Northern Arizona Tees Off on Golf: One New Course After Another

By Rebecca Larsen, Contributor

PHOENIX, AZ - The mountain towns of Northern Arizona have been home for many years to a number of challenging golf courses, but recently, golfing opportunities north of the Valley of the Sun have grown and improved.

Several new or remodeled courses have opened the past few years in such places as Sedona, Flagstaff, Show Low, Williams and Prescott, and more are soon to come.

This is partly because many home developers have decided that making a golf course the centerpiece of their projects makes homes much more saleable. It's also because many of these towns are so close to Phoenix. The opening of new freeways has made it possible to reach Prescott, for example, in 90 minutes or less.

These are mountain towns, of course, where it snows in winter and rains in summer. But their moderate temperatures - about 20 degrees less than Phoenix - make them a great summer vacation spot for travelers from anywhere in the country. That means, of course, that green fees rise here in June, July and August while they drop in the Valley. Here's a rundown on the latest about new developments in Northern Arizona golf. Remember these towns have lots of other established courses and resorts that we don't mention here.


Prescott is a booming retirement community with a bit of a cowboy flavor at an elevation of about 5,200 feet. At one time, Prescott was the territorial capital of Arizona, and it has a unique courthouse square that is the downtown focal point. You reach Prescott by taking Highway 17 north from Phoenix and turning off at Route 69. Prescott is about 20 miles down the road. There are numerous motels and restaurants in the area if you're interested in an overnight stop.

Two new courses are about to open here. First off the tee is StoneRidge Golf Course, a daily fee public course in Prescott Valley, which will have its official opening on June 22, 2002. The par-72, 7,034-yard course (5,112 yards from the forward tees) was designed by Randy Heckenkemper, the architect who laid out the Sanctuary course in Scottsdale. Heckenkemper has described this course "as a desert/mountain course hybrid." He put a lot of effort into making the course player-friendly despite its often-rugged terrain. Lots of ponderosa and pinon pines, scrub oaks and native grasses were used in the landscaping. "It's a beautiful, unique property," says Susan Rakozy, the director of golf. "We have about 350 feet of up-and-down elevation and lots of holes with stone outcroppings. There are beautiful views of the town of Prescott down below."

SunCor Golf, the firm that also manages Sanctuary in Scottsdale and one of the Phoenix area's most spectacular courses, SunRidge Canyon, is handling StoneRidge. More good news: Green fees throughout the summer will be $55 plus tax ($35 at twilight). There are other coupon specials available as well. Call 928-772-6500 for tee times. Web site: StoneRidge is located at 1601 N. Bluff Top Road, in Prescott Valley, on a turnoff from Route 69, about five miles out of Prescott.

Then in September 2002, the private Talking Rock Ranch Golf Club will open just north of Prescott on Williamson Road. This course, laid out by architect Jay Morrish, is the centerpiece of a 3,500-acre development, being designed around the theme of a historic Arizona ranch homestead. Sherry Trapp, a realtor for Talking Ranch, says that there are no current plans to allow any public play at the course. The price tag is $35,000 for a fulltime membership to those who have bought a home site in the development. Call 877-922-4440 for more information. Web site:

If you've never golfed in Prescott, it's worth trying out the practically brand-new Prescott Lakes course, a 7,100-yard, par-72 course (4,742 yards from the forward tees), designed by PGA champion Hale Irwin. The course, which has 12 acres of lakes, sits in the middle of a 1,100-acre residential community called Prescott Lakes. The course opened in 2000 and is semi-private, so tee times may be limited for public play. Green fees are $60 weekdays and $75 weekends, but may go up on June 15 when summer vacationers arrive. For tee times, call 877-643-3501. Web site:


A little north of Prescott is Sedona, one of the most popular vacation destinations in Northern Arizona. Many visitors to Arizona have visited this picturesque little town that has become the desert country's answer to California's Carmel. To reach Sedona, travel north on Highway 17 from Phoenix and take exit 293 onto route 179 and then 89A which runs right into downtown.

Now in the heart of Sedona's red rock country, perhaps the most luxurious and pricey private golf community in Northern Arizona is being built. The focus of the development is the Seven Canyons golf course. Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts has teamed up with Pinnacle Development Group and Cavan Investments, both of Scottsdale, to do the project which will cost $30 million and take about four years to complete.

Full memberships in the par-70, 6,600-yard course, designed by Tom Weiskopf, will cost $105,000, and are by invitation only. The number of members will be very limited, according to David Bansmer, project manager for Seven Canyons. Brochures for the project say there will be no more than 301 memberships. The course is complete but so far only visiting dignitaries and potential buyers are playing at Seven Canyons.

Twenty-nine private estate lots and 74 condominiums or villas will be part of the development. Each villa will be sold in one-tenth ownership shares. Owning a share will mean that you are entitled to play golf on the course during the time you spend at your villa, but not at any other time, Bansmer says. Single-family homeowners are expected to buy full memberships; some full memberships will be sold to non-homeowners.

