An introduction to Arizona

In our series of the best public golf courses in the U.S., here we head off to Arizona. 

Known as the Copper State (or the Grand Canyon State), it is largely made up of a desert climate. Subsequently many of the golf courses on the list are desert-style layouts featuring carpet-like fairways weaving through rugged and arid landscapes.

There are some top class private golf courses in Arizona. But on this occasion, we’re going to focus on the public courses, of which there are some epic layouts. Let’s dive into them.

See more: What are the best private golf courses in Arizona?

The best public golf courses in Arizona

RankGolf Courses
1We-Ko-Pa Golf Club (Saguaro & Cholla)
2TPC Scottsdale (Stadium)
3Quintero Golf Club
4Ak-Chin Southern Dunes Golf Club
5Wickenburg Ranch Golf & Social Club (Big Wick)
6The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club, Dove Mountain
7Grayhawk Golf Club (Raptor)
8Troon North Golf Club
9Sunridge Canyon Golf Club
10The Lodge at Ventana Canyon
Table showing the best public golf courses in Arizona

Best for…

GroupsGrayhawk Golf Club
Value for moneyAk-Chin Southern Dunes Golf Course
ClubhouseWickenburg Ranch Golf & Social Club
ViewsThe Lodge at Ventana Canyon

1. We-Ko-Pa Golf Club (Saguaro & Cholla)

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

Half an hour’s drive east of Scottsdale, past Fountain Hills towards Fort McDowell, is We-Ko-Pa Golf Club. This 36-hole complex is one of the finest public golf offerings in the U.S., let alone Arizona. 

Despite Scottsdale and Phoenix being heavily built up, getting out to We-Ko-Pa feels a million miles from anywhere. The club is surrounded by nothing but sparse desert. 

The two courses are called the Saguaro, designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, and the Cholla course, designed by Scott Miller.

As is the design style of Coore & Crenshaw and to an extent Miller, both courses blend seamlessly into the natural environment. There was very little earth shifted during the build, primarily to ensure the natural topography was left as untouched as possible.

Both courses play through lush vegetation including shady arroyos and cacti. There are desert ridges and picturesque views. This really is public golf at its finest. 

Throughout the year there is a scaled-price 36-hole package well worth checking out which offers great value for money. 

2. TPC Scottsdale (Stadium)

Waste Managemenbt Phoenix Open, Tourist Board, Scottsdale, TPC Scottsdale
Credit: Communication Links for Waste Management Phoenix Open.

It would feel remiss of me to place the Stadium course further down this list considering the impressive facility it is. It is also home to arguably one of the best climaxes in professional golf.

Every year the Stadium course hosts the Waste Management Phoenix Open, which seems to burst to life around the 16th hole.

This par-3 is aptly nicknamed ‘The Coliseum’ and can hold up to 20,000 seated spectators. With Arizona’s finest lager being consumed liberally, the atmosphere gets pretty hot!

But when it’s not hosting the PGA Tour event, it is open to the public on a tee time basis. When you talk about following in the footsteps of the pros, you can literally throw yourself into it here.

Granted, with no seating erected and the pressure of 20,000 pairs of eyes, it’s not 100% the same. But you still get to attack the same par-3 and see where you end up. 

The other 17 holes are just as good and were renovated in 2014 to ensure the course was up to ‘Tour’ standards.

There are carpet-like fairways flanked by sandy run-offs. Water is also present on at least half the holes so ensure you come with a handy supply of spares.

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

3. Quintero Golf Club

Quintero golf club, Arizona

To the north-west of Phoenix up towards Lake Pleasant and its associated Regional Park, is Quintero Golf Club. 

Like We-Ko-Pa, you’re close to the city but far enough away from everything else. This is seclusion personified. 

The course was designed by the highly experienced Rees Jones, and is a fine example of desert golf. Carved out of the Arizona landscape, it will test every aspect of your game. 

However, what is critical to enjoying your round, is ensuring you choose the right tee box from the nine available.

This is because the fairways are slightly narrow and surrounded by the wild natural landscape. Even if you manage to conquer your game off the tee, the multi-level greens are lethal and will test your putting skills. 

