The Buzz: Originally it was called The Pointe Golf Club at South Mountain and later was known as Phantom Horse, but by any name, this picturesque layout is one memorable golf experience. Created by Forrest Richardson, a well-known Arizona architect who has a passion for design history, Arizona Grand dazzles golfers with its blend of traditional links, desert influences and strategic routing.
Due to legal challenges over a land swap between the developer and city of Phoenix, it took five years to complete the course that opened to great acclaim in 1989 and sets hard on the edge of South Mountain Park. That is no small matter. In fact, at more than 13,000 acres, it is the largest municipal park in the world and provides a spectacular setting for the course that wends its way through the natural desert preserve with arroyos, craggy, rock-covered hills and dramatic elevation changes. The hike alone is worth the price of admission, but Richardson also offers up some memorable golf holes at Arizona Grand, which plays to par-71 at a manageable 6,336 yards from the back tees. The front nine has a more classic approach and the back nine more of a desert-target feel, and it’s not particularly long but has plenty of strategically placed targets to create challenges.
With captivating surroundings, it is fitting perhaps that the two most memorable holes are nicknamed “Jailhouse Steps” and “Alcatraz.” The former is a 538-yard par-5 with a fairway that narrows in the landing area. The nickname refers to three rows of stacked bunkers that guard an elevated green, which isn’t very deep and starts just 15 yards from the crest of the hill where it rests. The approach shot requires an extra club to reach the green.
Alcatraz gets its name from the island green that concludes the round on the 362-yard, par-4 18th hole. It was created when Arizona Grand Resort underwent a $52 million re-development project in 2009 that also created a massive water park. The hole caps off an excellent finishing stretch that offers birdie opportunities with other par 4s at 353, 325 and 307 yards. Sandwiched among them is the par-3 17th at 202 yards, with a tee box perched high on a bluff that provides some of the most expansive views available of the Valley of the Sun.
The surrounding resort offers plenty more activities, including that water park, which features a 10,000-square-foot wave pool, three water slides up to 83 feet high, a lazy river with rapids, a hot tub large enough for 25 adults, an area called Wild Cat Springs dedicated to young guests, speakers throughout the park and a bar and grill serving a variety of treats and libations.
For dining, you can choose among: The Lobby Grill (with an open wood-fired grill and rotisserie kitchen); Aunt Chilada’s Mexican-style cantina; Rustler’s Rooste (with Mesquite-broiled steaks, chops and chicken and hearty chili) or Phantom Horse Sports Bar, with plenty of TVs and video games to complement the bar menu.
The course and resort have received numerous accolades from the likes of Golf Digest, AAA and the Zagat Survey.