And what about the course? The setting is spectacular: pine and juniper forests, crimson-colored rock spires and arches, 360-degree vistas. Many holes are named after the rock formations seen from the tees - Kokopelli, Rachel's Knoll, Lizard Head, Kachina Woman, for example. There will be a 55,000 square-foot clubhouse "with all the services you'd expect from the Four Seasons lavished on a few hundred people," says Bansmer.

The Four Seasons Seven Canyons is located about 10 minutes away from Sedona. To reach the area drive to the intersection of Route 89A and Dry Creek Road, west of town, then go five miles north and east. For more information about the course and real estate sales, call 800-367-8744.

The White Mountains, including Pinetop, Show Low, Payson and other towns

The White Mountains of eastern Arizona lie a bit farther from Phoenix than Prescott and include several small resorts spread out over a wider area. From Phoenix take Route 87 to get to Payson and then travel along 260 and 60 to reach other towns. It can take from three to four hours to get to your destination from Phoenix, depending on which town you're visiting. The area is also a mecca for those who love fishing, camping, hiking and boating.

Many of the better new courses in Northern Arizona are private. But some still offer a limited amount of public play. That's true of Torreon Golf and Country Club in Show Low. The club, which has 27 holes of championship golf, opened in 1998. The architects Robert von Hagge, Mike Smelek and Rick Baril, who have laid out courses all over the world, including Doral in Miami, designed Torreon. The course winds through a series of pine-forested canyons.

"We're still open for public play, Mondays through Thursdays after 1 p.m., and that will continue through this year," says Lloyd Harvey, the director of golf for Torreon.

Green fees are a bit high, $100 a round, but they still represent a unique chance to try a very unusual course. "It's one of the better courses in the state," Harvey says. "It has streams, beautiful views of the mountains, all combined with creative architecture. The architect said it's the finest piece of raw land he's ever had to work with."

Torreon's 1,400-acre residential community is being developed by Desert Troon, also the developer of the Hassayampa golf area in Prescott and Troon North in Scottsdale. Club memberships cost $20,000. Torreon is located at 651 S. Torreon Loop in Show Low. Phone 928-532-8000 or 877-771-6771 for tee times. Web site:

Another White Mountain course now being built is the River Run Golf Resort, a public course in Eagar, near Alpine. According to Betty Donato, whose husband Tom Donato is the developer, a driving range will open on the property in July 2002, followed by nine holes opening for play in August. The eventual 18-hole, par-71 course will be 6,800 yards long and is being designed by architect Robert B. Graves and PGA pro John M. Woodhall. The course takes its name from the nearby Little Colorado River. River Run is about 40 miles east of Pinetop-Lakeside on Route 260. For information on the course or home sites, call 928-735-7359.


Flagstaff, the college town about 200 miles from Phoenix on Highway 17, is also considered the gateway city to the Grand Canyon. It's rainier and cooler than it is to the south in the towns of Sedona and Prescott. Two new private courses are being developed here: Flagstaff Ranch Golf Club, west of the city on I-40, and the Pine Canyon Club, just a half mile south of the campus of Northern Arizona University.

Jerry Pate, former U.S. Open champion, is designing the course at Flagstaff Ranch. The course is expected to open for limited play in the fall of 2002 with a grand opening due in the spring. The club is located at an elevation of 7,000 feet on a 410-acre property. For more information, call 888-864-4454.

Pine Canyon will be a sister course to the Stone Canyon Club in Oro Valley near Tucson and is being designed by architect Jay Morrish. The course is scheduled to open in summer of 2003. For more information, call 866-779-5700.


Thirty miles west of Flagstaff on Interstate 40 in the sleepy mountain town of Williams is one of Arizona's oldest courses: Elephant Rocks, built in 1928. In fact, the original malpai rock clubhouse, built in 1932, is still standing. We included this course with the newer ones because it was recently remodeled by one of Arizona's finest architects, Gary Panks. At about 6,800 feet in elevation, the course is set among ponderosa pine forests and has imposing views of surrounding mountain peaks. Several years ago, Panks came on board to renovate the existing nine-hole course. "At that time," Panks says, "there was no irrigation on the course and there were only sand greens. You'd use a roller to smooth them out before you putted."

Then three years ago, Panks designed another nine holes to turn Elephant Rocks into a par-72, 18-hole course (6,695 yards from the back tees, 5,432 yards from the forward tees).

Rebecca LarsenRebecca Larsen, Contributor

Rebecca Larsen is a former features and assistant features editor for the Marin Independent Journal, a medium-sized daily paper located north of San Francisco. She has also worked for the Milwaukee Journal and for a Chicago public relations firm. She has a bachelor's in journalism from Northwestern University and a master's from the University of California at Berkeley.

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