The Monument Course at Troon North Golf Club in Scottsdale: An ode to golf across the pond
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - The deserts of Arizona are the last place you'd expect to find an ode to the British Open.
But that's exactly what golfers get when they play the Monument Course at Troon North Golf Club, a 7,070-yard, par-72 layout in north Scottsdale.
The Troon property, which includes the 19-hole Pinnacle course, isn't strict links golf. There are no seaside views, after all, and the wind doesn't whip quite as hard as it does at Carnoustie.
But the Tom Weiskopf-Jay Morrish designed Monument layout -- Weiskopf did the re-design on his own in 2007 - is a love song to the golf courses on the other side of the Atlantic, from the ability to play bump-and-run shots into greens into the names of some of the holes.
The 464-yard, par-4 fifth hole is the Swale; the 539-yard, par-5 ninth hole the Hell Bunker (in honor of the infamous monster sand trap on No. 14 at St. Andrews); and the 18th hole is St. Andrews.
"Everything has a British Open spin," Head Professional Reagan Davis said.
In the end, though, the Monument is still a desert course. And a good one at that. It has been ranked among the top 10 public courses in America and honored as the top public golf course in Arizona.
"We think it's better than anything else in the Valley," Davis said.
Like most Troon golf courses, the Monument is in great shape. The fairways are manicured but lush, and the greens roll true. But what distinguishes the Monument is its sense of fair play.
Don't mistake that for kindness. From the tips, the Monument plays to a 72.9 stroke average and has a 147 slope. But unlike other desert golf courses whose fairways are as wide as a super model's waist, Monument has enough green inside its desert boundaries to satisfy the average bogey golfer.
The Monument at Troon North: "Visually intimidating"
There are some imposing views from the tee boxes - desert left, desert right and desert in front for 100 or so yards - but unless golfers bomb their drives way off course, they'll find grass.
That's not to say the desert doesn't come into play. On the par-4 fourth hole, for example, a cactus about 40 yards off the tee is pockmarked with golf-ball size holes.
"I think it's more visually intimidating than anything else," said Phil Ferris, a 6.1 handicapper from Castle Rock, Colo. "If you hit the ball straight it's not overwhelming. I can't say anything bad about it. It's fair, there are fantastic views and it's in excellent shape. I thought it was a great course."
One of the Monument's great features is its versatility. It has two drivable par-4s under 310 yards - the 306-yard sixth hole, and the 299-yard 15th hole. But three of its par 3s are over 200 yards, including the beautiful 16th hole that measures 244 yards from the tips but drops about 50 feet from tee to green.
"Weiskopf always wanted to reward someone who could hit a nice long-iron shot," Davis said.
The areas around the green also are playable for the average golfer. Whereas many desert courses have elevated greens and steep drop-offs on each side, Weiskopf's ode to links golf gives low shots and even a few skulled irons a way in.
The signature hole on the course is the par-5, 564-yard third hole dubbed The Monument for the huge boulder that splits the middle of the fairway. About 35-feet tall and with a bush growing on top of it, the boulder has caught more than a few balls and spit them out sideways or backwards.
"Some people complain and say we should take the bush off," Davis said with a laugh.
Word of warning if you decide to play Troon North: It gets between 60,000 to 65,000 rounds per year, according to Davis, and is as busy in the 100-degree days of June as it is in February.
But the wait will be worth it, particularly if you like a little links golf to go with your sunscreen.
The Monument course at Troon North Golf Club: The verdict
There are dozens of high-end golf courses in the Phoenix/Scottsdale area, but the Monument course at Troon North is among the best because it doesn't try to intimidate golfers with its ferocity. Low handicappers will be challenged if they play from the tips, but those who shoot in three digits will enjoy themselves as well.
The staff is courteous and helpful, the scenery is spectacular - on several holes you can turn one way and see the McDowell Mountains, then turn around and see most of the Valley - and the golf course is always in tremendous shape.
Simply put, Monument has few equals.
Golf instruction at Troon North
Troon North Golf Club includes a driving range and putting green, and lessons are available. Troon North is also home to a Callaway Performance Center where golfers can have their swing evaluated with cutting-edge fitting technology.
March 29, 2010