In reference to golf in Arizona, Tom Weiskopf once said, "By law, we can only irrigate 90 acres of turf. Consequently, most of the new courses are target-oriented. On the plus side, this makes for a unique, dramatic look, the striking contrasts of green formality against the rugged desert backdrop."
With a nod to that aesthetic sensibility, we present the 10 most dramatic desert holes you can play, in alphabetical order.
Boulders Resort (South Course), Carefree
6th hole, 355 yards, par 4
Architect: Jay Morrish (1991)
$75-$285, 480-488-9028, bouldersclub.com
You literally tee off atop a gigantic, prehistoric boulder, straight out of "The Flintsones," to a sunken fairway framed by desert and a lake that hugs the right side. A full-blooded slice will find the hotel lobby.
The Gallery Golf Club at Dove Mountain (North Course), Marana
9th hole, 725 yards, par 5
Architects: John Fought/Tom Lehman (1999)
$75-$195, 520-744-4700, gallerygolf.com
Admittedly this king-sized hole plays downhill, but a lake to the right, a phalanx of bunkers and an undulating green fronted by an arroyo make 5s here a coveted prize.
Gold Canyon Golf Club (Dinosaur Mountain Course), Gold Canyon
4th hole, 467 yards, par 4
Architect: Ken Kavanaugh (1987)
$74-$139, 480-982-9449, gcgr.com
An elevated tee, a wide, right-to-left sloping fairway, saguaro-studded rough and overwhelming views of the Superstition Mountains define this tremendous par-4 some 45 minutes east of Phoenix.
Grayhawk Golf Club (Talon Course), Scottsdale
11th hole, 175 yards, par 3
Architects: David Graham/Gary Panks (1994)
$50-$220, 480-502-1800, grayhawkgolf.com
"Swinging Bridge" starts with a walk over a swaying rope bridge to the back tee, then calls for a healthy carry over a box canyon filled with thorny underbrush to a two-tiered, boldly bunkered green.
The Phoenician Golf Club (Desert Course), Scottsdale
6th hole, 180 yards, par 3
Architect: Jack Snyder (1981)
$29-$199, 480-423-2449, thephoenician.com
On a shortish course full of stunning scenery, this drop-shot hole is the showstopper, primarily due to its side-of-the-mountain tee box, unforgettable views of downtown Scottsdale and mountain ranges far and wide.
SunRidge Canyon Golf Club, Fountain Hills
17th hole, 209 yards, par 3
Architect: Keith Foster (1995)
Two sets of tees, located 300 yards apart and used on alternating days, approach the horseshoe-shaped green from two different angles. They are both spectacular shots from elevated tees amid rock- and cactus-covered slopes.
TPC Scottsdale (Stadium Course), Scottsdale
17th hole, 332 yards, par 4
Architects: Tom Weiskopf/Jay Morrish (1986)
$67-$249, 480-585-4334, tpc.com/Scottsdale
In-your-face vistas of the McDowell Mountains lend grandeur to this flat, drivable par-4, but the drama emerges from the design itself, where cross bunkers, native desert areas and a funky green crowded by water lead to thought-provoking shot options.
Troon North (Monument Course), Scottsdale
3rd hole, 564 yards, par 5
Architects: Tom Weiskopf/Jay Morrish (1990)
The feature that gave the course its name is a massive boulder placed squarely in the center of the landing zone, 240 yards from the green at this dogleg right. Go left, right or over it or lay up short but either way, you must deal with it.
Ventana Canyon Golf Club (Mountain Course), Tucson
3rd hole, 107 yards, par 3
Architect: Tom Fazio (1984)
$63-$225 520-577-1400, ventanacanyonclub.com
"Hole in the Wall," as it's called, is the most dramatic desert hole of all. It demands an impossibly short drop shot over a cactus- and boulder-infested canyon to a tiny, two-tier green.
We-Ko-Pa Golf Club (Cholla Course), Fort McDowell
8th hole, 605 yards, par 5
Architect: Scott Miller (2001)
$45-$210, 480-836-9000, wekopa.com
This downhill, dogleg right serves up stirring mountain backdrops and dense desert foliage, but complicating matters is a dry wash that bisects the fairway at 150 yards out and slithers on a diagonal to the left side of the green.