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Best Golf Courses In Arizona

May 2020
Best Golf Courses in Arizona

Arizona is also known as the Grand Canyon or Copper state. With its desert, moonlike landscapes and mountainous surrounds working in tandem to create a formidable combination for golfers enjoyment, and challenge alike. 

Courses started to appear at the end of the 20th century with probably the first notable edition, Desert Forest Golf Club, being designed in 1962 by Robert “Red” Lawrence. Perhaps the most famous designer in the region, “Red” as he was more affectionately known, was responsible for many courses in American Southwest. He was to become known “The Desert Fox” of golf course architecture.

Target style golf has become the norm in Arizona in the quest to create environmentally responsible challenges. Many of the over 300 courses exhibit this style of play with its narrow fairways and designated landing areas putting a premium on accuracy.

If the round doesn’t go as planned, one can always be distracted by the stunning scenery and impressive cacti littered throughout the state.

Read Next: Best Golf Courses in America

Please note: The list of courses in this article are based on 3rd party rankings from sites like Golf Digest, Top 100 Golf Courses, Planet Golf and Golf Advisor; as well as from consumer reviews from platforms like Google and Trip Advisor.

Best Golf Courses in Arizona

1. Forest Highlands (Canyon)

Forest Highlands (Canyon) Golf Club

Image credit: Golfcoursegurus.com

  • Location: Flagstaff, Arizona
  • Date Established: 1988
  • Course Architect: Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish
  • Interesting Fact: It is currently the premier golf course in the State of Arizona, America.

This stunning golf course was built in 1986 by Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish. It has been ranked amongst the top 100 courses in the world by Golf Magazine, and rate by Golf Digest as the number 2 private golf course in Arizona.

The beautiful par-71 course measures 7,001 yards from the championship tees and is designed to be both challenging and satisfying for all golfers at any level.

Additional amenities include the Canyon Clubhouse, a large practice facility, pro shop, tennis courts, swimming pool, and an 18-hole putting course.

This golf course was also the host venue for the 2006 US Mid-Amateur Championship. The Canyon Golf Course is routed through the forest and every single fairway is in immaculate condition.

2. Estancia

Estancia Golf Course

Image credit: estanciaclug.com

  • Location: Scottsdale, Arizona
  • Date Established: 1996
  • Course Architect: Tom Fazio
  • Interesting Fact: Beautiful rock formations on all 18 holes.

This stunning golf course is positioned beneath the north slopes of Pinnacle Peak and the course itself is designed to provide various challenges with a variety of uphill and downhill shots.

The rock formations on each hole is just breathtaking.  Tom Fazio spread this course over 640 acres in Scottsdale, Arizona. The views on each hole is almost too much for the players to concentrate on their ball. Adding to this element of play, use of natural rock is used to make the course more challenging to shoot a good score.

 All in all, I can guarantee you will enjoy these 18 holes with breathtaking rock formations and all greens and fairways are in magnificent condition.

3. Desert Highlands

Desert Highland Golf Club

Image credit: golftoday.co.uk

  • Location: Scottsdale, Arizona                            
  • Date Established: 1983              
  • Course Architect: Jack Nicklaus 
  • Interesting Fact: Hosted the first televise Skins Game between Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson and Gary Player.

The striking Desert Highlands is a Jack Nicklaus Signature golf course sprawled across the arid Arizona Landscape. This course is a 7,108 yard championship par 72 course which interestingly enough, is without any water hazards.

The conservative use of water and judicious use turf helps to enhance “desert effect” of the environment. This type of design creates a target golf style which is best illustrated with the spilt fairways 6th, 8th and 13th holes. Desert Highlands was the first ever community to be built around a golf course and should appeal to all level of golfer.

The Club boats world Class amenities such 18-hole putting course, thirteen grass and hard surface tennis courts, clubhouse, swimming pool and modern 7,000 square foot fitness and wellness center.

In 2019 Nicklaus Design completed a 7 Million course renovation project. This included renovating bunkers and restoring the original design intent of the split fairway par four 13th hole.

4. Whisper Rock (Upper)

Whisper Rock Golf Club

Image credit: golfadvisor.com

  • Location: Scottsdale, Arizona                            
  • Date Established: 2005              
  • Course Architect: Tom Fazio     
  • Interesting Fact: Whisper Rock has been billed as the “Pine Valley of                 the South-West”

Whisper Rock Golf Course is a 7,118 par 72 course situated in the north Scottsdale desert. Membership is by invitation only and boasts around 300 members, 20 of which include tour pros. Whisper Rock contains two course in its collection. The Lower Course (2001) was designed by Phil Mickleson and the Upper Course (2005) designed by Tom Fazio to test low-handicap golfers

The difficult angles off the back tees are offset by the generous landing areas.

Provided you nail the carries, of course. Approach shots require a fair degree of accuracy to avoid having to negotiate a tough desert lie. The general course grooming from tee to green is ordinarily top-drawer. Players are able to enjoy the scenic beauty courtesy of the Sonoran Desert. This is best illustrated in a four-hole stretch down the back 9 which winds its way through impressive, balanced granite boulders. Whisper Rock has superb clubhouse amenities alongside great practice facilities.

