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Arizona is most popularly known for the Grand Canyon, the 277-mile long, visually stunning, colorful steep-sided gorge carved out by the Colorado River that exposes millions of years of rock formation considered to be one of the seven natural wonders of the world.
It is the sixth largest state and is one of four states sharing the border with Mexico. Even though most people would associate it to an arid topography composed mostly of canyons and deserts, this Southwestern US state actually has a lot more diversity to offer in terms of geographical landscapes, flora & fauna, climate, lifestyle and activities.
Its vast area and elevation level variations contribute to a diverse landscape with localized climate conditions. Southern Arizona is characterized by scorching summers and relatively mild winters due to its predominantly desert terrain. Northern Arizona, on the other hand, has substantial snowfalls during the winter and more moderate summers spread across a landscape ranging from deep canyons and mountain ranges to protected forest reservations. Some exceptional ski resorts are also located in Alpine, Flagstaff and Tucson.
Arizona’s capital city of Phoenix has a population of approximately 1.6 million people and the entire Metro Phoenix area (which includes other major cities Mesa, Glendale, Chandler, Scottsdale, Gilbert, Tempe, Peoria, Surprise, Sun Tan Valley, Casa Grande and Maricopa) holds more than two-thirds of the entire state population.
With its diverse terrain from arid desert plains to snow-capped mountains, temperature variations on opposite sides of the spectrum, and forest density that is surprisingly comparable to some European countries, it is no wonder that Arizona is home to some of the most breathtaking and challenging courses and is considered one of the most popular golfing destinations in North America.
In this article, we provide you with our list of the top ten golf courses in Arizona. Note that we are only reviewing the public golf courses and some semi-private courses that allow non-member playing privileges after payment of green fees and corresponding charges.
Best Golf Courses in Arizona
Location: Scottsdale, Arizona
Holes: 18Par: 72Length: 7,025 yards(Pinnacle Course)
Holes: 18Par: 72Length: 7,070 yards(Monument Course)
Widely regarded as the top public (semi-private) golf course in the Phoenix/Scottsdale vicinity, Troon North Golf Club offers some of the typical challenges posed by most British Open host courses without the need for you to cross the Atlantic.
Designed by former British Open champion Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish, Troon North Golf Club is 36 holes of pure desert golf action set amidst the exotic beauty and charm of the Sonoran Desert. It is comprised of two classic desert courses: The Monument Course (named after the iconic boulder featured on the 3rd hole) and the more recent Pinnacle Course.
If you are fond of Western movies, you’ll definitely love the Monument Course. It has a scenery that evokes a more gung-ho period that will inspire you to go for it with reckless abandon like you’re ‘the man with no name’.
Spectacular vistas from elevated tees overlooking most of the fairways are sure to make your round memorable, regardless of your score. You will be rewarded with a relatively breezy 370-yard par-4 on the 18th hole once you manage to subdue the otherwise challenging layout featuring a few forced carries and four holes measuring more than 500 yards each.
The Pinnacle Course sits at the base of Pinnacle Peak. Save for the slight change in elevation, it offers more or less the same theme: exciting desert target golf on a challenging layout with beautiful views from every hole and a steady collection of boulders, hills, arroyos, saguaros, and the Sonoran Desert as your backdrop. Its signature hole is the 609-yard par-5 16th hole.
There are homes dotting the facility but they look splendid and are set comfortably far off the course that they actually add to the course’s appeal instead of becoming a distraction. Excellent service and impeccable facilities, including an impressive practice facility, round up a list of highly-regarded attributes that make Troon North Golf Club the best golf course in Scottsdale and the entire Valley of the Sun.
Location: Fort McDowell, Arizona
Holes: 18Par: 72Length: 7,225 yards(Cholla Course)
Holes: 18Par: 71Length: 6,966 yards(Saguaro Course)
I find it impressive when golf courses seamlessly blend into their original landscape, as if a painter applied masterful brush strokes onto an already stunning mural and successfully elevated the finished product into an even more captivating natural masterpiece that absolutely delights the senses.
