Four Phoenix Area Courses for Under $40

By Ray Bangs, Contributor

PHOENIX - As the weather cools down and the golf heats up, Arizona duffers are out in full force. Sometimes this addiction is just too pricey, especially in Arizona's winter high season. Instead of breaking into houses and stealing furniture to pawn just to get your golf fix, how about some moderation instead? If you are traveling to the Valley of the Sun, stay at that nice resort, play those one or two great courses, but when you want another round, here are four Phoenix area tracks under $40 that won't force you into a life of crime.

Okay, okay… maybe you aren't a criminal. Maybe this is your first golf vacation to Arizona and you haven't played in a while. It makes sense you don't want to waste your bankroll on a warm-up round. Sure, you get what you pay for, but with these four, you get a bargain!

Papago Golf Course

PHOENIX - Time and time again you hear that getting off the first tee with a solid, playable shot does wonders for the rest of the round. You can always make a comeback from an errant drive, but with a shaky first shot, you've probably started talking to yourself, you can feel the rolled eyes of the others you were paired with, and you will most likely be ending the first hole one or two over par. This should be avoided at all costs. Warm up at the driving range so you are super loose standing on the first tee. At Papago Golf Course, you want to be Gumby… Hole 1 is a doozie!

One word of caution before you set out though… Be careful how you say the word Papago. Depending on whom you talk with, it's either Pop-uh-go or Pap-uh-go. The best plan is to just let others in the group say it first and follow suit. Some regulars get peeved because golf writers like me share this secret with too many people. Sorry folks, but the cat's out of the bag and has been for some time. Papago, no matter how you say, is great golf at a great rate.

Locals eschew the high-priced resort courses for this City of Phoenix public track. It is simply spectacular. You'll use every club in your bag, and if you're not careful, every ball too. Weekends can certainly be tough for tee times, but rumors of seven-hour standby golf waiting lists are just that, rumors; call ahead well in advance and you'll be fine. As a bonus, you might even feel like you're on Saturday morning cartoons… coyotes, jackrabbits, and roadrunners frolic all over the course. The otherworldly scenery, and I say this with cheeky modesty, is not too shabby either; the red rock Papago buttes might be mistaken for Mars. Twilight is the best time to play; not only is it a better deal, but seeing the buttes glowing in the sunset is magical.

The rate for walking 18 during the week is only $25. After 1:00 pm, it's only $18. Weekends are $35 and $25 respectively. Carts are $22. Papago is a popular choice for walking.

Directions: From I-10, take the 202 Loop east to 52nd Street. Exit and drive north to Moreland Street. Follow the signs to the course.

Papago Golf Course
5595 E Moreland St
Phoenix, Arizona 85008
Phone: (602)275-8428

Encanto Park

PHOENIX - Hacking your way to the century mark is certainly no fun, but recreational golfers don't even like scores in the 90's. Encanto Park is a popular golf course to break into the 80's without having to spend too much time with the swing doctor. In fact, Encanto Park is a great place to let out the reins a bit; for most of the holes, you'll be somewhat safe no matter where you hit it. Build your confidence and you build your game!

Completed in 1935, Encanto Park holds the distinction of being the third oldest golf course in Arizona. Encanto, meaning enchantment in Spanish, definitely sounds inviting enough! Encanto Park certainly lives up to its name as well. Mature trees throughout the course and water on hole 18 add to the relaxed ambiance. Although you might be playing peacefully well, don't get too confident on the home stretch—three of the last four holes are long par-fours that can destroy any respectable score. Escaping the workweek grind, locals flock to Encanto Park on weekends, so a weekday round will be less crowded.

Rates are downright respectable on the weekdays at $26 for 18 but after 12:00, the rate drops to only $18. Weekend rates are a little steeper at $35 with the afternoon rate only $20. Riding costs $18 per cart.

Directions: From I-10, follow 19th Avenue north to Encanto Boulevard. Turn right and proceed to 15th Avenue. Go north/left and look for the course on the right. If you are short on time, or just need a shot of golf before getting back to the conference you are supposed to be attending while visiting the Valley of the Sun, the Encanto Nine Executive Course is located on 17th Avenue. As you get close, signs show the way to both.

Encanto Park
2775 N. 15th Ave.
Phoenix, Arizona
Phone: (602) 253-3963

Dobson Ranch Golf Course

MESA - Lush, playable conditions marked by ridiculously low rates sums up Dobson Ranch quickly enough. In this City of Mesa public course, you'll find adequate, yet not overwhelming challenge, an interesting layout, and plenty of friendly locals to get paired up with and enjoy the round. As testament to the great rates and playable quality, the course has its fair share of regulars who enjoy this park-like patch of tranquility in the East Valley, For being in the so-called desert, Dobson Ranch offers a lot of green for just a little of yours!

Weekends can get busy, but the less-than-crowded fairways during the week is the real deal. You may even find yourself playing solo with absolutely no waiting or gridlock. Be sure to call ahead, but in most cases the friendly crew will more than likely find you a tee time.

Want the best news? 18 holes by foot starts at only $28. After 3:00 pm, the price drops to $12.50. Share a cart and you'll get 18 for just under $40. The price after 3:00 is $20. Dobson Ranch is a very walkable course.

Directions: Follow Highway 60 east to the Dobson Road exit and go south. Dobson Ranch Golf Course will be on the left just past Baseline Road.

Dobson Ranch Golf Course
2155 S. Dobson Road
Mesa, Arizona 85202
Phone: (480) 644-2291

Rolling Hills Golf Course

TEMPE - Figuring two par-three's per side, the driver is usually taken out of the bag 14 or fewer times in a typical round. With an average of two putts per green (or hopefully better!), that means the majority of your swinging shots are going to be irons. Sure, you putt for the dough, so sticking your seven-iron shot six feet from the pin means you'll have a lot easier chance at that dough. So fear not, gentle reader, Rolling Hills Golf Course is here to save your game!

Practice, practice, practice… the more you practice, the better you play. For the most part, it really is that simple. Good practice technique, however, means picking your target. At most driving ranges, you see people just firing away without too much regard to where the ball lands. They just like to see the range balls fly far.

Rolling Hills is a practice course, or usually referred to as an executive course. You see what you get and if you can place your iron shots with some skill, you'll be challenging the par 62 easily enough. The holes are short and upfront, allowing those in a hurry to squeeze in eighteen in the shortest time possible. The conditions are not perfect, and overall, the course will not be nearly as lush as the $200 course, but if your irons are struggling, Rolling Hills Golf Course is the perfect place to practice. For the price, it's a fun way to change the pace from the driving range.

To walk 18 during the week, the price is $22. Weekends are only a dollar more and carts are $20. If you only want to play nine holes, rates are exactly half price.

Directions: From downtown Tempe, follow Mill Avenue north. The road curves west and you'll see Rolling Hills immediately before Galvin Parkway.

Rolling Hills Golf Course
1415 N Mill Ave
Tempe, Arizona
Phone: (480) 350-5275

Ray BangsRay Bangs, Contributor

In addition to being a frequent contributor to several publications, Ray Bangs is the author of "52 Great Weekend Escapes in Arizona." He is also the co-publisher and senior editor of Arizona Explorer Magazine, a regional publication focusing on active travel, leisure, and recreation. Ray's motto is simple. "If you're way too busy to go fishing and golfing once in a while, you're way too busy!"

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • overseeding

    David Kuprowsky wrote on: Aug 18, 2005

    We are on our way to Phoenix on Sept 26th and were looking for a list of dates for oversedding and the dates they are to reopen.