Whether it's the cooler climate and Red Rock splendor in the north; the more than 200 courses alone in The Valley of the Sun, or the low-key vibe of the "Old Pueblo" to the south, taking to the road with the clubs in the Grand Canyon State offers plenty of options full of fairways and greens. Here are a few tee boxes to check off on your first, or next, trip.
Northern Arizona Courses
Every golfer wants to hit the ball farther. That’s guaranteed when you head to this part of the state since the altitude (Flagstaff, an excellent base for your road trip, is almost 7,000 feet above sea level) can add about 10 percent more yardage. So factor in that in and start your travels off at Sedona Golf Resort, where the setting is, well, you have to see it to believe it. You’ll get even closer to the Red Rocks at nearby Oakcreek Country Club, designed by the famed father and son duo of Robert Trent Jones Sr. and Jr. Approximately 40 minutes west of Flagstaff in Williams (also home to the Grand Canyon Railway) is Elephant Rocks Golf Course. Keep an eye out for the reasons behind the course name as you enter the property. Lake Powell National Golf Course in Page is as far north in Arizona as you can go. Jaw-dropping views of the course namesake, along with the Glen Canyon Dam and Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, make it a worthy journey.
Greater Phoenix Courses
Whittling down dozens of course options in the greater Phoenix/Scottsdale area may be tougher than making a hole-in-one. But that just means coming back here again (and again) is the only way to enjoy the full menu. For now, start off at Papago Golf Club, a popular municipal layout opened in 1963 just a few miles from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. Named the 2020 “Arizona Golf Course of the Year” by the National Golf Course Owners Association of Arizona, Papago has sharp views of both downtown Phoenix and the Buttes in nearby Papago Park. In North Scottsdale, Troon North set the bar for high-end public golf when it opened in 1990 and continues to do so today. Both the Monument and the Pinnacle Courses there offer plenty of challenge. On the Valley’s Westside, the Wigwam in Litchfield Park has three fun 18-hole layouts, the most challenging being the Gold Course, designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr. in 1965. On the Eastside in Fountain Hills lies We-Ko-Pa Golf Club and two outstanding courses: the Scott Miller-designed Cholla, which turns 20 years old in 2021, and Saguaro, designed by Scottsdale resident Bill Coore and World Golf Hall of Famer Ben Crenshaw. Both layouts feature memorable long-distance views of the Mazatzal Mountains and Four Peaks.
Southern Arizona Courses
Everyone loves to play where the pros play, so make your first stop on Tucson’s north side at Omni Tucson National. The Champions Tour visits here annually and the layout still tests those old(er) pros, especially the closing hole, a par 4 where the tee shot must avoid two lakes that squeeze the landing area. At The Lodge at Ventana Canyon, both the Tom Fazio-designed Mountain (home to one of the state’s shortest yet most memorable holes, the par-3 third) and Canyon courses have been offering cool views of the downtown skyline and the Catalina Mountains since 1984. Just west of downtown, Sewailo Golf Club at Casino Del Sol Resort debuted in 2013, with former PGA Tour player Notah Begay part of the design team. Tucson’s popular city courses are rich in golf history; El Rio, debuted in the 1930s and hosted professional events starting in 1945, and both Randolph Dell Urich Course and the Randolph North Course used to host LPGA tournaments. Located 45 minutes south of the city, Tubac Golf Resort and Spa’s claim to fame is being used as a location for “Tin Cup,” filmed back in 1995, but its three nines (Anza, Rancho and Otero) are even better in real life than in that fictional movie.
The top golfers in the world visit Arizona annually to compete for titles, prize money, and prestige, and 2023 will be no different.
About the Author
Tom Mackin is a New Jersey native who moved to Scottsdale, Arizona in 2013. A former Senior Editor at GOLF Magazine in New York City, he is a contributor to PHOENIX Magazine, AZ Golf Insider, and the Waste Management Phoenix Open program, among other regional and national publications. He is also a Contributing Editor for Troon Magazine.