The We-Ko-Pa Golf Club qualifies under this category. It is composed of two excellent courses which immediately garnered rave reviews after they opened. The Scott Miller-designed Cholla Course was recognized as one of Sport’s Illustrated’s 10 best new public courses when it opened in 2001. While the Saguaro Course, designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, was listed on the “Top 10 Best New Courses” by Golf Magazine in 2007.
Situated on Yavapai Nation territory in Fort McDowell, the Cholla Golf Course offers a mix of challenge and playability that caters to players of all skill levels. The 18 holes all offer amazing views yet are distinctly different from each other in terms of layout and the unique challenges that they individually bring to the table.
The course is well-maintained with mostly wide fairways. Long-hitters will have fun ripping off here, although you must be very accurate and strategic due to the abundance of doglegs, bunkers and critical approaches to the green that will punish you even if you are off by just a tad on your placement.
Saguaro Course Architects Coore and Crenshaw are not as prolific as many of the other course designers. But they are noted for utilizing and preserving as much of the natural terrain as possible, which has garnered them a devoted following of players who appreciate playing in natural yet challenging conditions.
With Saguaro, they have built a very walkable course that traverses the natural landscape without sacrificing any of its intrinsic beauty and original landscape. The downside is that there are minimal barriers in place that can stop your ball from disappearing once you go out of the fairway as they can just easily roll all the way from the rough to the surrounding desert.
You will have amazing views of the Sonoran Desert and the surrounding mountains. Fun fact: We-Ko-Pa means “Four Peaks” in Yavapai language. Holes that stand out are: the very short 137-yard par-3 9th, the dual fairway par-5 14th, the uphill dogleg-right par-4 16th and the 508-yard par-4 18th to cap your extraordinary round of golf with a huge closing salvo.
With two gorgeous desert courses, fantastic scenery and impeccable amenities, We-Ko-Pa Golf Club is definitely one of the best golf courses in the Phoenix/Scottsdale area. Be sure to include it in your itinerary if you are somewhere in the vicinity. The short drive will be absolutely worth it.
Location: Scottsdale, Arizona
Holes: 18Par: 71Length: 7,261 yards
The Tournament Players Club (TPC) Scottsdale is comprised of two 18-hole golf courses: The Stadium Course and the Champions Course. Among the two, the Stadium Course is better-regarded and highly admired by most golfers.
While the Champions Course may be considered at par with most of the other courses in the area, the Stadium Course takes it to another level in terms of excitement and challenges for golfers of all skill levels.
Commissioned by the PGA, Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish originally designed the Stadium Course to host the PGA Tour’s Phoenix Open in 1987 and has made its home here ever since. This is a relatively long course which places a lot of premium on accuracy as you can easily fall into one of those bunkers or your ball can just tumble into some very thick rough if you are a little errant on your shots.
The greens are also quite fast so be extra careful on your approach shots and your putting. Those sugary white bunkers can be just mesmerizing. It’s almost as if you wouldn’t mind falling into one of them from time to time just to be able to try and make it out from those gorgeous sand.
Some of my favorite holes are the par-3 16th which is complicated by several bunkers and desert vegetation surrounding it, and the very short par-4 on the 17th providing you with your best chance to score a birdie. To cap it off, they have a great clubhouse, practice facility and very friendly staff. This is one of those must-play courses. TPC Scottsdale Stadium Course is definitely one of the best golf courses in Scottsdale and the entire Metro Phoenix area.
Location: Gold Canyon, Arizona
Holes: 18Par: 70Length: 6,653 yards
The Dinosaur Mountain Course at the Gold Canyon Golf Resort plays longer than its published 6,653-yardage. Your skills will definitely be tested as you wind up and down the contours of the mountain, deal with somewhat unpredictable fairway bounces that can sometimes make your shots go long, and sudden elevation changes all throughout the course. It is consistently ranked as one of the best public golf courses in Arizona.
