What makes golf in Arizona so memorable? Arizona. Much of the credit goes to the spellbinding Southwestern topography beyond the fairways.
Golf courses in every region of the state celebrate their natural surroundings as much as they do the challenges at hand. Slope and course ratings aside, the following mix of public Arizona golf courses puts the topography in play for a look and feel exclusive to this southwestern state.
Six golf courses to see (and play) in Greater Phoenix
The desert layout at The Phoenician Golf Course climbs high onto Camelback Mountain in Scottsdale. From the fairways of this prominent Phoenix landmark, the elevated view is a sweeping cityscape of much of the metro Phoenix area. Remodeled under the direction of architect Phil Smith, and reopened in November 2018, the 18-hole course provides a more natural flow and offers five sets of player-friendly tees.
The Southwestern ambiance golfers enjoy at Grayhawk Golf Club gains an extra dimension with the pervasive McDowell Mountains as the backdrop behind fairways, lakes and the fabulous clubhouse patio. The back nine on Grayhawk's Talon course features a series of deep box canyons with a handful of holes skirting thick stands of Mesquite, Palo Verde, and Ironwood trees.
In the foothills that separate Scottsdale and Fountain Hills, SunRidge Canyon Golf Club carries players right up to the surrounding desert terrain. As the course descends through a canyon, respite comes with a wide-open desert panorama before the back nine climbs through another ravine to the clubhouse.
Etched into the Usery Mountains east of Mesa, the elevated tees on Las Sendas Golf Club—nearly 1,800 feet above the desert floor—set up commanding views of the distant Phoenix skyline. Other holes play directly into Spook Hill, the course's most prominent natural feature.
Twenty-three miles northeast of Phoenix, the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation's We-Ko-Pa Golf Club layout pays tribute to the Four Peaks mountain range across the Verde River to the east. With no real estate developments to impede the majestic expanse, the club stakes its claim on the sweeping desert panorama that takes in the ubiquitous Superstition Mountains and the famed Weaver's Needle in the distance.
The Superstitions are highlighted in all their glory at Gold Canyon Golf Resort & Spa. Stretched out at their base, the back nine on the Dinosaur Mountain course takes players on a manicured, yet thrilling, ride through the desert wilderness filled with arroyos and native desert washes.
Gorgeous golf in Tucson & Southern Arizona
The Santa Catalina Mountains loom over the La Paloma Country Club. Set high in the Tucson Foothills, the view takes in the city then stretches over all of southern Arizona.
No list of Tucson-area courses would be complete without mention of The Lodge at Ventana Canyon. At the highest point of their Tom Fazio-designed Mountain Course is their signature third hole, tucked amidst the Santa Catalina mountains and a canyon of cacti. The Lodge's Canyon Course slopes down through the Esperrero Canyon, whose washes frequently fill during summer monsoon rains.
Legend Jack Nicklaus took inspiration from the Sonoran Desert when creating his 27-hole course for The Golf Club at Dove Mountain, which blends among the saguaros surrounding Tortolita Mountain Range in Marana, north of Tucson. With elevations ranging from 2,300 to 3,200 feet, the course gives even the most seasoned a welcome challenge.
Farther south—in the community of Green Valley—the picturesque Santa Rita Mountains and the Santa Cruz River Valley are the distant focal points of a number of high-desert golf courses. Golfers in the area looking for great views head to Canoa Ranch or San Ignacio golf clubs.
Not-to-miss courses in Arizona’s high country
A complete tour of Arizona’s scenic courses must include a round in the stately Ponderosa pines of Northern Arizona, as well as a trip to Sedona’s Red Rock Country.
Before the train leaves from Williams for the Grand Canyon, work in a round at Elephant Rocks Golf Course, named for the unusual natural lava rock formations at the entrance to the property. From the elevated 18th tee, the view of Bill Williams Mountain defines high-country golf in Arizona.
Just a few miles away, Sedona Golf Resort sashays up a mesa to one of the most photographed golf holes in Arizona, which offers a sweeping vista of pristine red-rock formations.
Lake Powell backs up behind Glen Canyon Dam and the Vermilion Cliffs in the high-desert region along the Utah border. In Page, this surreal coming together of the sky, rock and water serves as the dramatic backdrop for Lake Powell National Golf Course.
Turning south after the Grand Canyon, the Colorado River serves as the recreational mecca locals call Arizona’s West Coast. In Parker, the river borders Emerald Canyon Golf Course, where fairways cut through mesas of red clay resembling the Painted Desert.
This article was last updated in fall 2018.