This is right up there as one of the best in state, and has received a number of accolades from all the major golf publications. For example, Golf Digest and Golf Weekly ranked it as the ‘Best Public Golf Course’ in 2017.

You know you’re in for a treat here.

4. Ak-Chin Southern Dunes Golf Club

Ak-Chin-Southern-Dunes, Scottsdale, Arizona

Located in 320-acres of the Indian Community land, Ak-Chin Southern Dunes is a stunningly good layout. 

The club is about 45 minutes drive from Scottsdale and was designed by former PGA Tour player Fred Couples. He was assisted in the project by Lee Schmidt and Brian Curley, who brought their extensive architectural experience.

Very little housing surrounds the course, so it is just you and nature. Possibly a reason it remains such a popular choice amongst locals.

Sweeping through the site are the gently undulating fairways with large numbers of bunkers dotted freely through the routing. And the greens are a good test, firm and fast.

It will come as no surprise that the facility is Troon managed, so you can be assured of great conditioning and professional service.

One thing I love about Ak-Chin Southern Dunes is the laid back vibe. There is no pretentious attitude – just a great golf course with welcoming staff.

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

5. Wickenburg Ranch Golf & Social Club (Big Wick)

Since bursting onto the scene in 2015, Wickenburg Ranch has received bucket loads of awards.

It was rated as one of the Top 25 U.S. Golf Courses by conditions from Golf Advisor. Golf Digest put it in their Top 25 Golf Courses in Arizona. And finally GolfWeek ranked it as one of the Top 5 Courses to play in Arizona.

Do we need to say more?!

Joking aside, this is a pretty special place and one well worth visiting despite the hour and a half’s drive from Scottsdale.

Wickenburg has gently rolling hills and as you play the Big Wick course, you’ll pass through arroyos and canyons. 

The conditioning is on another level. Exquisite fairways, lush manicured greens and carpet like tee boxes. This is aided in large part by the relatively mild summers and Bentgrass prevalent throughout the course.

Yes it is a long drive. But there is more than just the golf to enjoy! Make sure you spend some time in the 42,000 square foot clubhouse.

Jake’s Spoon serves up Arizona Roadhouse cuisine and aside from that, you can relax in Wick’s Hideaway, a saloon style bar serving ice-cold beers.

6. The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club, Dove Mountain

Ritz Carlton Dove Mountain Golf Course, Tucson, Arizona

Up high in the Sonoran Desert just outside Tucson, is the The Golf Club at Dove Mountain. This is another impressive facility with three loops of nine holes to enjoy.

The course was designed by the Golden Bear himself, Jack Nicklaus. There aren’t too many desert-style courses designed by the great man, but of those he has, this is right up there as one of his best.

In pristine condition, the pick of the nine holes include the Saguaro and Tortolita. Both were designed to be challenging and they step up to the task with aplomb. 

You’re high up in the Sonoran Desert with the routing dropping to 2,300 feet and climbing to 3,200 feet.

The carpet-like fairways are bordered by a sea of Saguaro cacti, snaking bunkers, large rock boulders and water. You then arrive at the well defended and rapid greens. This is no walk in the park.

This top-class public golf course in Arizona would put many member’s courses to shame. And the views across to the Tortolita Mountains are to die for.

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

7. Grayhawk Golf Club (Raptor)

Grayhawk Golf Club, Scottsdale, Arizona

Grayhawk Golf Club is just under a half hour’s drive from central Scottsdale and one of the most popular public golf options in the city.

There are 36-holes on offer at Grayhawk. But out of the two, there is definitely one course which you’ll want to play first. And that is the Raptor course, one of just two Scottsdale golf courses to have hosted a PGA Tour event – the Frys Open between 2007-2009.

It was designed by Tom Fazio and in typical Fazio fashion this is a high-stakes game of risk and reward.

From the back tees, the picturesque course stretches to over 7,150 yards. But fear not, the fairways have wide landing areas with stray shots to the large greens finding either deep bunkers or sandy run-offs. There will be some testing up and downs.

