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An Expert Guide to the Best Public Golf Courses in Arizona

Published on 03/14/2023 · 13 min readWith its warm weather and plenty of sunshine, Arizona is a great place to golf. If you're planning a trip, check out this guide to some of the public best courses.
Armana Christianson, Golf Expert
By Golf Expert Armana Christianson

Photo by Armana Christianson

Have you been on the search for some of the best desert golf courses in Arizona to play? Look no further! According to GolfArizona, there are more than 300 golf course destinations in Arizona. How do you even begin to pick and choose?! You could play a new course here almost every single day of the year. Since there are an incredible number of courses across the entire state, I'm going to mainly focus on Phoenix, and Scottsdale in Maricopa County, and surrounding golf destination areas since they're well-traveled. But don’t worry, I’ve got a few options in there outside of the area! They’re worth it, I promise.

Besides figuring out what area you want to play golf in, you'll want to determine what time of year you'll want to as well. While there may be 350 days of sunshine in Arizona, there is a high season and low season for the golf industry. September through May is going to bring you some of the best weather that Arizona has to offer. With that, you'll just have to keep in mind that there will be a little more course traffic and premium rates. June through August will be sunny and hot, hot, hot! These hot summer months though mean that there are going to be fewer people out playing and low green fees.

Now that you have a better idea about the time of year, let's jump into some of the area's best golf courses!

Whirlwind Golf Club

Photo by Armana Christianson

  • Location: Chandler, Arizona
  • Holes: 36
  • Par: 72 Devil’s Claw / 72 Cattail
  • Rating: 72.7 Devil’s Claw / 73.6 Cattail
  • Slope: 127 Devil’s Claw / 133 Cattail
  • Yardage: 7,029 Devil’s Claw / 7,334 Cattail
  • Designer: Gary Pank

A Troon golf course with 36 holes that is as challenging as it is beautiful. The Devil's Claw and Cattail courses will give you a true desert golf experience. Whirlwind Golf Club, also designed by architect Gary Panks, has a location that makes it easy to get to but also remote enough that the course is quiet and scenic. This is also one of the qualifying sites for the Korn Ferry Tour. It's easy to stay close to either the resort or the casino.

We-Ko-Pa Golf Club

Photo by Dustin Turner

  • Location: Fort McDowell, Arizona
  • Holes: 36
  • Par: 72 Cholla / 71 Saguaro
  • Rating: 73.4 Cholla / 72.0 Saguaro
  • Slope: 138 Cholla / 137 Saguaro
  • Yardage: 7,225 Cholla / 6,966 Saguaro
  • Designer: Ben Crenshaw

Just a short drive from Scottsdale, We-Ko-Pa Golf Club receives a lot of attention in the golf world including publications like Golf Magazine and Golf Digest and has been chosen by Golfweek Magazine as the best course in Arizona with public access. It would be hard to pass this one up on a trip! To say that the views are incredible doesn't do it justice. Another 36 hole facility, the two courses available give you another true desert golf landscape. You won't find roads or houses that are running through the course which makes it an incredible getaway. Keep in mind that the Cholla Course is considered a target course while the Saguaro Course will be your more traditional course. It will have greens close to tees and easier to walk if you want to.

TPC Scottsdale

Photo by Armana Christianson

  • Location: Scottsdale, Arizona
  • Holes: 36
  • Par: 71 Stadium / 71 Champions
  • Rating: 74.7 Stadium / 73.4 Champions
  • Slope: 142 Stadium / 137 Champions
  • Yardage: 7,261 Stadium / 7,115 Champions
  • Designers: Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish

It's hard to not include TPC Scottsdale in a list of Arizona golf courses. Some people would include it in their list for the United States! Home of the Waste Management Phoenix Open PGA Tour tournament, it's definitely a course that is fun to play so you can see you match up to the players on tour on its signature hole. You can play the Stadium Course, where the tournament is held, or you can play the Champions Course across the street.

Bonus: Because these courses are in the center of Scottsdale, it's easy to plan your day around dinner at an award-winning Scottsdale restaurant or a brewery.

Eagle Mountain Golf Club

Photo by Armana Christianson

  • Location: Fountain Hills, Arizona
  • Holes: 18
  • Par: 71
  • Rating: 71.4
  • Slope: 134
  • Yardage: 6,800
  • Designer: Scott Miller

A Scott Miller-designed golf course in Fountain Hills, Arizona, Eagle Mountain Golf Club is a truly beautiful course that flows through the McDowell Mountains. It's a quick drive from Scottsdale making it a great choice to stay close to home base. The elevation of the course in the mountains provides some spectacular views of the city. This course is very fair and very well-manicured. It’s a personal favorite of mine. I used to play it when I used to vacation in Arizona before I moved here full-time.

