An introduction to Scottsdale

Scottsdale is the self-appointed ‘West’s Most Western Town’. It is a desert city attached to the much larger city of Phoenix in central Arizona. This is an immensely popular tourist spot with so much to see and do. And the golf courses in Scottsdale are pretty epic too.

The city, which runs through the Salt River Valley, gets hot and has around 330 days of sun every year. This is hardly surprising being as Scottsdale is in the northern perimeters of the Sonoran Desert. 

To really enjoy this dramatic landscape, visit Scottsdale’s McDowell Sonoran Preserve. It is a vast wildlife preserve of more than 30,500 acres and one of the largest in the country. There are hundreds of miles of trails and hiking footpaths.

See also: What are the best golf courses in Arizona?

For fans of sleek design, the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s winter home is definitely worth the detour. Taliesin West is an ingenious example of design blending indoor with outdoor and the site is quite captivating. 

Along the same theme, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Scottsdale’s Old Town is another tourist hotspot worth visiting. Here you can admire the brilliance of the architect Will Bruder. He converted an old movie theater to create this celebration of modern art through a number of different exhibitions.

As for the Old Town itself, this is a quaint area to wander around, with everywhere walkable. There are art galleries, boutique shops, restaurants and bars. This is a great place to spend the afternoon and evening.

But most important of all, Scottsdale is known worldwide for the outstanding choice of golf courses and golf resorts. Let’s have a look at the best golf courses in Scottsdale.

The best golf courses in Scottsdale Arizona

Silverleaf Golf Club

The first course is the private club of Silverleaf, nestled up in the canyons of the McDowell Mountains. The site is surrounded by the stunning McDowell Sonoran Preserve. The preserve is incredibly popular for its miles of trails and walks.  

Silverleaf is home to a superb 18-hole championship course designed by Tom Weiskopf, the ex-PGA Tour winner. This is a man with the likes of Loch Lomond in Scotland, the fantastic Forest Dunes in Ohio and Troon North also in Scottsdale on his C.V..

As with a number of the courses on this list, Silverleaf golf club is surrounded by an upmarket residential estate. But this is one of those rare occasions where the stunning properties do not intrude. Every house is tucked away enough to ensure notthing detracts you from this superb course.

Silverleaf prides itself on being a pure ‘challenge and reward’ layout. If you play patient and choose the right strategy, you should be looking good.

From the back tees the course stretches to a whooping 7,322 yards. But with a number of tee box options, we can leave the backs to the more masochistic golfers.

This is golf as it was meant to be, lush green fairways with desert surround. Large contoured bunkers protecting expansive greens, all with stunning desert views. The McDowell Mountains are a constant backdrop and a reminder of how north you are of downtown Scottsdale. 

Whisper Rock Golf Club (Lower)

Whisper Rock Golf Club, Scottsdale - Photo credit Brian Ford Photography
Photo credit @northscottsdaleluxury Brian Ford Photography

There are two golf courses onsite at Whisper Rock, the Lower and the Upper. Both courses make this list and are quite simply top class. 

This really is in the north part of Scottsdale and one of the most isolated golf courses on this list. In a way, this isolation adds to the whole experience. You’re right in the heart of desert country with rolling barren landscapes surrounding the club. 

The Lower course at Whisper Rock was Phil Mickelson’s architectural debut alongside the Dallas-based architect Gary Stephenson. It is something quite different to many of the other golf courses in Scottsdale. 

Opened in 2001, the Lower course features forgiving fairways, assuming you carry many of the tee shots. It is the second-shot where things get tasty, something Mickelson really wanted to build the layout around. So much so that he testifies that there are no two second shots alike. Long narrow greens buffered by bunkers are going to really test the short game.

TPC Scottsdale (Stadium Course)

What can we say about the Stadium Course at TPC Scottsdale that hasn’t already been said? Tens of thousands of TV viewers watch the annual PGA Tour event the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Tour players enter the cauldron of the 16th hole, nicknamed ‘The Coliseum’. It is a par-3 surrounded by stands to create arguably one of the most thrilling and entertaining moments in golf. 

The Stadium course was designed by the duo of Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish. In 2014 it underwent a significant renovation to ensure it really is up to Tour standards. Lush green flowing fairways are flanked by sandy run-offs, although unlike many of the Scottsdale golf courses, these aren’t overly penal.

Water comes into play on half the holes. There is an island green on the 15th hole and water lurking ominously alongside many others. At times where there is no water and a lack of sandy waste areas, don’t naively think the course is going easy on you. You’ll most likely find deep white sand bunkers ready to engulf any stray shots. 