5. Stone Canyon

Stone Canyon Golf Club

Image credit: thirdhome.com

  • Location: Oro Valley , Arizona                           
  • Date Established: 2000              
  • Course Architect: Jay Morrish   
  • Interesting Fact: #4 in state rankings by Golf Digest (2019/20)

Stone Canyon is a 7,317 yard, Par 72 course located in the Oro Valley. Jay Morrish, the course architect, has been involved in the design of over 60 course with majority being situated in North America. In 2019-2020 Golf Digest Best in State Rankings has Stone Canyon at #4.

This course, unlike other desert courses is not on that is flat in nature. Climbing the slopes of the Tortolita Mountains of north Tucson, Stone Canyon enjoys striking natural attributes. Ancient granite boulders and Saguaro cactus are common place, with the former playing integral parts in the design of many holes.

 Hole 10 is a personal favoutite of many members with its almost double dog leg type design and wide landing areas. This narrows to a tighter approach, having to navigate a water hazard to gain access to the green. In general the course has generous landing zones off the tea with multiple options depending on your risk appetite.

6. Whisper Rock (Lower)

Whisper Rock (Lower) Golf Club

Image credit: allsquaregolf.com

  • Location: Scottsdale, Arizona                            
  • Date Established: 2001              
  • Course Architect: Phil Mickleson          
  • Interesting Fact: Whisper Rock has been billed as the “Pine Valley of                   the South-West”

Whisper Rock Golf Course (Lower) is a 7,390 yard par 72 course situated in the north Scottsdale desert. Membership is by invitation only and boasts around 300 members, 20 of which include tour pros. Whisper Rock contains two course in its collection. The Lower Course (2001) was designed by Phil Mickleson and the Upper Course (2005) designed by Tom Fazio to test low-handicap golfers

Whisper Rock (Lower) is a lengthy course which is best summed up by its signature par 5 11th which offers spectacular views of the eastern mountain ranges such as the Four Peaks.

 Many of the fairways are recessed into the landscape to create elevation throughout the course. Phil considers his design to be a second-shot course, “and we don’t have the same second shot two times in a row,” he says. Whisper Rock Golf Course (Lower) was named Arizona’s top private club when it was opened on 2000 and has superb clubhouse amenities alongside great practice facilities.

7. We-Ko-Pa Golf Club (Saguaro)

We-Ko-Pa-Cholla Golf Course

Image credit: golftipsmag.com

  • Location: Fort McDowell, Arizona                                
  • Date Established: 2001
  • Course Architects: Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw
  • Interesting Fact: 1 of 2 courses at We-Ko-Pa

The Saguaro Course at We-Ko-Pa Golf Club blends distinctive desert-golf traits with the timeless traditions of golf course design. The course was opened 5 years after its sister course, Cholla.

 The three par fives are rated as the toughest three holes on the course. In this case length really does add to stroke value. Maintenance and general upkeep are superb with some of the truest greens around. Cholla and Saguaro cactuses are in abundance beyond the decently wide fairways and create a striking imagery.

8. Desert Forest

Desert Forest Golf Course

Image credit: desertforestgolfclub.com

  • Location: Carefree, Arizona                               
  • Date Established: 1962              
  • Course Architect: Robert “Red’ Lawrence
  • Interesting Fact: Doesn’t contain any cart paths or out of bound markers

The course is laid across the cool, high desert environment (2,500 feet above sea level) with very little movements of earth having taken place. The designer has instead chosen to take advantage of the altitude and topography with its undulating natural valleys and peaks. Desert Forest is strictly private with around 250 members.

 The natural setting remains today the hallmark of the course, with desert characteristics proudly and beautifully displayed for the discerning eye to see and the dedicated golfer to appreciate. From virtually everywhere on the golf course, the Sonoran Desert vistas are breathtaking.

9. Forest Highlands (Meadow)

Forest-Highlands Golf Club

Image credit: planetgolf.com

  • Location: Flagstaff, Arizona                               
  • Date Established: 1999              
  • Course Architect: Tom Weiskopf
  • Interesting Fact: 1 of 2 courses in Forest Highlands

The 18-hole "The Meadow" course at the Forest Highlands Golf Club Canyon Course facility in Flagstaff, Arizona features 7,272 yards of golf from the longest tees for a par of 72. The course is set in the mountains meadow and is alongside some of the most beautiful forest and wetlands in the region. The course features 6 sets of tees for different skill levels. The Meadow Course is currently rated #8 in the state of Arizona by Golf Digest.

Be prepared to look for your ball if you don’t hit the ball straight.

10. The Rim

The Rim Golf Club

Image credit: golfadvisor.com

  • Location: Scottsdale, Arizona                            
  • Date Established: 1998              
  • Course Architect: Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish
  • Interesting Fact: Purchased by Phil Mickleson in 2014

Situated at an elevation of 5000 feet, The Rim offers a challenging golf experience for all levels of golf play. This beautiful course can be played from 5,200 to 7,200 yards, with forested fairways draped through dramatic rock outcroppings and the largest stand of Ponderosa pines in the country. The Rim was constructed by the same team that was responsible for Scotland’s famous Loch Lomond

Even though at altitude, those long off the tee can prosper at the Rim as four of the five par 4’s measure more than 450 yards in length.

