Talking Stick Golf Club and Troon North: A tale of two Troons in Scottsdale

By Larry Olmsted, Special Contributor

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Troon Golf is the world's premier management company for upscale resort, public and private golf clubs and courses, running facilities in 25 countries across the globe. But its name comes from the very first golf course the company operated, Troon North in Scottsdale, where the corporate headquarters remain to this day.

Talking Stick GC - North - holes 7 and 10
Talking Stick Golf Club is nestled in the heart of Scottsdale, yet there's not a house in sight.
Talking Stick GC - North - holes 7 and 10Troon North's Pinnacle Golf Course - hole 2Troon North Golf Club - Monument Course - No. 1
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Today, Troon operates 14 facilities in Arizona, including two different, highly acclaimed, public, 36-hole facilities not far from each other in the Sonoran desert: Troon North and Talking Stick Golf Club. Each were designed by highly acclaimed architects, and all four courses are high on the list of any golfing visitor to the Valley of the Sun.

So how do they compare -- or more accurately, how do they differ?

Troon North: A "member for the day" pioneer

When Troon North Golf Club opened in 1991, it was one of the progenitors of the "member for a day" experience and ushered in an era of high-end daily fees that compete with country clubs on service and conditioning.

They handed out free yardage books, divot tools and other then-rare accessories along with first-rate service and friendliness. But, ultimately, it was the stunning course that wowed customers, quickly becoming the top-ranked public desert course in the nation and an instant must-play. It proved so successful that it prompted a second course and ultimately launched Troon Golf.

When the second 18 opened, the original course was renamed the Monument, and the latter the Pinnacle Course. The original was a collaboration between Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish, while Pinnacle was Weiskopf's solo effort.

Both were true desert courses, with target designs incorporating the look and feel of the surrounding Sonoran desert, most notably the dramatic, signature third hole on Monument with an enormous boulder in the center of the fairway. But the entire course is flanked by rock outcroppings, boulders and rock piles. It is also one of the few facilities in the valley that can maintain bentgrass greens all year round.

While Troon North is ostensibly still a daily-fee course, it has grown into the anchor for a resort community, surrounded by a luxury hotel, homes and facilities that include a dedicated, high-tech Callaway Performance Center for custom club fitting.

The Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North is one of the finest hotels in Arizona and has become a de facto part of the property, and its guests demand tee times. Troon North is also a master planned residential community spanning 1,800 acres with hundreds of homes, and owners are entitled to buy golf memberships. As a result, many holes feature views of luxury houses along with the beautiful desert.

Talking Stick: Natural, American Indian golf and casino action

Talking Stick Resort, though just a few miles south of Troon North, could not be more different.

The resort is owned by the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian community and sits on American Indian land. Other than the AAA 4-Diamond hotel casino next to it, there are no homes or buildings amongst the 36-hole golf club designed by the highly lauded design duo of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw. There is no "desert target golf" feel here; both courses feature wall to wall grass within the boundaries of each hole, and desert only beyond the fairway. The result is a stark contrast from Troon North's rugged topography. Instead, Talking Stick is relatively flat with elevation changes and immediate scenery far less dramatic.

While Talking Stick Golf Club's North Course is considered the "marquee" layout and boasts a Top 100 ranking, its differences with the South Course are slight. The North is more challenging, with its greens more heavily bunkered and the desert brush surrounding the fairways thicker and more penal, but in many ways, the South is more scenic, varied and fun.

Each course features wide landing areas, and almost every hole is designed with a tighter driving line that rewards the risk-taker with a much easier approach shot. This is visually subtle but requires real consideration from the tee, especially when playing the hole for the second time. Coore and Crenshaw want you to make bogies by playing safe and take risks to make birdies. Likewise, many holes on both courses feature one large and prominent bunker in the fairway that you have to play short of, over or around.

Troon North or Talking Stick? The verdict

All four courses in these two facilities are perfectly maintained Scottsdale standouts and well worth playing, though Troon North still enjoys the edge in reputation and visual drama -- as well as price, crowds and development. Talking Stick G.C. is more of an oasis and has the casino gaming on site, while both offer luxury accommodations that will not disappoint.

Larry OlmstedLarry Olmsted, Special Contributor

Larry Olmsted has written more than 1,000 articles on golf and golf travel, for the likes of Golf Magazine, T&L Golf, LINKS, Golf & Travel, Men's Health, Men's Journal, USA Today, and many others. He broke the Guinness World Record for golf travel and wrote Getting into Guinness, as well as Golf Travel by Design. He was the founding editor of The Golf Insider, and the golf columnist for both USA and US Airways Magazine. Follow Larry on Twitter at @TravelFoodGuy.

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