Designed by Ken Kavanaugh, this classic desert golf hideaway deliberately uses its natural landscape and surrounding formations and vegetation to provide the course with built-in challenges to serve as natural waste areas along the edges of the greens and fairways. You can choose from among four customary tees for the appropriate range that you will be comfortable with.
You will be opening your round with the deceptive 316-yard par-4 first hole which looks like a very makeable birdie on paper until you find out that the uphill fairway suddenly narrows, before revealing a tightly-guarded sloping green.
The back-to-back signature holes are the par-4 fourth and par-3 fifth, but my personal favorite is the split fairway par-4 15th. With a manageable 378 yards from a very elevated tee, you have the option of playing it safe by going for a 200-yard downward shot to the right fairway or make a nearer play for the green by going straight for the left fairway and be rewarded with a possible birdie if you manage to land the ball safely.
Great views and a very attentive and friendly staff make this course a favorite among players from all levels. This is definitely a trip worth making and a must-play course to have on your bucket list.
Location: Mesa, Arizona
Holes: 18Par: 71Length: 7,050 yards
Comfortably tucked in the Valley of the Sun and only minutes away from the other major cities like Phoenix, Scottsdale, and Tempe, the Longbow Golf Club poses a serious contention to become your go-to course in the Metro Phoenix area.
The award-winning desert golf course designed by Ken Kavanaugh has been included in the “Top 100 Resort Courses in the Country” and one of the “Top 20 Best Courses You Can Play in Arizona” by the prestigious GolfWeek Magazine.
On the back nine, don’t be intimidated by the monstrous 626-yard par-5 10th hole. The course is actually a mixture of short and long holes that offers just the right challenge to players from all levels. If it makes you feel better, a very short 193-yard par-3 11th actually waits just around the corner.
The course is in pristine condition. The staff are attentive and friendly. They also have a strikingly beautiful, contemporary-design clubhouse, a well-stocked pro shop, and a great practice facility to round up what should be a very memorable experience. Longbow Golf Club certainly earns its distinction as one of the best golf courses in Arizona.
Location: Globe, Arizona
Holes: 18Par: 72Length: 7,519 yards
If you prefer a certain sense of isolation to go with your golf game, then the Apache Stronghold Golf Course is your new best friend. Situated 3,200 feet above sea level, this classic desert golf course which opened in 1999 offers a breezier albeit more remote alternative than its counterparts in the neighboring cities of Phoenix and Tucson.
Course Architect Tom Doak successfully carved a thrilling and challenging layout out of the pre-existing natural terrain and flawlessly combined the intrinsic scenic views to come up with a complex but still very playable course.
Being a municipal course, the course conditions are relatively average but the spectacular layout more than made up for it as it provides you with a challenge that is comparable anywhere. This is a great bang for the buck kind of course with their low green fees and super-value packages. For these reasons, Apache Stronghold Golf is definitely one of the best golf courses that you can try near the vicinity of the Metro Phoenix area or Maricopa County.
Quick tip: they only accept some select credit cards so better bring some cash with you for any contingency.
Location: Bullhead City, Arizona
Holes: 18Par: 72Length: 7,155 yards
Tucked at the base of the magnificent Black Mountains, Laughlin Ranch Golf Club provides a great vista from every hole. Designed by David Druzisky, this resort is relatively new as it opened only in 2005.
It successfully combines the beautiful scenery with a challenging course layout, punctuated by numerous bunkers, frequent uphill play, drastic elevation changes and undulating greens. The Bermuda grass-lined fairways and greens are kept in perfect condition. You will have to be very strategic and accurate with your placement as the course is practically inundated with waste areas and there is not a flat lie to be found anywhere on the property.
The staff are also very attentive and friendly and the clubhouse is simply charming. Overall, this course provides a good value for your money. I am not surprised when many golfers cite the Laughlin Ranch Golf Club as one of the best public golf courses in Bullhead City and Mohave County.
