks.