Under-rated in the West's Most Western Town: Four Scottsdale golf courses you should be playing
It's easy to find the best places to play golf in Scottsdale.
Just Google "top 10 golf and Scottsdale" and courses such as Troon North, We-Ko-Pa Golf Club and TPC Scottsdale will quickly find their way to your must-play list.
But there are also golf courses in Scottsdale that fly under the radar, courses that might not make every top 10 list but still are fun and challenging to play and not as hard on the wallet.
Here are four Scottsdale golf courses you might have missed:
McCormick Ranch Golf Club
McCormick Ranch, located in central Scottsdale, couldn't be more different than its more heralded neighbors up north. Places such as Troon North and We-Ko-Pa are odes to desert golf. McCormick Ranch is a throwback, a tree-lined water adventure that was built in 1971 and still plays that way.
The property features two courses, the Palm Course and the Pine Course. Both are longer than 7,000 yards and both require ball retrievers. Water comes into play on 15 of McCormick Ranch's 36 holes, and it's so prevalent it's easy to think you're playing a course in the Midwest or South rather than the desert.
What's cool about McCormick Ranch is its simplicity. Neither the Palm nor the Pine require long forced carries on tee shots or long irons played onto elevated greens. They're straightforward, relatively flat and, if you can avoid the water, fairly simple to play. It's a nice alternative to losing eight balls in the desert.
Tatum Ranch Golf Club
Let's face it: Not all golfers hit the ball straight on a consistent basis. Most players do Army golf: left, right, left, right.
That's why Tatum Ranch Golf Club is such a nice change of pace. While it is a desert course, it's not nearly as penal as other desert layouts in the area. In fact, it might even be described as, gasp, easy.
"It's a desert-style course that is very forgiving and playable," General Manager Steve Leonard said.
Well, at least off the tee. The fairways are far wider than your normal desert course, and many of them feature mounding that will gobble up balls before they can land in the prickly stuff. Also, Tatum Ranch isn't so long that it will intimidate the average golfer. Only one of the par 5s is longer than 540 yards, and five of the par 4s are less than 400 yards.
Tatum Ranch's greens do present a challenge. They're small, severe undulations are the norm rather than the exception, and swales and pot bunkers surround every putting surface. To score well, accuracy on approach shots are critical.
TPC Scottsdale's Champions Course
Every golf fan knows the TPC of Scottsdale, which plays host to the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Not as many, however, are familiar with the second course on the property, the par-71, 7,115-yard Champions Course.
That's a shame, because the Champions is worth a few hours of your time.
The course, which was redesigned in 2007, encourages -- even mandates -- the grip-it-and-rip-it philosophy. Five of the par 4s are at least 446 yards long. There are five par 3s, but the shortest is 164 yards, and three of them are more than 200 yards. The shortest par 5 is 542 yards.
Fortunately, the fairways are generous and the course itself is fairly straightforward. Also, the final three holes are a kick or, depending on your viewpoint, a kick in the pants. No. 16 is a 215-yard par 3, no. 17 a 605-yard par 5, and no. 18 a 460-yard par 4 with water down the left side.
The Phoenician Resort
The Valley is home to hundreds of conventions and thousands of tourists, and often those visiting want to play a few holes of golf without taking the entire day or getting their brains beat in.
The Phoenician fits the bill. The resort features three nine-hole, desert courses. The layouts are so straightforward that on most holes, other than the par 3s, you could roll your ball from the tee box to the green.
The scenery is spectacular -- the resort sits at the base of the Camelback Mountains -- and because The Phoenician is managed by Troon Properties, the courses are always in great shape. The best feature, however, is how varied the courses are.
The Phoenician's Desert Course has dramatic elevation changes for a 3,060-yard course. Two of the par 3s -- the 180-yard sixth and 120-yard eighth -- have huge drops from tee to green. The Oasis Course at The Phoenician, on the other hand, has water on six of its nine holes, and green on the 321-yard, par-4 ninth is surrounded by a moat of sand.
The hole alone makes the Phoenician worth a side trip.
May 3, 2013