TPC Scottsdale is one of those rare occasions where you can literally follow in the footsteps of the pros. You can experience a superb Tour layout which happily accepts the public. 

Desert Mountain Golf Club (Chiricahua)

Desert Mountain Golf Club, Scottsdale, Arizona
Photo credit Monica Anne Pedano

The Chiricahua is officially the most northern golf course in Scottsdale. It is tucked right up in the foothills of the imposing Desert Mountains. There are stunning views down to Phoenix and Scottsdale whilst at its highest point the course reaches some 3,300 feet.

Jack Nicklaus and his associate Phil Smith were the architectural masterminds behind five courses at Desert Mountain. The club is one of the finest golf and residential developments within the country. 

Yet of the seven courses, the Chiricahua is arguably the best. The course was routed in higher ground climbing into the foothills. As such there are numerous elevation changes that have been built into the layout. 

A flat fairway is a luxury with nearly all the holes either climbing or descending at some point. Indeed, the course is so hilly, it can get quite brutal at times. Stray shots will be penalized and approaching the greens is especially difficult. 

Definitely worth the visit to play here, just be prepared for the physical workout!

Estancia Golf Club

Estancia Golf Club - Scottsdale, Arizona
Photo credit Michael Paul Photoworks

This superb site is located close to the famed landmark of Pinnacle Peak. This is the granite rock which rises nearly 3,200 feet tall and offers outstanding panoramic views of Scottsdale and Phoenix. 

As for the Estancia golf course, it is the centerpiece of a private gated community. The community is surrounded by 640 acres of beautifully manicured landscape.

The course opened for play in 1995 and was designed by the legendary Tom Fazio. Since that date, the accolades and awards have continued to flow. There have been various Top 100 rankings rating Estancia golf as one of the best golf courses in Arizona, let alone Scottsdale.  

The course stretches to just over 7,300 yards from the championship tees and here accuracy is essential. The gently rolling fairways have the perfect blend of strategically placed bunkers, dense undergrowth and on a couple of occasions, water to contend with before attacking the bent grass greens. 

The par 3s are simply sensational with each one being Instagram-perfect. However, don’t miss the green if not you’ll pay the price.

Scottsdale National Golf Club (Mine Shaft)

This really is desert golf, a golf course surrounded by nothing else but raw unabridged Sonoran desert. The two golf courses at Scottsdale National are immense and rightly considered amongst the best golf courses in Scottsdale. 

The Scottsdale National golf club was purchased by the multi-millionaire Bob Parsons back in 2013. Parsons is the man behind PXG golf clubs.

He immediately set about rebuilding the clubhouse and building a second 18-hole championship layout, The Other Course. He also set about building a brand new 9-hole course called ‘The Bad Little Nine’. 

The investment didn’t stop there. The Mine Shaft also course benefited from significant investment . A number of new bunkers, leveling of holes, rebuilding of greens, you name it. This was essentially a major make-over. 

What we have today is a visually stunning desert course with wide fairways and stunning green formations. Getting on here though will be tough. The course is strictly private and unless you befriend a local politician, major sports star or some other unknown magnate, you might just want to enjoy the pictures instead.  

Desert Highlands Golf

Desert Highlands Golf Club, Scottsdale, Arizona
Photo credit CJ Gershon

This outstanding private golf club is located not far from the granite viewing point of Pinnacle Peak. You’re still in the city outskirts, being just a 30 minute drive to get to downtown Scottsdale. 

It is in esteemed company, with Estancia golf club, Scottsdale National and Troon Country Club all within a five minute drive. However, Desert Highlands certainly holds its own.

This Jack Nicklaus signature course was ranked as one of the top desert courses in the country by Golf Digest. It was also the site of two Skins Games in 1983 and 1984. This was where legends such as Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson and Gary Player all battled against one another.

The layout literally skirts the base of Pinnacle Peak and as such you gain some impressive views across the landscape.

To enhance the desert style character, the use of turf was limited and therefore the natural environment comes into play far more than it does in many other of the region’s courses. 

Scottsdale National Golf Club (The Other Course)

And so onto the other course at Scottsdale National, appropriately called ‘The Other Course’. We already know this is an exclusive club and the history of Bob Parsons purchasing the club in 2013.

The Other Course came to life not long after the renovation work had begun on the Mine Shaft course. Parsons commissioned the architects Tim Jackson, David Khan and their associate Scott Hoffman to begin on the designs. Construction of the second 18-hole course then belatedly begun. 

