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.