For the most part, golfers don't care who manages, operates or owns the courses they play.
They just want everything to go as expected - a chance to play a fun course in good shape with a friendly staff that keeps the pace of play moving and the facility clean.
However, when you're visiting Phoenix and Scottsdale in the winter, it's wise to know which facilities are managed by Troon Golf, the game's largest operator. Troon, which manages 630 clubs around the globe from its Scottsdale headquarters, was recently named the "Management Company of the Year" by BoardRoom Magazine for the eighth consecutive year. You can generally rely on its courses to be well-kept and well-run.
When it's high season in the Valley of the Sun, tee times can be hard to come by. There are multiple ways to approach booking a tee time at a Troon Golf facility. Investing in a Troon Card could make sense for you. Cardholders can reserve tee times within three days and still enjoy up to 50 percent off of green fees. Other benefits include 2-for-1 offers, complimentary clinics, monthly specials and more. The $529 fee for an Arizona Twosome card might sound like a lot, but if you're a visiting snowbird who plays a lot of golf all winter, you should be able to recoup your money. Many Troon facilities are also on GolfNow.com, offering dynamic pricing. Or if you're just looking for a vacation getaway, GolfPass offers nearly two dozen golf packages featuring Troon courses (many are linked below).
Now, where should you play? This is an incredibly tough question to answer. I felt guilty choosing the top 10 courses because that leaves so many excellent options out. Instead, I've chosen the 10 best facilities (which still leaves a few good ones out) and let you decide ultimately where to play. It's essentially splitting hairs whether the Monument or Pinnacle is the best course at Troon North, the OG of the Troon family. The same logic applies for the Devil's Claw or Cattail courses at Whirlwind Golf Club and the North and South courses at The Boulders. They're all good.
How did I ultimately choose these 10? I created an informal system to weigh different criteria, including my own personal favorites, GolfPass review data, the number of holes, driving distance to reach the course from the Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport and additional facilities (like a resort or casino). Here goes:
What's your favorite Troon course in the Sonoran desert? Let us know in the comments below.
Troon North Golf Club, Scottsdale
Resort desert golf doesn't get more glamorous than Troon North's Pinnacle and Monument courses, which pair nicely with the Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North. The routings actually traded nines years ago, but what never changed for either is the striking setting. Getting stuck behind the giant boulder in the middle of the par-5 third fairway on the Monument is a right of passage for all golfers visiting the Sonoran Desert. I've been there. If you play it enough times, you will, too.
Other notable Troon golf courses: Golf Club of Estrella, Longbow Golf Club, Lookout Mountain, Poston Butte Golf Club, Sterling Grove Golf & Country Club.
Boulders Resort & Spa Scottsdale, Carefree
While the South course is slightly more heralded than the North, both courses at the Boulders Resort & Spa Scottsdale feature gigantic rock formations that are unlike anything else you'll see in the region. It's all located in the perfectly named town of Carefree 33 miles north of the airport, away from all the urban sprawl.
Quintero Golf Club, Peoria
Quintero is the second "worth the drive" course on our list. It's 50 miles northwest of the airport in a gorgeous desert setting. A review by 'Sjahome' at the end of January sums up the Quintero experience: "The best conditions, layout, and scenery of any course I’ve played in the area. Absolutely fantastic and well worth the drive and the cost. I can’t recommend it highly enough."
Whirlwind Golf Club at Wild Horse Pass, Chandler
With 36 holes and a nearby resort and casino just 14 miles south of the airport, the Whirlwind Golf Club's probably one of the most underrated of all the Troon facilities. Golfers can't go wrong with either of the Devil's Claw and Cattail courses. When it comes to the average GolfPass review score, Cattail (4.7) nudges out Devil's Claw (4.6).
Wickenburg Ranch Golf & Social Club, Wickenburg
Wickenburg Ranch isn't the easiest course to get to or get on. It's a soon-to-be private club that only allows tee times (through GolfNow or online) weekdays after 11 a.m. and all day on the weekend. It's also a 75-mile drive northwest of Scottsdale, but the reward is one of the most fun and interesting layouts in the desert.
If you don't want to drive that far, instead head to our favorite local muni, Papago Golf Club. The course has a great vibe. It's one of the most walkable and playable courses in the Valley. The clubhouse patio is a good hang after the round.
Ak-Chin Southern Dunes Golf Club, Maricopa
Avoiding the bunkers is the name of the game at Ak-Chin Southern Dunes, which is 30 miles south of Phoenix. There are more than 100, even after a 2014 renovation took out roughly 83,000 square feet of sand. Ak-Chin Southern Dunes doesn't rank among the top 10 courses with the most bunkers in the world, but it can feel like it if your game is struggling.
Eagle Mountain Golf Club, Fountain Hills
Eagle Mountain, located 25 miles northeast of the airport, recently impressed our Tim Gavrich during a visit to check out the newly renovated course. I have a soft spot for Eagle Mountain: I played it way back in 1999 when I was first starting out in this business. I remember it being playable and scenic - two of my favorite attributes when it comes to golf.
Westin Kierland Golf Club, Scottsdale
Kierland's 27 holes in the shadow of the hotel are mostly interchangeable. It's all meant to be fun, the way resort golf should be. For better or worse, depending on your perspective, Kierland has dropped its effort to promote alternative modes of golf transportation. There's no more GolfBoards, golf bikes, TurfRider motorcycles or Ellwee ATVs to ride.
Copper Canyon Golf Club, Buckeye
Copper Canyon's 27 holes fared extremely well in the Golfers' Choice 2022 rankings, coming in second among the U.S. Top 50 courses. Architects Lee Schmidt and Brian Curley laid out the routing in 2007. Its location 50 miles northeast of the airport makes it a bit harder to chase down, but that effort is usually rewarded with a price break and brisk pace of play.
Phoenician Golf Club, Scottsdale
The renovation that shrank The Phoenician from 27 holes to 18 by Architect Phil Smith has done wonders for the 6,500-yard course. It's got some great views and a few dramatic water features. There is a 19th hole patio for drinks and dining, but it's too bad the Phoenician Tavern overlooking the course is currently closed. If you're staying on property, everything else is top class. The Phoenician is one of the best golf resorts in Scottsdale and the entire state for that matter.