It was then in 2016 that The Other Course opened to critical acclaim. It is an inland links style layout with six par 3s, six par 4s and six par 5s. Intriguingly there are no two holes of consecutive par. 

There are wide accommodating fairways which then funnel you down to huge green complexes. These are varied in shape and largely contoured so there is no easy approach.

One thing you can be sure of here will be first-class conditioning and service.

Whisper Rock Golf Club (Upper)

And so on to the second golf course at Whisper Rock. The Upper Course was designed by the legendary architect Tom Fazio, a man who fashioned many other top golf courses in Arizona. 

This was the second course to open at Whisper Rock and was intended as the centerpiece of the club to test the best of the best golfers. Playing from the back tees, this is definitely the case, but from some of the more ‘human’ tees, the course is more playable. 

There are large sweeping fairways which offer ample landing areas whilst the greens are big and not too penal. But you have to hit the dancefloor or the semi-rough surrounding them. Stray shots too far off the mark will need either a sand-wedge or a drop out of the Sonoran scrubland. 

We-Ko-Pa Golf Club (Saguaro Course)

We-Ko-Pa Golf Course, Saguaro, Scottsdale, Arizona
Photo credit Lonna Tucker

The Saguaro course at We-Ko-Pa is without doubt one of the finest golf courses in Arizona, let alone one of the best golf courses near Scottsdale. 

One of two at We-Ko-Pa, the club is located a good half hour drive to the east of Scottsdale, past Fountain Hills towards Fort McDowell, just up from the Verde River. There really is nothing here but golf and nature, kind of how golf was intended all those centuries ago. 

The Saguaro course was designed by the legendary design duo of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw and they have really gone above and beyond here with some of the finest Coore and Crenshaw holes anywhere worldwide.

Very little ground was shifted in the construction of the course with Coore and Crenshaw wanting to preserve as much of the original elevation changes and vegetation as possible. This has left a truly inspiring desert style course with very few flat fairways. 

The landing areas are generous but there are many carries to get there. The greens are large and accommodating, but precision is essential. What is nice is the course has been built for walking and most greens are close to the next tee box. 

This is quite simply an outstanding course which welcomes public green fees, and alongside its sister course the Cholla, a great day out.

Desert Forest Golf Club

On Desert Forest golf club’s website there is a wonderful line which reads, ‘Desert Forest is a golf club, not a country club. A club dedicated to preserving rich history rooted in tradition, simplicity and love of the game. Pure golf’. Wonderful, this is a special place.

Positioned up in the foothills of Carefree at around two and a half thousand feet, this is one of the oldest courses in the Scottsdale area having originally opened for play back in 1962 designed by Rob Lawrence. 

The layout is minimalist in style, working with the rolling landscape and holes having been meticulously fit between the harsher elements of the surrounding environment. Amongst lush trees are wild cactus and other native vegetation on a course which features no fairway bunkers or water hazards.

In 2013 the course underwent significant renovation with David Zinkand, a past associate of Coore and Crenshaw coming in to update many aspects of the club. There was improved bunkering, new tee boxes, a refinement of the greens and just a general all-round improvement of the course. 

This renovation was critical to ensuring Desert Forest continues to be recognised as one of the great desert golf designs of the U.S..

Desert Mountain Golf Club (Renegade)

The Renegade is one of seven golf courses at Desert Mountain golf club. It was also the first of Jack Nicklaus’ layouts here and is arguably one of the hardest.

Forgetting about the actual layout and the hazards themselves, the Renegade can be frighteningly long. From the Gold Bear tees, to the Gold flags, the course stretches to a monstrous 8,000 plus yards! Ouch. We all like to let the Big Dog eat, but that’s a lot of yardage to eat. 

Another feature which is even more unique is the fact every hole has two pin placements. Some holes even feature two greens! This is a bit of an oddity, but this enables golfers of all abilities to enjoy and embrace the Renegade course.

In 2018 a vast renovation program began, working with Nicklaus’s original plans to ensure the authenticity remained.

This is without doubt one of the best golf courses in Arizona. Scarily, it is just another top class course at the impressive Desert Mountain club.  

What is the best golf course in Scottsdale?

The best golf course in Scottsdale, Arizona, is the Estancia Club. The course was designed by Tom Fazio, opening for play in 1996. Estancia Club is located to the north of Scottsdale close to Pinnacle Peak.

How many golf courses are there in Scottsdale?

In Scottsdale, Arizona, there are approximately 200 golf courses. There is a mixture of private, public and municipal golf courses to choose from.

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