In Tempe, Arizona, Rolling Hills and Ken McDonald golf courses offer casual, playable rounds
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Let's say you're just learning how to play golf. Or, your game is in the rudimentary stages and you're not ready to take on 430-yard par 4s or elevated greens surrounded by deep sand traps.
Or maybe you just want to take the kids out for an afternoon of golf without having to take out a bank loan. Clearly, you're not going to tackle Troon North Golf Club, We-Ko-Pa Golf Club, Raven Golf Club at Verrado or any of the dozens of top-flight courses in the Valley.
Our advice: Head to Tempe and play Rolling Hills Golf Course, an 18-hole, par-62 executive course, or Ken McDonald Golf Course, an 18-hole par 72 that opened in 1974 and was designed by local architect Jack Snyder.
Both are ideal for golfers who prefer tennis shoes to soft spikes, card more double bogeys than birdies, and would never spend $200 on a round of golf.
To quote Jerry Seinfeld: "Not that there's anything wrong with that."
Both Ken McDonald and Rolling Hills are superb at what they do and what they're supposed to be: Easy, inexpensive courses that are designed for the average golfer. According to the National Golf Federation, the average 18-hole score for golfers is 100. The best thing about Rolling Hills and Ken McDonald is that score is likely to drop.
Ken McDonald Golf Course in Tempe
Let's start with Ken McDonald, located in south Tempe. It's a flat course that checks in at a modest 6,743 yards from the back tees. Three of the four par 5s check in at less than 530 yards. Three of the four par 3s are less than 200 yards.
The course is as straightforward as straightforward can get. Golfers can see every green from the tee, and the doglegs -- if you can call them that -- are as gentle as they can be. The greens are fairly flat and receptive to bump-and-run shots.
There are some hazards -- water comes into play on four holes and trees line most of the fairways -- but the landing areas both off the tee and around the greens are so generous that only the true wayward shot will wind up in trouble.
Ken McDonald isn't in immaculate condition like many of the Valley's elite golf courses. But its prices more than make up for some bare spots. Even in the busy winter months, a round can cost as low as $16.
Rolling Hills Golf Course in Tempe
Rolling Hills might even be more casual than Ken McDonald. The front nine was built in 1960, the back nine added in 1987. It is perfectly designed for the beginner golfer, no matter the age bracket. It features 10 par 3s, the longest of which is 195 yards from the back tees, and eight par 4s, seven of which check in at less than 310 yards.
Even the trouble at Rolling Hills is fairly benign; the sand traps are shallow enough that chip shots can get over the lip. But be careful around the greens; the nearby Papago Mountains make for some hilly terrain.
One of the cool things about Rolling Hills is its proximity to the Phoenix Zoo. It's not unusual to hear the growl of a tiger or the bellow of an elephant. But what really makes the course attractive to local golfers is its affordability. The most expensive tee time is $27 on weekends during the tourist season. In the summer, golfers can play 18 for $12.
Neither Ken McDonald nor Rolling Hills will ever show up on any top-10 lists. But for the beginning or average golfer who simply wants to get some exercise, play 18 holes and leave with some money in the wallet, they're a great bargain.
And there's definitely nothing wrong with that.
October 29, 2013