The signature hole on the course is the downhill, 581 yard par 5 named “Spirit Hollow”. Only reachable in 2 by the longest of hitters, the downhill fairway leads to a green shouldered by an incredible, stacked boulder formation. In 2014 the Rim as purchased by Phil Mickleson and is now one of the five layouts included in the Mickleson Private Golf Collection. The Rim has been Ranked #1 in Golf Week Magazine Best Golf Community West of the Carolinas (2014)

11. Pine Canyon

Pine Canyon Golf Course

Image credit: pinnaclepropertiesco.com

  • Location: Flagstaff, Arizona
  • Date Established: 2004
  • Course Architect: Jay Morrish
  • Interesting FactFor those golfers that like to put some bets on with  their opponents during a round, there is a beautiful very short ‘Double or Nothing’ 19th hole, where the game can be settled on the stunning island green.

This Championship golf course at Pine Canyon Club is one of the most challenging, offering incredible mountain scenery, and offers only the best greens and fairways.

There are various ponds and lakes strategically placed across the fairways. This incredible course contains much more water than one might think for a mountain course. Funny enough, you can actually go fishing on the 18th hole, and as mentioned above the stunning 19th known as ‘Double or Nothing’ hole.

For all those golf lovers, there’s a little bit of heaven on every hole. (Including the 19th)

12. Desert Mountain (Chiricahua)

Desert Mountain Chiricahua Club

Image credit: pinterest.com

  • Location: Scottsdale, Arizona
  •  Date Established: 1996
  • Course Architect: Jack Nicklaus and Phil Smith
  • Interesting FactOverall, the fairways fall and rise more than 600 feet during a round

This beautiful Golf Course has a traditional desert style layout just like most of the other courses Jack Nicklaus designed. It is is more player friendly than most but don’t get too confident, because this course is tricky in its own ways. The fairways are soft rolling and the greens are huge with tough catching areas and slopes making it hard to approach the greens.

One water hazard comes into play on the signature hole, the par 3 which is on the 15th. The hole requires a perfectly well aimed shot to approach this sloped green, with the lake on the right.

Desert Mountain is one of the best and biggest golf developments in the United States.

13. Silverleaf

Silverleaf Golf Course

Image credit: pinterest.com

  • Location: Scottsdale, Arizona
  • Date Established: 2002  
  • Course Architect: Tom Weiskopf and Phil Smith
  • Interesting Fact:  The short par 4 on the 9th is drivable

Silverleaf Golf Course was designed and opened in 2002. This 18 hole layout gives you the most natural landscapes which blends in beautifully with its surroundings. In the architechts own words: ‘The spaciousness of the land allowed us to shape a course that follows very natural contour lines, while at the same time providing fun, challenges and views that are simply stunning.’

The architects words sais it all about this stunning golf course. In addition to the fun, challenging game, various different tees offer beautiful panoramic views of the course.

Another interesting part of this course is all three par 3’s feature short, middle and long tee positions which are changed daily by the club to keep the golfers on their feet.

14. Quintero

Quintero Golf Club

Image credit: quinterogolf.com

  • Location: Peoria, Arizona
  • Date Established: 2000
  • Course Architect: Rees Jones
  • Interesting Fact: The collection of par 3’s are breathtaking

This amazing golf course accommodates all types of golfers of all different abilities and handicaps. This golf course is a challenge for sure with up to as many as nine tee boxes per hole which is incredible by itself.

The fairways are wide and there are plenty water hazards for your ball to get lost. This golf course has a spectacular layout in the Sonoran Desert. The mountains provide a beautiful backcloth and also challenging elevations.

Quintero is worth the drive from Scottsdale and this course can guarantee you spectacular views from various tee boxes which always adds to your golf experience.

15. Desert Mountain (Geronimo)

Desert Mountain (Geronimo) Golf Club

Image credit: pjkoenig.com

  • Location: Scottsdale, Arizona
  • Date Established: 1989
  • Course Architect: Jack Nicklaus and Phil Smith
  • Interesting Fact: For every whole on Geronimo that carries over a ravine, Nicklaus included a safer route to make it easier and accommodate the less venturesome golfers

This is one of six Jack Nicklaus designed golf courses. The golf course’s landscape is just breathtaking with many ravines and boulders included in play. Desert Mountain is situated north of Scottsdale.

The Geronimo has been described as the most visually intimidating of Nicklaus’s six courses. The fairways are up and down with holes routed through a number of heavy gorges and intimidating gullies.

To finish it all off, your golf round concludes with a stunning par 3 at 197 yards long. This two-tiered green is special and includes a spectacular rocky hillside.

About the author  Paul Bradshaw

Paul hit his first golf shot at the age of 5, and from that point on was immediately hooked. He went on to become one of the leading amateurs in South Africa, securing a full golf scholarship with the University of Arkansas Razorbacks. Turning professional in 2004, Paul played extensively on the Sunshine Tour and co-sanctioned European Tour events. Paul is our lead editor at Golf Assessor.

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