Four must-play golf courses in south Phoenix: Ocotillo, Whirlwind, Poston Butte and Ak-Chin Southern Dunes

By Mike Bailey, Senior Staff Writer

When it comes to golf in the Valley of the Sun, it seems Scottsdale gets most of the notoriety. But if you're traveling to the Phoenix area to play golf, you are doing yourself a disservice if you don't consider some of the other venues in the area as well.

Ocotillo Golf Club
Ocotillo Golf Club in Chandler is anything but typical desert golf.
Ocotillo Golf ClubCattail Course at Whirlwind Golf ClubPoston Butte Golf ClubAk-Chin Southern Dunes Golf Club
If you go

In particular, the area south of Phoenix is home to some pretty good courses. If you're staying in Phoenix, they might be a little out of the way, but they are worth the drive. Plus, whatever you spend on gas, you'll more than save in green fees. Or you could just simply stay in one of the 700-plus rooms at the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort & Spa, which is home to Whirlwind Golf Club.

Here are four great golf choices in the south Phoenix metropolitan area.

Ocotillo Golf Resort

Designed by Ted Robinson, Ocotillo Golf Resort has been awarded 4 1/2 stars by Golf Digest. It's known for lush conditions and excellent customer service. Located in Chandler, this traditional-style course has generous fairways, meaning it's very playable.

The 27-hole course also features cascading waterfalls and colorful plants that provide stark contrast to the desert surroundings. The maximum course yardages range from 6,782 to 7,016, depending on the combination. Ocotillo's Blue-Gold layout is the most difficult test with a rating of 72.2 and a slope of 133 from the tips.

Ocotillo also has offers outstanding dining at its restaurant, Bernard's at Ocotillo. Bernard's menu includes seafood, steaks, pastas and terrific burgers, and the facility also offers special "Nine and Dine" combinations of a quick nine holes and dinner.

Whirlwind Golf Club

There are two courses at Whirlwind Golf Club, which is located on the Gila River Indian Reservation in Chandler, and both of them are excellent, enjoyable tests designed by Arizona's own Gary Panks.

Whirlwind's Cattail Course played host to the Gila River Golf Classic on the Nationwide Tour from 2003-05 and is actually very resort friendly, following the terrain of the land. Playing to 7,334 yards from the back tees, there isn't a home on the golf course -- just wide-open spaces, big undulating greens and plenty of water hazards and bunkers.

The other golf course at Whirlwind, Devil's Claw, also hosted the Nationwide Tour, from 2001-02. Like the Cattail Course, there aren't a lot of forced carries on Devil's Claw, but you will notice a little more elevation change. Generous fairways make the course user friendly and conditions are always excellent.

Wild Horse Pass also makes the perfect base for anyone interested in playing the courses south of Phoenix. With the excellent Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort & Spa, as well as three casinos and numerous restaurants, it's the perfect launching point for a golf vacation.

Poston Butte Golf Club

Poston Butte Golf Club was named after Charles Poston, regarded as the "Father or Arizona" because of his role in convincing President Lincoln to create the territory of Arizona in 1863. Poston was the first delegate from Arizona to the U.S. Congress and also discovered an Apache ruin on a hilltop in Florence, near where Poston Butte Golf Club is located. Poston is buried near the tower ruins, which are within close proximity of the golf course that opened in 2007.

Located in the Del Webb retirement community of Anthem at Merrill Ranch, the course is a 7,300-yard par 72 with five sets of tees. It has a particularly strong collection of par 3s, including the 17th, which features an island green. (Sound familiar?) Designed by Panks, the course features generous fairways, plenty of bunkers and excellent course conditions.

Poston Butte also offers stay-and-play packages with a local hotel.

Ak-Chin Southern Dunes Golf Club

With a short but colorful history, Ak-Chin Southern Dunes Golf Club has evolved into a terrific daily-fee golf course that's exactly the opposite of what you would expect in Arizona.

Located on the Ak-Chin reservation in Maricopa, Ak-Chin Southern Dunes is a links-style course that is meant to be played in the wind. Course designer Brian Curley of Schmidt-Curley Design took a 350-acre canvass, then moved thousands of cubic yards of dirt to create elevation change, a few blind shots and plenty of opportunities to play the ball on the ground. The result is a championship test that tops out at 7,500 yards and 109 bunkers. But with multiple sets of tees, the course is playable by all levels of golfers.

The club actually started out as men's club, changed ownership and was renamed Royal Dunes before the Ak-Chin Indian Tribe bought the course in 2010, which also assured Southern Dunes would remain home free.

Of particular appeal is the clubhouse dining. Homemade soups, chili, tacos and other delectables will make you forget about the triple bogey on 18.

Mike BaileyMike Bailey, Senior Staff Writer

Mike Bailey is a senior staff writer based in Houston. Focusing primarily on golf in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America with an occasional trip to Europe and beyond, he contributes course reviews, travel stories and features as well as the occasional equipment review. An award-winning writer and past president of Texas Golf Writers Association, he has more than 25 years in the golf industry. Before accepting his current position in 2008, he was on staff at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeBaileyGA and Instagram at @MikeStefanBailey.

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