Talking Stick: Crenshaw, Coore Minimalist Blueprint Shines Bright Here

By David R. Holland, Contributor

"The chief object of any golf architect or greenskeeper worth his salt is to imitate the beauties of nature so closely as to make his work indistinguishable from Nature herself." - Alister MacKenzie

SCOTTSDALE, AZ - Minimalist design in golf course architecture is like writing a long letter on a short piece of paper.

Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore were the authors at Talking Stick Golf Club, where everywhere you look on 36 holes you can hardly see any evidence that a bulldozer ripped through this Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian community.

But ask a golf architect if he is a "minimalist" and most likely he'll hem and haw and not want to be labeled as such.

"One of the things we are most proud of," said Coore, about his teaming with Crenshaw, "is that every one of our designs is completely different. Minimalism is just a current catch phrase. We try to let the site dictate our design. If were are designing a course in Hawaii, the course is going to look like Hawaii. Go to Sand Hills in Nebraska and it is totally different. We take what is given to us and lay it as quietly on a piece of ground as we can."

Talking Stick North and South Courses are located in the East Valley near Phoenix. The links-style North Course is a stimulating minimalist design that includes great views of Camelback Mountain, wide fairways, no trees, natural-appearing strategic bunkers and a true opportunity to score well. On just about any approach you have the option to run your ball on the green.

Golfweek no doubt loves Crenshaw-Coore courses. It lists Sand Hills Golf Club in Mullen, Nebraska as its No. 1 modern course in America. Talking Stick's North is No. 82 on that list. In the Arizona rankings, the North is No. 2 and the South is No. 8.

Most travel golfers who come to Arizona love the target golf and don't want to play traditional courses. But there are some who are just the opposite. The target golf is too hard for them and since they are purists, they seek out these courses. Crenshaw and Coore are excellent for this traditional type of golf.

"These courses are in wonderful condition and as an average golfer I loved the wide landing areas off the tees," said Robert Sampson of Denver. "The par threes are difficult, especially in the wind, but this is a refreshing change from all the target golf you find in Scottsdale."

The 7,133-yard par-70 North course, presents the golfer with views of Camelback Mountain, the McDowell Mountains and Pinnacle Peak, with a flat landscape and no trees. If you peer across the barbed-wire fences you will see palo verde trees, creosote and mesquite. The South Course is 6,833 yards at par 71.

"We were contacted by the Troon golf people and the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian community to design two completely different courses," Coore said. "The land was totally flat and treeless, but the beauty was for golf only and not a housing development. We were told to make the courses as opposite as we could, but make them user-friendly."

Coore describes the North as open, windswept, low-profile and a course that encourages you to play a lot of different shots, depending on what angle you take. One can fly the ball to the hole, roll it from off the greens, chip and run - anything your imagination can handle. The greens are only slightly crowned.

You will use that imagination on the 12th, a 392-yard par-4 risk-reward hole called Gambler. A huge waste bunker and ravine dissects the entire hole, with just a tiny target left, bordered by a barbed-wire fence that is OB. The smart play is to the huge fairway segment right, which appears as a dogleg left on the yardage book.

Tim Mahoney, Director of Golf, says the chip and run is a must for lower scores on the North Course. "It's a valuable tool. Just position the ball back in your stance and use a seven- or eight-iron, lean your weight and shaft towards the target and make a no-wrist swing. This technique achieves the desired maximum ground time for a good shot," he said.

The South Course, Coore says, is more straight-forward. What you see on the tee will tell you what to do. It is more parkland-styled, with trees and water, but you know where to play. The South also features subtle elevation changes, fingered bunkers, tiered landscaping and native cottonwoods and hardwoods.

The Talking Stick name comes from the traditional Pima calendar stick, a wooden branch carved to mark significant events in its history.


Golfweek lists Talking Stick Golf Club, North Course, No. 82 on its Best 100 Modern Courses list.


From Phoenix Airport, take Hwy 202 traveling east to Hwy 101 and head north, exit to the left on McDonald Drive and then turn right on Pima, turn right again on Indian Bend and proceed two miles to the dead end, look for the course is on the left side.

Greens: Tifdwarf Bermuda.

Fairways: Tifway 419 Bermuda - overseeded during the cool season.

Events: Talking Stick has hosted several prominent events since its opening in January of 1998: PGA Tour Qualifying School 1998, 1999, USGA Mid-Amateur 1998. AGA 4-Ball Championship 1998. National Club Championship.

Crenshaw-Coore Web Page:

Where to Stay

You can't go wrong with Desert Golf and Vacation Rentals, a premier property management company having brand-new luxury condominiums and townhomes available in both Phoenix and Scottsdale. The staff is made up of avid golfers that know the valley's courses. They will be happy to give you insight from a golfer's point of view.

When planning your personal golf itinerary, they will first listen to your needs, whether it be your skill level, budget or time frame, and then customize your golf package so that all of those needs are met! For a complete list of golf courses and overnight opportunities look up

Ask for the Condominium Golf Packages at the centrally located Pointe Resort at Tapatio Cliffs.

Sightseeing in Scottsdale

Frank Lloyd Wright literally created Taliesin West "out of the desert." He and his apprentices gathered rocks from the desert floor and sand from the washes to build this great desert masterpiece. Situated on 600 acres of rugged Sonoran desert at the foothills of the McDowell Mountains in Scottsdale, Taliesin West is now a National Historic Landmark. And you can visit it.

Visitors to Taliesin West will not see a museum, but rather a vital and active community of students and architects working together to maintain Wright's vision. Today 70 people live, work and study at Taliesin West.

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
  • Warning Will Robinson

    Scrap Java wrote on: Sep 11, 2010

    WARNING!!! Generally I find courses that are managed by Troon Golf well run and respectable.
    This is not the case for Talking Stick in Scottsdale. It is very poorly managed and the golf is inescapably bad. The whole experience of this course, from the bag boy – to the cart girl – to the club house assistance is BAD!! Worse of any course in the Troon system that my group and I have experienced. And we came on the recommendation of the casino next door. They must have a piece of the action at the course, because each of our group – 12 in all felt the same way.
    Strongly recommend AVOIDING this disaster.


    • RE: Warning Will Robinson

      TK wrote on: Feb 17, 2014

      I don't know what course you were playing Will, but Talking Stick is one of the best in Scottsdale in terms of course, conditioning and staff. Played TS many times, and like WeKoPa, have never been disappointed. If I were you, I'd give it one more try. I'm sure you'll change your mind then.


    • RE: Warning Will Robinson

      That'll Play wrote on: Jun 5, 2011

      Had a great time hitting 27 on the North Course. Friendly, helpful, and attentive people at every station. Cart girl knew my partner wanted a cup of ice after the first go-round and had it waiting for him each time thereafter. Ranger had an ice chest with ice and cups with him also. 104°, but not really bad to be out there at all. I've golfed two other Troon courses, and this one was the most service-oriented.


  • An enjoyable day

    Tony Loewer wrote on: Apr 20, 2005

    I played the south course at Talking Stick on 4.17.2005 and had a enjoyable time. I would definitely recommend it. The landing areas are quite generous, the par fours are long at around 400 yards & the par threes are fair...but surrounded with bunkers. Being a midwesterner, I found the backdrop of the mountains, the desert plant life, and the conditions of the course to be magnificant!