Troon’s Bevy of Beauts in Arizona
Team Troon is full of accomplished golfers, but only one was born and raised in Arizona: Cheyenne Woods. The LPGA veteran grew up playing courses around the Grand Canyon State, including Troon-managed layouts such as Troon North, Eagle Mountain, Ak-Chin Southern Dunes, and The Phoenician.
“I have probably played both The Westin Kierland and Longbow the most,” said the 32-year-old Woods. She loves Kierland both for its great location and great practice facilities, and appreciates Longbow’s tournament history, hosting events such as the AJGA PING Heather Farr Classic and the Epson Tour. “I also did a really cool ‘Day in the Desert’ Nike event with Tony Finau and Paul Casey at Whirlwind Golf Club in 2019,” she said.
Woods thinks the absolute perfect time to play golf in Arizona is February and March. “The weather is unbeatable, and every course is in amazing shape after winter overseeding,” she said.
That time of year is also fun with the WM Phoenix Open and Major League Baseball Spring Training. And with the Super Bowl returning in February next year (in Glendale, not far from Sterling Grove Golf + Country Club), the upcoming peak season should be especially memorable.
“But Arizona is such a great golf destination in that you can play and practice every month of the year, with just about guaranteed sunshine every day,” she added.
Let’s Hit the Road
Every golf road trip has a starting point. If you are traveling to Arizona, that’s usually Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. From there, you can go in any direction and tee it up on a variety of Troon-affiliated courses. Ready? Let’s go.
Head south and in just 14 miles you’ll come across Whirlwind Golf Club in Chandler. “Both of our courses are definitely fun and fair tests of golf,” said General Manager Louie Unga. “The versatility of both the Cattail and Devil’s Claw courses are remarkable in that they are suitable for casual, resort style play, but also can be stretched out to accommodate the world’s best players. Whirlwind hosted the final stage of PGA Tour Qualifying School in 2017 and 2018.”
The giant Adirondack Chair near the clubhouse can fit an entire foursome for a photo, but you will also see plenty of wildlife out on the courses at a facility dedicated to providing a home for animals of all types. “We have worked with Troon and Wild at Heart (an Arizona-based rescue organization) to re-home two burrowing owls that were displaced,” noted Unga. “Our agronomy team helped to build a temporary shelter for them and fed them for 30 days as they acclimated to their new home. Both owls are now flourishing on our property, which has become a haven for desert wildlife.”
Golf Landscape: Southern Dunes Golf Club in Maricopa, AZ. Mandatory Credit: Allan Henry / ahenry.com[/caption]
A bit farther south is Ak-Chin Southern Dunes Golf Club in Maricopa. “We are unique in that we have no houses, no cacti, and no islands of turf in the desert,” said General Manager Brady Wilson. “We also overseed wall-to-wall to accentuate the Sand Belt look made famous on courses in Melbourne, Australia. With complimentary bottled water, a freshly paved parking lot, new Club Car lithium golf cars, some of the best greens in the Valley, and six different sets of tees, you are always going to get a PURE golf experience at Ak-Chin Southern Dunes Golf Club.”
The scenery is memorable, especially at two spots: From the fairway on No. 9, you have a great view of the green with the clubhouse as a backdrop. And on the 14th tee, you can see all 10 bunkers on that hole with a great view of the Estrella Mountains in the background.
The facility is adding to its legacy as a top tournament venue when it hosts the inaugural National Golfweek Invitational May 11-14 (women) and May 18-21 (men), with a maximum of 18 collegiate teams competing in 54 holes of stroke play. Hopefully those competitors (and you) will get to taste the club’s incredibly delicious milkshakes, made from the same recipe that was once voted the best milkshake on the PGA Tour at Castle Pines Country Club in Colorado.
Heading west from the airport, the Golf Club of Estrella is a classic target-style desert course with forced carries and plenty of bunkers. “Our fairways are very generous, but the bunkers are strategically placed to make things look tighter off the tee than they really are,” said Trevor Finton, general manager. “The greens are pretty subtle, with many putts breaking toward the Southwest, kind of away from the Valley. We’re part of a fast-growing residential community and we host a lot of fundraising events for local schools, etc. The course has really become a place with a laid-back vibe where many locals hang out.”
The elevated 18th tee provides a great view of the Estrella Mountains, while the par 3 17th where an elevated tee leaves you hitting over the desert to a green that falls right off a hillside. FYI: The course record of 60, from the 7,139-yard tips no less, was set by Point Loma University golfer Sam Cyr during a college tournament in September 2008. That round included a bogey on the par 3 third and only pars on two of the four par 5s!
To the northwest, Sterling Grove Golf + Country Club in Surprise is a departure from traditional desert style golf, combining a parkland-type design with infinite desert vistas and mountain views. “A Nicklaus Design, the course offers unique challenges on and around the greens, while encouraging you to swing away from the tee with large fairway corridors,” said General Manager Ryan Stemsrud. “Offering four teeing areas with three combos, there are seven overall yardage options to choose from, with only one forced carry from the forward tees.” Get the camera ready at hole No. 13, a medium–length par 3 over water with a green that has an infinity-type edge into the lake and the White Tank Mountains as a memorable backdrop.