Quick tip: there was no sand on some of the bunkers when we played, it might be best to play them as an unplayable lie or you could risk damaging your clubs with those hard-packed earth and pebbles. Other than that, this is a perfectly fun course to play.
Location: Goodyear, Arizona
Holes: 18Par: 72Length: 7,139 yards
Lying snuggly at the foot of the Sierra Estrella Mountains and a mere 60-minute drive from Scottsdale, Golf Club of Estrella is constantly recognized as among the “Top 20 Public Golf Courses in Arizona” by GolfWeek Magazine.
Estrella is the Spanish word for “Star” and that is definitely what this course is. It puts you in a dream-like trance as you take in the incredible vista of the Arizona desert and the course’s surrounding environment. It can quickly turn into a nightmare, however, if you do not bring you’re A-game, as you will soon realize when you are faced with “The Arroyo”, the vicious 605-yard par-5 16th hole.
The fairways and greens are in excellent condition. If you choose the right tee, this course will offer enough of a challenge to seasoned golfers while still providing a fun round for the average players. You will open your round with the first hole dubbed the “Morning Star” which is a manageable 359-yard par-4. Before retiring to the clubhouse for a round of drinks and a nice meal, you will be capping your round with the “Evening Star” par-4 18th hole.
With all of the above-mentioned reasons, it is no wonder why the Golf Course of Estrella is considered by many as the best golf course in Goodyear, Arizona.
Location: Peoria, Arizona
Holes: 18Par: 72Length: 7,208 yards
Located a few miles northwest of Phoenix, the Quintero Golf Club is a semi-private course that has been recognized as the “Best Golf Course in Arizona” by GolfAdvisor in 2017. As lofty as that title sounds, the Quintero Golf Club, however, manages to live up to that top billing.
It offers absolutely stunning views of the surrounding landscape at every turn. It lays down the challenge with the wicked 405-yard par-4 first hole surrounded by a massive bunker lying in wait, ready to catch the ball with every errant shot. The 18th hole features elevation changes and strategic bunkers intended to provide a dramatic end to a great round of golf. When it’s all over, you will have a certain sense of accomplishment and calm as you gaze at the serene waterfall and pond at the final hole.
Another notable hole is the par-5 8th hole, which forces you to play uphill amidst three huge bunkers surrounding the lay-up area. This exciting mix of course difficulty and scenic beauty is one of the reasons why Quintero Golf Club deserves its reputation as the best golf course in Peoria and among the best in the entire Phoenix Metropolitan area.
Location: Carefree, Arizona
Holes: 18Par: 71Length: 6,726 yards
Consisting of two 18-hole golf courses, the Boulders Golf Club and Resort is home to two of the best golf courses in Carefree, Arizona, namely: The North and South courses. Both of these courses provide worthy challenges in their own right, are impeccably well-maintained and surrounded with amazing scenery. These are the types of courses that most players have in mind when they think of desert courses in Arizona.
But if I had to pick one, I would favor the South Course slightly over the other. It just has a certain magical quality that almost transports you back in time as if you are Fred and Barney playing golf with stones and sticks.
Located at the base of Black Mountain, the 6726-yard course is filled with staggering views accompanying each hole. It was obvious that Designer Jay Morrish wanted to give the beauty of the natural terrains justice and due recognition. The resulting end-product is duly recognized as one of the most well-loved courses in the state of Arizona, and certainly the best golf course in Carefree, Arizona.
Commonly associated with dry and arid landscapes like canyons and deserts, Arizona actually has a lot more to offer in terms of geographical diversity and even localized climate conditions. Year-round sunny weather and very affordable fees have made the state a haven for golf enthusiasts from all over.
It certainly makes its mark with a number of highly-rated desert courses that is unique to the Arizona landscape. Most of the courses we have listed here certainly falls under that category, although it is by no means deliberate. They just happen to be the best golf courses that Arizona has to offer based on our own opinion.
If you happen to have a different list from ours, it is perfectly natural as this can be a matter of taste and personal preferences and even the timing and conditions when you played the course. Please let us know of your own list. We would like to hear from you.