In this blog post we’re going to look into the best public golf courses in Phoenix.
This vast city in central Arizona might not be known as being a golf haven. But surrounding the city there are plenty of outstanding courses, many of which are located in Scottsdale.
Scottsdale is home to dozens of championship golf courses, both public and private. In itself it is one of the most popular golf destinations in the U.S.
See also: What are the best public golf courses in Scottsdale?
But for this list, I’ve excluded those courses as I’ve already covered them in various other lists as above. Here we’re looking specifically at the public golf courses near Phoenix, that are centrally located or further west of the city.
Let’s jump into them now.
The best public golf courses in Phoenix
|1||Wigwam Golf Club (Gold)|
|2||Verrado Golf Club (Founder’s Course)|
|3||Raven Golf Club|
|4||Verrado Golf Club (Victory Course)|
|5||Papago Golf Club|
|6||Wigwam Golf Club (Red)|
|7||Legacy Golf Club|
|8||Grand Canyon University Golf Course|
|9||Coldwater Golf Club|
|10||Palm Valley Golf Club|
|11||Aguila Golf Club|
|Value for money||Raven Golf Club|
|Groups||Legacy Golf Club|
|Clubhouse||Wigwam Golf Club|
|Views||Verrado Golf Club|
1. Wigwam Golf Club (Gold & Red)
Out towards Litchfield Park to the west of central Phoenix, is the superb Wigwam Golf Club.
This is one of the biggest public golf facilities in the city, with three championship golf courses to choose from. These are the Gold, Blue and Red courses.
The club is an oasis of green tucked away in a sprawling residential area. Glistening lakes, verdant swathes of foliage and magnificent views are all present.
Of the three courses, the Gold Course is exceptional and without doubt the signature course onsite. It opened in 1965 and was designed by the legendary Robert Trent Jones Sr. This is a man whose career spanned well over half a century and designed hundreds of golf courses worldwide.
One of those golf courses was the exceptional South Course at Firestone Country Club in Ohio. Interestingly, Trent Jones Sr. actually designed the Gold Course to be the West Coast’s version of the South Course. It is surely then no coincidence the two courses share many similarities.
Both are monsters of length exceeding 7,300 yards. Both feature small elevated greens. And both are considered to be immensely challenging, with a number of long par-4s and par-5s.
It is no wonder the Gold Course was recognised as one of the finest golf courses in the country.
Over the years it has also been chosen to host numerous high profile tournaments. These include various U.S. Open Qualifiers, U.S. Amateur Qualifiers and the Patriot All-America Invitational, which is held annually.
The next course to highlight at Wigwam Golf Club, is the slightly more friendly, but just as fun, Red Course. It was designed by Robert ‘Red’ Lawrence and opened in 1972.
The Red Course is shorter measuring 6,852 yards and features wide open fairways and generous greens. No wonder it is a favorite amongst the members and many of the locals.
The said, expect water to come into play on a number of holes with the final stretch (15 to 18) devilishly difficult. Fairways are tree-lined with elegant pines and eucalyptus trees ensuring there is some onus on accuracy off the tee.
This is a top class golf facility and one of the most popular in Phoenix.
2. Verrado Golf Club (Founder’s Course & Victory Course)
Next up and we have yet another golf club with more than one championship course. This time it’s the outstanding Verrado Golf Club.
Out of all the other golf clubs on this list, it is the furthest away from downtown. But any list of the best public golf courses in Phoenix would be incomplete without featuring Verrado.
The club is located out in Buckeye, a half hour’s drive from central Phoenix. This is the outer rim of the city, whilst any further west and you’d be climbing the White Tank Mountains.
There are two first rate courses to choose from; The Victory Course and the Founder’s Course. Both were designed by the PGA Tour veteran Tom Lehman and the architect John Fought.
The Founder’s Course came first, opening to high acclaim in 2004. Ever since then, it has received wild praise from all the major golf publications. This includes a number of recognitions as ‘best in state’.
As for the layout, it is a wild ride. For starters, an unrivaled setting in the mountainous foothills. There are constant yet gentle elevation changes which offer splendid views whilst dramatic rock outcroppings are a constant feature.
From the tips it measures just shy of 7,300 yards! But fear not, the fairways are generous. Just make sure to avoid the cavernous bunkers.
As for the Victory Course, it followed twelve years later, opening in 2016. The famous saying, ‘..if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. Well you get much of the same with the Victory Course, another Lehman and Fought design.
This is an impressive facility and great value.
3. Raven Golf Club
Tucked up close to Phoenix’s South Mountains skirting the foothills, is the fantastic Raven Golf Club. This is one of the most popular public golf courses in the city and simply can’t be missed.
Designed by Gary Panks and David Graham, the course has been in operation since 1995. It has also received plenty of praise since opening, with Golf Digest awarding it 4.5 stars out of 5.
This is a sensational design which combines the wild desert landscape with lush foliage and greenery. Mature Georgia pines line many fairways, which lead up to tricky multi-tiered greens.
Measuring over 7,000 yards from the back tees, you’ll need both length and strategy to score well at Raven Golf Club. Water hazards come into play on a handful of holes whilst others are characterized by various pot-holed bunkers.
There are various tee boxes to choose from, so slightly less capable golfers are still welcome. This is one superb course and no wonder it is so popular.
4. Papago Golf Club
In a rare patch of undeveloped land right in the heart of Phoenix, you’ll find the rugged and wild Papago Golf Club. Don’t be misled. Rugged and wild applies to the landscape surrounding the course. Papago Golf Club is top class and a hugely popular public option in the city.
It is located to the east of Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport in the wider Papago Park. It is here you have the famed Hole-in-the-Rock formation and the famous Phoenix Zoo. From the course you also get to enjoy stunning views up towards the Papago Buttes.