Sterling Grove’s Clubhouse opened in March and includes the Copper + Rye restaurant, the Market at Copper + Rye, and Bob’s Poolside Bar. In addition, it features the Flora Spa, a movement studio, fitness center, steam rooms, bocce courts, three outdoor pools, a hot tub, nine pickleball courts and five tennis courts.
East Side of Town
Over on the Valley of the Sun’s east side, Longbow Golf Club in Mesa has long been one of the most popular, scenic, highly regarded and family friendly daily fee golf properties and competition venues in Arizona and the Southwest. “Purists appreciate the beauty of the core golf experience,” said Bob McNichols, former general manager. “No homes or roads intrude on the interior of the playing field. Avid golfers will also appreciate the short distances from green to next tee, making walking a most viable option. As it winds its way through a variety of diverse landscape habitats including the native desert, high desert wildflowers, and rugged desert savanna around a three-acre lake, Longbow Golf Club offers a unique and memorable golf experience full of variety, challenge, and fun.”
Enjoy the view facing north while standing next to the fourth green where you will see the lake and beach bunker surrounding the green on hole number six with the McDowell Mountain Range as a backdrop. And be sure to check out the nine-foot tall bronze archer icon for Longbow Golf Club that can be seen from The Grille at Longbow Golf Club patio restaurant and bar.
Longbow was acquired this past October by Gilbert, Ariz.-based Thompson Golf Group. “Longbow Golf Club has long been known for its excellent playing surfaces, amazing hospitality as well as its involvement and advancement in all levels of the game of golf,” said Ryan Thompson, managing partner of Thompson Golf Group. “My team and I look forward to continuing these traditions, forging new ones, and welcoming all Longbow Golf Club customers to the Thompson Golf Group. I am also looking forward to building our relationship with Troon and offering our customers all that Troon and Thompson Golf bring to the game.”
A bit further north in Fountain Hills is Eagle Mountain Golf Club. “We’re nestled in the ravines of Arizona’s McDowell Mountains and colorized by dramatic sunrises and sunsets,” said General Manager Bret Greenwood. “Opened in 1996, this Scott Miller-designed course is a spectacular representation of desert golf, as it winds through natural box canyons, rolling hills and lush desert valleys. At Eagle Mountain, you’ll find a challenging — yet fair — golf experience, with contoured fairways and immaculately maintained emerald greens throughout a par 71, 6,800-yard layout.”
From the elevated tee on the 18th hole, you will get a memorable view of the entire East Valley. Throughout the round though, golfers are still reaping the benefits of an extensive bunker renovation project completed in 2021, as well as other agronomic enhancements that have improved long-term turf quality and playing conditions The project focused on three areas: drainage, irrigation and bunkers. Drainage areas in approaches and landing areas were renovated to support turf health along with creating firmer and faster conditions. Bunkers were modified (some eliminated altogether), reshaped, and rebuilt incorporating a technically advanced drainage and liner system.
Right in the heart of the Valley is The Phoenician Golf Club, nestled at the base of Camelback Mountain. “Our course is both fair and challenging,” said Ryan McKay, Phoenician director of golf and tennis. “The green complexes are trying, with some severe undulations. It benefits you to stay below the hole.”
“The Phoenician Golf Club is a tremendous experience for golfers,” said Phil Smith, golf course architect who led a renovation of the course in 2018. “While challenging, everything is in front of the golfer – there are no surprise bunkers or blind hazards. Everyone can make an informed decision on how to approach each shot.”
“Our signature hole is No. 13,” said McKay. “It’s a short par 4 where if you look to the left, you will see Camelback Mountain, which epitomizes the beauty of the Sonoran Desert, and behind you is a fantastic view of downtown Phoenix.
The upgrade to all new golf carts at The Phoenician earlier this year made things a little “cooler” thanks to new seats that take the place of the typical vinyl seats found in most golf carts. Built from the same fabric as marine/boat seats, they don’t get nearly as hot as previous versions did. Your skin will appreciate it!
The Westin Kierland Golf Club is known for offering consistently excellent golf course conditions and guest service. “Kierland has 27 holes of golf that offers mountain vistas, desert landscape, strategic bunkering and a golf experience that is challenging yet fun,” said Director of Golf Nancy Dickens. “Our trio of different 18-hole routings, which have earned upper echelon rankings in several national golf publications, are must plays in Scottsdale. Designed by Scott Miller, three complimentary collections of nine holes -– Acacia, Ironwood, and Mesquite – each feature its own flavor and strategy, but all are equally enjoyable and challenging.”
The ninth tee on the Acacia nine is the high point of the property and features a memorable panoramic view. The backdrop from the elevated tee features a large lake that borders the fairway and The Westin Kierland Resort & Spa behind the green.