Sunridge Canyon Golf Club

Photo by Armana Christianson

  • Location: Scottsdale, Arizona
  • Holes: 18
  • Par: 71
  • Rating: 72.0
  • Slope: 138
  • Yardage: 6,823
  • Designer: Keith Foster

A Scottsdale golf course, the Sunridge Canyon Golf Club is home to the Wicked Six. And wicked they are! It's a run of six holes on the course that are some of the more challenging you'll play. The entire course is built into the mountain, with winding cart paths, beautiful fairways surrounded by desert, and immaculate greens. This course will truly test you down to the 18th hole but it's stunning and so much fun. Make sure you've been practicing your target golf!

Troon North Golf Club

Photo by Dustin Turner

  • Location: Scottsdale, Arizona
  • Holes: 36
  • Par: 72 Monument / 71 Pinnacle
  • Rating: 72.9 Monument / 72.8 Pinnacle
  • Slope: 145 Monument / 144 Pinnacle
  • Yardage: 7,039 Monument / 7,009 Pinnacle
  • Designer: Tom Weiskopf

Troon courses really make some stunning courses and Troon North Golf Club is at the top of the list in Scottsdale, Arizona. It's built at the base of Pinnacle Peak Mountain and is the desert golf experience you've been dreaming of. With giant granite boulders surrounding holes, beautiful views, and literally perfect upkeep, you will not be disappointed. Troon North has two courses, Pinnacle and Monument, that were recently renovated by original designer and British Open Champion Tom Weiskopf.

Grayhawk Golf Club

Photo by Dustin Turner

  • Location: Scottsdale, Arizona
  • Holes: 36
  • Par: 72 Talon / 72 Raptor
  • Rating: 73.3 Talon / 74.2 Raptor
  • Slope: 146 Talon / 140 Raptor
  • Yardage: 6,973 Talon / 7,151 Raptor
  • Designer: David Graham

The Grayhawk Golf Club is located in Scottsdale and has two 18-hole courses, the Talon and the Raptor. It's the current home of the NCAA Men's and Women's Championships and the past host of several tour-sanctioned events. Because of the location, you still get panoramic views with plenty of natural desert elements. The course is fair but offers big rewards for big risks! On a Yelp review on the course, a golfer said about the cost to play in prime season, "The course is worth every penny too....why? It's one of the most manicured courses in the state."

Mountain Shadows Short Course

Photo by Armana Christianson

  • Location: Paradise Valley, Arizona
  • Holes: 18
  • Par: 54
  • Rating: 54.0
  • Slope: 110
  • Yardage: 2,310
  • Designer: Arthur Jack Snyder

You may be wondering why I’m including a short course on this list. Because it’s so fun! If you want a place to take it easy, practice those irons and get great views this is definitely the course. Mountain Shadows Short Course is an 18-hole par-3 course that was included in golf.com's “Best Par-3 Courses in America,” and Golf Inc. gave it “Renovation of the Year.” It has challenging greens, lots of slopes, and amazing views of Camelback Mountain. And if you have a hole-in-one make sure to tell the pro shop! They take down your name and give you a small pin flag with the number of the hole you had your accomplishment on. How do I know? I had a hole out on hole 7 that was caught on video! The photo is from that video actually.

Seven Canyons Golf Club. Photo by Kaitlyn Alvarez

Honorable Mentions

Here are some of my other favorite golf courses to keep on your list too!

Quintero Golf Club

Designed by master course architect Rees Jones, Quintero Golf Club has been repeatedly ranked as one of the best public golf courses in Arizona. As you can see, this course is beautiful and the epitome of desert golf. It can be quite a challenge with the natural landscape surrounding it. The wonderful thing though is that they’ve made up to nine tee boxes on each hole to choose from. This makes the course playable from any skill level.

The Boulders Club

Near the Scottsdale area in Carefree, The Boulders Club is a stunning course that is semi-private with members and plays for resort guests but also allows public tee times. Lucky you! If you're looking to take some photos to send back home, this is going to be the perfect place. Both 18-hole courses, the North Course and the South Course are built right into the desert foothills and through the Boulders community. The South Course will give you some iconic boulder formations though. This is a challenging course but so worth it.