The course opened in 1963 and was designed by the same man responsible for the famed Torrey Pines in San Diego. This was William F. Bell, a man whose career was largely spent on the West Coast.
The routing is great fun, with the fairways twisting and turning, climbing uphill and downhill. On a number of holes you really get to enjoy some magnificent city and mountain views.
In recent years, this muni has received some serious investment leading to a pretty major renovation. This went some way to improving the design and conditioning. It’s not the cheapest golf rate in the area, but it is well worth a round.
5. Legacy Golf Club
There are so many great public golf courses in Phoenix, many of which just fly under the radar. All the attention is focused elsewhere, which allows golf courses like the Legacy Golf Club to quietly go about its business.
And its business clearly revolves around offering a high quality championship layout, in top condition and good value!
The Legacy Golf Club has existed since just before the turn of the century, in 1999. It was designed by the widely celebrated and respected Gary Panks. Panks had a relatively modest career as an architect, with many of his creations in Arizona state.
Some of these include the aforementioned Raven Golf Club, which happens to be next door to the Legacy. And up in Scottsdale, the fantastic Talon Course at Grayhawk Golf Club.
Well this is another classy layout, which is desert-style but features plenty of native shrubs and greenery. The lush fairways sweep around 280-acres of what was once the private property of the late American rancher Dwight B. Heard.
As a nod to the past, you’ll find various historical structures dotted around the course including the original two-grain silos which date back to 1902. But don’t think for a second this is gimmicky. Not at all.
This is a fun round of golf played on a course which gets consistently recognised as one of the best public offerings in the city.
6. Grand Canyon University Golf Course
As far as college golf courses go, there are some pretty epic ones around the country. The likes of Stanford Golf Course, Yale Golf Course and Duke University Golf Club are all prime examples.
As for the Grand Canyon University Golf Course, it is not top 5, but it is definitely up there in the top 20 College courses in the country.
Located just south of Glendale in Maricopa County, the course occupies a perfectly square plot deep in the heart of Phoenix’s urban sprawl. It was designed by William F.Bell and opened for play in 1961.
Although it hasn’t always been known under its current name. It was for many years called the Maryvale Municipal Golf Course. That was up until 2014 when the university took upon full ownership of the course with rights to upgrade it.
For this project, they brought in the highly experienced architect John Fought. Fought took this rundown muni and completely transformed it to the tune of $10 million.
Although the routing was largely kept the same, greens were moved, tee boxes rebuilt and the yardage increased. With a nod to the great A.W. Tillinghast, you’ll find raised greens and sand face bunkers on this 7,200 yard beast.
This is a fine course which welcomes visitors. Don’t be surprised to see it maybe climb a few more places next time.
See also: What are the best public golf courses in Arizona?
7. Coldwater Golf Club
In Phoenix’s West Valley, you’ll find the Forrest Richardson designed Coldwater Golf Club.
One of the newest golf courses to be built in the city, Richardson and Jack Snyder completed the project in 2000. Ever since then, Coldwater has continued to enthrall local golfers.
From the back tees the course measures shy of 6,800 yards. But don’t be fooled into thinking this will be an easy round of golf. Due to the topography, you’ll find rolling fairways with plenty of elevation changes.
Elevated tee boxes add an element of intrigue whilst circumnavigating deep swales and dry washes. Two lakes come into play, one on the signature 18th.
Fairways are generally in decent condition and there are some really good value rates available. And if you call the golf shop, you’ll likely get some even better twilight rates.
8. Palm Valley Golf Club
West out of the city, past Rancho Sante Fe in Goodyear, is another fantastic Phoenix public golf course. This is Palm Valley Golf Club with 27 holes of championship golf to enjoy.
All three nine-hole layouts are desert-style and meander around a large residential area. Although at no point do you feel encroached by the housing with ample buffer space.
The North and South Courses are the original 18-holes, opening in 1993. Designed by Arthur Hills, these two together are considered the championship combination.
Throughout his career, Hills designed over 200 golf courses with some 100+ renovations to add to that. But Palm Valley Golf Club was the only one in central Phoenix.
More recently, the West Course opened in 2010. It was originally designed by Hale Irwin, being then redesigned by Mike Angus.
When playing the North/South combination, the course stretches to just over 7,000 yards. This is not an easy walk with some lengthy distances from green to tee.
Palm Valley’s fairways are relatively generous whilst wayward shots will be mostly playable from the desert scrub. There isn’t a huge amount of water on the course. But when it does come into play, it does it in a big style. Water to carry off the tee. Approach shots over water.
And the signature 9th hole, which is a long par-5. No matter how good your tee shot, it all comes down to shots two and three. With water lurking all down the left hand side, a narrow fairway and even tighter green, this takes some nerve.
9. Aguila Golf Course
I want to finish off this list with a special mention for one of the city’s best municipal courses.
The City of Phoenix owns and operates a number of municipal courses, of which Papago Golf Club we mentioned earlier is one.
Aguila Golf Course is another, designed by the experienced Gary Panks. It is located in Laveen Village, towards Montana Vista. This is a wonderful location set in the foothills of South Mountain.
Naturally, the site has some splendid views, both of the surrounding mountains and the Phoenix skyline in the distance.
Panks has created a challenging layout at Aguila, which opened in 2000. Aside from the flowing elevation changes, there are wide fairways and slick greens. Three lakes provide water hazards across five holes.
Super playable and great fun. It is also fantastic value.
What is the best public golf course in Phoenix?
The best public golf course in Phoenix is the Gold Course at Wigwam Golf Club. Located at Litchfield Park to the west of the city, the course was designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr. and opened for play in 1965. It has hosted many high profile tournaments including U.S. Open Qualifiers.