A new look for Arizona's Ak-Chin Southern Dunes Golf Club: Course remains open during redo

Already one of the more unique golf courses in the Valley of the Sun, Ak-Chin Southern Dunes Golf Club in Maricopa, Arizona is undergoing a significant renovation project this summer.

The 320-acre course, which can play as long as 7,500 yards, remains open as the work is done on one nine at a time. Currently, the back nine is shut down and will reopen July 21, when the front nine will be closed.

The project includes a complete bunker renovation, additional tee boxes, expanded landing areas and other design improvements on several holes.

But the most noticeable change might not be on the course itself, but rather the driving range, which will get a hybrid conversion so it can serve as a six-hole short course in the afternoon and a traditional driving range during peak times of the day. The idea will be to serve juniors and other groups late in the day for instructional and fun events, Head Professional J.C. Wright said.

"It'll be great for growing the game," he said.

Schmidt-Curley, Couples weigh in

The course's original architectural firm (Schmidt-Curley Design) and Fred Couples were brought in to lead the project.

In all, 83,000 square feet of bunkers will be removed from the golf course's current total of 480,000 square feet. Other major improvements include significant turf expansion between many of the forward tees to eliminate unnecessary forced carries for those choosing to "tee it forward" or for those who are still learning how to consistently hit shots in the air.

One of the biggest changes on the course will come on the par-3 17th, which used to be a blind tee shot. A large dune in front of the green is being reshaped to open sight lines to the hole, and changes to the bunker complex are also being made. The forward tee on that hole is also being moved more in line with the other tees, and one of the bunkers on the right has been eliminated.

"Now if you're lucky enough to hit that once-in-a-lifetime shot, you can actually see it go in," said Wright of the 17th, which will play around 200 yards from the back tees.

Should be even better

As it is, Ak-Chin Southern Dunes, which has sort of an Australian links look, is rated among the best public golf courses in Arizona. Formerly an all-male private club, the course was purchased by the Ak-Chin Indian Community -- which owns the nearby Harrah's Ak-Chin Casino and the UltraStar Multi-tainment Center at Ak-Chin Circle -- in 2010 and is managed by Troon Golf. There's not a home to be seen anywhere from the course.

"This facility enhancement project is a game-changer for Ak-Chin Southern Dunes on a local, regional and national level," General Manager Brady Wilson said. "The project addresses every spoke of the wheel with regards to improved playing conditions, better playability for core golfers, more challenge for accomplished players and growth of the game options."

While the course is down to nine holes, golfers can play unlimited golf for as little as $34 per round, which includes bottled water and GPS on the golf carts.

Mike Bailey is a senior staff writer based in Houston. Focusing primarily on golf in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America with an occasional trip to Europe and beyond, he contributes course reviews, travel stories and features as well as the occasional equipment review. An award-winning writer and past president of Texas Golf Writers Association, he has more than 25 years in the golf industry. Before accepting his current position in 2008, he was on staff at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeBaileyGA and Instagram at @MikeStefanBailey.
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A new look for Arizona's Ak-Chin Southern Dunes Golf Club: Course remains open during redo