Golf Club of Estrella

You’re going to get a twofer with Golf Club of Estrella. With a Nicklaus-designed course and a Troon-managed course, you’ll be in for a treat with this gem. Out in Goodyear, Arizona, it’s a little bit of a drive if you’re coming from Scottsdale or Phoenix, but you get the views to go with it. This is a really fair, challenging, and well-maintained course. It’s surrounded by The Sonoran desert and the course flows through the Sierra Estrella mountain range.

Wildfire Golf Club

A JW Marriott property, you can be sure that this resort is going to be in pristine condition. Wildfire Golf Club. With two championship courses, the Faldo Championship Course and the Palmer Signature Course, you’re sure to have an enjoyable time! They even have a huge practice facility if you’re looking to spend some time on the range. The Faldo course is going to have over 100 bunkers to contend with while the Palmer course will have some undulating greens. But both courses have generous fairways and friendly distances!

Gold Canyon Golf Resort

It's a little bit of a drive from Scottsdale, about 40 minutes, but you will not be disappointed with Gold Canyon Golf Resort. This club offers two 18-hole courses, Dinosaur Mountain and Sidewinder. It'll be clear the kind of view you'll be getting as you pull up to the resort. With panoramic views from tee boxes and dramatic tee-green elevation changes, it is sure to be a course that you won't forget. The Dinosaur Mountain Course is going to be the more dramatic of the two. While Sidewinder is going to fill the role of your traditional desert-style course.

Raven Golf Club

We've finally gotten to a Phoenix course! The Raven Golf Club is just a short drive from the Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport. Such a unique course in the middle of the desert. You're going to get a view of the mountains while playing fairways lined with Georgia pine trees. It's one of the most popular courses in the area so be prepared for a longer round if you're playing on the weekends or in high season.

Oakcreek Country Club

If you want to take a little day trip up to Sedona, Arizona, Oakcreek Country Club is a private club that allows public tee times. Designed by famous course designers Robert Trent Jones Sr. and Robert Trent Jones Jr. It has a similar layout to a more midwestern-style course but it has the Red Rocks of Sedona as its backdrop. A very player-friendly course to keep on your list.

Elephant Rocks at Williams

Get out of the heat and up towards Flagstaff with Elephant Rocks at Williams. A Gary Panks renovation has made this a true championship course at 7,000 feet above sea level. The course is surrounded by huge Ponderosa Pines and the original front 9 will play tight. But with beautiful views, rock formations, a chill vibe, and cooler temperatures, you just aren’t going to go wrong with making this drive.

Omni Tucson National Golf Course

A truly remarkable course in Tucson, the Sonoran course has one of the highest Golf Advisor ratings in the area. Omni Tucson National Golf Course is located at the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains. A true desert-style golf course designed by Tom Lehman, this will be a good challenge as it’s also the host of PGA Tour-sanctioned and NCAA tournaments.

Great Golf is Everywhere

We haven’t even scratched the surface of all the incredible courses in Arizona! A handful of the ones listed above are even included in Golf Digest’s Top Courses in Arizona. With hundreds of courses to play, from top designers like Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Bill Coore, Pete Dye, and Brian Curley, with courses like The Stone Canyon Club with amazing mountain views of the Tortolita Mountains, or through the lower Ventana Canyon, to Whisper Rock, Boulders Resort, beautiful Sedona Golf Resort, to Dove Mountain you have plenty of options to keep coming back to try out some new courses each year.

A couple more things to keep in mind when you come to Arizona on your golf trip. Make sure you bring some extra golf balls. Desert golf terrain can be a challenge for golfers of all skill levels, and you don't want to get in a fight with a desert dweller or a cactus for that golf ball in the amazing desert landscape whether through the desert forest, forest highlands, amazing meadows, or tall pines in Pine Canyon. And make sure you are drinking a lot of water! It's true what they say, it's really dry out here in the southwest. You don't want to get dehydrated searching for golf balls down in the ravines, or off the side of a desert mountain.

With so many options, my recommendation for how to narrow them down is location. You can either start by finding courses you want to play and staying near them or find the courses that are near where you decided to stay, should anyone in your party want to find a hotel with a spa. You can’t go wrong either way since there is an abundance of options. The other nice thing about the Scottsdale and Phoenix area is the incredible food scene at locations like Desert Ridge. You’re sure to find something to hit the spot after a day playing a beautiful Southwestern golf course.

Best of luck while you plan your golf trip. Hopefully, you're able to come when it's cool enough to be outside after your round, maybe by a grill or a pool. If you need any gear to get you swinging, reach out to a Golf Expert here on Curated for free, personalized advice and recommendations. I hope to see you out here enjoying some of the unforgettable golf courses that Arizona has to offer!

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