All natural is something to talk about: South Course at Talking Stick Golf Club in Scottsdale

By Brandon Tucker, Managing Editor

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- With about 200 golf courses in the Valley of the Sun, a golf facility such as 36-hole Talking Stick Golf Club seems long overdue.

South Course at Talking Stick Golf Club - coyote
Even coyotes love the all-natural South Course at Talking Stick Golf Club.
South Course at Talking Stick Golf Club - coyoteSouth Course at Talking Stick Golf Club - fairwaysSouth Course at Talking Stick Golf Club - No. 16
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Talking Stick Golf Club - South Course

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More straightforward than the North Course, the South Course is 6,833 yards at par 71. What you see on the tee will tell you what to do. The South features subtle elevation changes, fingered bunkers, tiered landscaping and native cottonwoods and hardwoods.

18 Holes | Public golf course | Par: 71 | 6833 yards | Book online | ... details »
 

Dramatic, desert golf courses are all over the Phoenix-Scottsdale area, but the minimalist stylings of Talking Stick, which opened in 1997, are a limited breed. The Troon Golf-managed facility, owned by the Salt River Pima-Maricopa community, features two 18-hole courses designed by the team of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw.

Their entry into this desert, target-style golf mecca, where courses are often part of a residential community, is refreshing.

The North Course and the South Course are the centerpiece of Talking Stick's emerging destination development. A new, 497-room casino-resort opened recently. And in the spring of 2011, Salt River Fields opened. That's the spring training home of MLB's Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies, and guests can take shuttles to and from the resort.

South Course at Talking Stick Golf Club

As a more traditional, tree-lined play compared to the more wide-open North, the South plays a little more straightforward and easier.

Talking Stick's "South Course, with its tree-lined fairways and raised greens defended at the sides offers a more straightforward style of play," wrote Coore and Crenshaw.

The trees and desert scrub don't come into play much, but they give the course a little different look. A few ponds and creeks also add to the parkland-like nature of the layout.

The South is a par 71 that plays 6,833 yards from the championship tees. So it's plenty meaty for low-handicappers and big-hitters. In typical Coore-Crenshaw fashion, the fairways are wide on most holes, almost how bad do you think my driver is? wide. But when you inevitably miss a couple and find the high grass, you get a little red in the face.

Holes such as the short par-4 fourth hole are green-light specials. But there are some long par 4s that make a solid drive crucial. The front side has two par 4s that play more than 470 yards. The par-5 16th hole -- "Wee burn" (Turnberry's 16th hole is named the same in Scotland) -- is a blend of both power and precision. The 16th hole on the South doglegs left, and a stream runs along the right side by the green and cuts across, making it tough to lay up.

You can go for broke on the par-4 18th hole (named "Judgment") that plays 323 yards. The green is reachable if you're willing to carry water most of the way.

South Course at Talking Stick Golf Club: The verdict

The links-inspired North tends to be rated a little higher than the South in the national and state panels. The North also plays longer from the championship tees (a par 70 and more than 7,100 yards).

The South is more memorable for the sum of its parts over any handful of remarkable holes. The club's green fees, which are generally the same on both the North and South, check into the Scottsdale area's middle class.

Both courses boast wide playing corridors, creating a sea of green for golfers. The courses are Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuaries. During our morning round on the South, we had to play through a lone coyote that was enjoying a little sun on the par-4 eighth.

Talking Stick also offers unlimited golf green fees, making this one of the better 36-hole facilities that caters to golf junkies.

A Troon Golf-managed facility, expect tip-top service and conditions for your round. Facilities at the golf club include a 26,000-square-foot clubhouse with a pro shop, as well as a small grill and bar. The practice facility is home to a golf school and is especially large, with several greens and a long driving range to accommodate full tee sheets on both golf courses.

Brandon TuckerBrandon Tucker, Managing Editor

Brandon Tucker is the Managing Editor for Golf Channel Courses & Travel. 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.


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