Walking the courses here used to mean carrying your bag or using a push cart. Not anymore. Available for use now is the Zip Navigator Electric Golf Caddie. Put your bag on it, learn how to use the remote control, and off you go. It will follow behind you or move ahead of you with the push of a button. No stress on your shoulder or soreness from pushing your own bag, plus all the health benefits of walking five miles or more for 18 holes in a beautiful setting.
At nearby Lookout Mountain Golf Club, you’ll find three different courses in one. “We have a resort-style course for the first six holes with plenty of room and not much desert,” said Brett Trenter, director of golf and recreation. “Over the next six holes things tend to get more target-oriented with many more elevation changes as the holes flow through the North Mountain Preserve. You start to capture the views of Lookout Mountain from there. The final six holes flatten back out but require a premium on accurate driving. It can be a bit of rollercoaster ride: things start out slowly, then pick up over the middle section, and then you just try to hang on to finish well.”
No. 10 tee is the absolute best place for a selfie thanks to a stunning panoramic view. The spot, located 140 feet above the fairway, even has its own hashtag: @highestteeinphoenix. First-time visitors might not realize it, but Lookout Mountain veterans certainly will: The golf shop has recently gotten quite the refresh thanks to new flooring, new paint, and new light fixtures. The updated look goes a long way towards making the check-in atmosphere just a little more stylish.
On the Valley’s north side, Troon North Golf Club is “The hallmark of the desert golf experience, with two 18-hole layouts stretching through the natural ravines and foothills of the high Sonoran Desert, in the shadows of Pinnacle Peak,” according to General Manager Brian Thorne. “The challenge, visual sensation, and special ambiance of Troon North set the standard by which all others are measured. The immaculately groomed courses and exceptional level of customer service created the renowned Troon Golf Experience. The Monument Course plays about two shots easier than Pinnacle and includes significant elevation changes that not only provide a challenge to our golfers, but allows for breathtaking views of the North Valley. While Pinnacle offers amazing views as well, it plays more like a links style course, weaving its way around our desert landscape and offering a challenging and enjoyable mix of holes.”
Any angle of the massive and ancient course namesake rock on Monument No. 3 is memorable. On Pinnacle, the 11th green, which is back dropped by a hill with piles of rocks, and No. 16, which is just a beautiful green complex, are Instagram-worthy
A new Toptracer Range debuted earlier this year on the practice range. It delivers the same ball-tracking technology (including total distance, carry distance, ball speed and launch angle) for Callaway golf balls hit off real grass. Guests receive instant shot data in the palm of their hand through the Toptracer Range mobile app. A variety of fun and skill-based games are available, letting you compete against friends and see their shots traced, with instant data communicated via your smart phone or tablet.
The two courses at Boulders Resort & Spa have a new look. “One of the most exciting parts of the renovation project completed last month was bringing the greens on the South Course back to their original size,” said Brandon Christensen, director of golf operations. “Doing the bunkers on both courses at the same time also means there is essentially a new green complex on every hole. Playability will also be amazing with two different types of grass on the greens: Bentgrass on the North Course and TifEagle Bermuda on the South Course.”
Hole No. 5 on The South Course plays right up to a massive group of rocks (called the Boulder Pile) and 40-foot-high, century-old saguaro cacti that look like toothpicks in comparison. No. 7 on The South Course, a par-three called “Rosie’s Rock,” includes a three-story high boulder that sits precariously atop a tiny one—just an arm’s length from golfers on the tee. Golfers often ask if this huge balancing rock might fall, but they can be assured that it’s been there for centuries.
You may just have spectators watching during your round(s) here Not gallery-type spectators, but friendly wildlife such as coyote, cottontails, javelina, mule deer, quail and roadrunners, and even a friendly bobcat that that make their homes in the desert. That’s why the Boulders has adopted the “Coyote Rule.” A tribute to the resort’s wildlife-rich setting, this local rule states that players may replace their ball without penalty if a coyote snatches it during play!
At Wickenburg Ranch Golf & Social Club northwest of the Valley, the community has grown but the setbacks from the course still leave you feeling as if you’re playing in the middle of the desert, according to General Manager Corby Foster. “It’s a favorable course off the tee, but with very challenging greens that can serve up multiple hole locations among their undulating surfaces,” he said. “That’s why putting is key, and what really helps is being on the appropriate tier of the green with your approach shots. The first nine holes play their way uphill with some forced carries. There are two par 3s in the first four holes, but then you face some challenging par 5s, including the dogleg right fifth and the all-uphill ninth. Once you get through the front nine, it’s all-downhill after that – literally. Just watch out for the wash that runs in front of 18 green; it has ended many hopes of reaching the closing par 5 in two shots.”
Hole No. 13 (“Big Water”) is a stunning par three that looks down from an elevated tee to a green guarded by a lake and a beach bunker. No. 14 (“Yikes”) is a long par 5 with a view of Vulture Peak in the distance.
Wickenburg Ranch Golf & Social Club is primarily available to members, offering limited Troon rounds. Visit the website for information on membership opportunities.