Considering the footfall it gets, the conditioning is immaculate. So much so, you would be stunned this is a public golf complex.

The views from the course are mind-blowing, with the McDowell Mountains providing a constant backdrop. 

The other course onsite is the Talon, designed by US Open and PGA Champion David Graham and Gary Panks. Unfortunately it gets overlooked by the Raptor Course, but was in itself, ranked as one of the Top 100 You Can Play in the US by Golf Magazine.

8. Troon North Golf Club

Troon North Golf Club, Scottsdale, Arizona -Photo-Credit-Monica-Anne-Pedano
Photo Credit Monica Anne Pedano

Yet another 36-hole golf club within easy reach of downtown Scottsdale, this is without doubt an area spoiled for choice when it comes to public golf. 

Troon North Golf Club is a fantastic example of pure unabridged desert golf.

There are 36-holes of golf onsite, all designed by the design duo of Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish. You’ve got the Monument Course and Pinnacle Course, both of which are top drawer.

Both layouts are overlooked by the imposing Pinnacle Peak, just a mile or so south of the site. There is no denying you’re right in the heart of the rugged Sonoran Desert. This is further accentuated by its large natural boulders and ravines which come into play on a number of holes.

In fact, this area is so sought after for golf development, Troon North is literally surrounded by uber-exclusive golf clubs. Estancia and Desert Highlands are to the south and Scottsdale National Golf Club is to the east. 

Onsite is the luxury Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale, through which you can benefit from good value ‘stay and play’ packages worth exploring. 

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

9. Sunridge Canyon Golf Club

On the road east out of Scottsdale, heading up toward the McDowell Mountain Regional Park, you’ll soon come across Sunridge Canyon, one of the slightly newer neighborhoods. It is here you will also find Sunridge Canyon Golf Club, one of the finest public golf courses in Arizona.

The club has received numerous accolades from most of golf’s respected publications including GolfWeek, GOLF Magazine, Golf World, Golf Advisor, you name it. You’ve got yourself a layout which stretches to just over 7,000 yards and was designed by Keith Foster. 

Although it sounds like an oxymoron, Sunridge Canyon is a links-style desert course. What you will find are a number of elevation changes and rolling fairways following the movement of the land. There are also many tee boxes raised above the fairway and greens. 

The final six holes have been nicknamed the ‘Wicked Six’, a stretch of holes deemed arguably ‘the’ best combination of finishing holes in the state of Arizona. If anything it is worth visiting the course just for this.

After the round, make sure you visit the firepit and the Wicked Six Bar & Grill which serves artisan pizzas, steaks, burgers, draft beers. You’ve got yourself set.

10. The Lodge at Ventana Canyon

Ventana Country Club, Tucson, Arizona

So to the last on our list of best public golf courses in Arizona, The Lodge at Ventana Canyon is pretty awesome. 

This time we fly south from Scottsdale to Tucson, whilst climbing north of the city in the scenic Santa Catalina Mountains.

Ventana Canyon is a premier lodging and golf experience, set within 600 acres of a lush desert oasis. This is essentially a country club with top class amenities and 50 or so suites for guests.

There are 36-holes of championship golf, all designed by the legendary Tom Fazio. 

First up is The Mountain Course, elevated in the rocky terrain of the Santa Catalina foothills. You then have The Canyon Course, which winds through flatter grounds but still with the same stunning vistas.

But it is the Mountain Course most golfers want to play. Aside from the stunning panoramas, there are many challenging holes which will test the best golfers out there.

Generally the fairways are accommodating but if you do miss them, you’ll be in rugged desert vegetation surrounded by cacti. 

The 3rd hole is the signature par-3. Literally a flick of a pitching wedge from an elevated tee across the canyon to a postage stamp green. It’s a wonderful hole, just make sure you hit the green!

What is the best public golf course in Arizona?

The best public golf course in Arizona is the Saguaro course at We-Ko-Pa Golf Club. It was designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw and is located a half hour’s drive east of Scottsdale past Fountain Hills.

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