The Buzz: With its name, location and the legendary Arnold Palmer as designer, Starfire Golf Club might appear to be one of those ultra-exclusive and dazzling golf experiences that Scottsdale is famous for, at a rate you didn’t expect to find. But in a way, it’s even better than that.
Starfire is a lovely neighborhood golf club, which day in and day out, can be much more appealing than the high-end North Scottsdale knock-your-socks-off golf courses. Starfire, which is managed by In Celebration of Golf, began simply as Scottsdale Country Club, an 18-hole layout in 1953, making it Scottsdale’s first course. Palmer was hired to design a new nine-hole layout, dubbed the “King” in 1988 and also re-designed the previous nines, which are named “Hawk” and “Squire.” Since then, some holes have been rearranged, giving them a better flow and allowing them to work within the available space and with a new clubhouse constructed in 2001 that was placed about 500 yards from the original clubhouse site.
The three nines are played in various combinations, and the “King” is the longest and most popular. The Starfire property is relatively flat and winds through mature eucalyptus, pine and cottonwood trees with generous fairways, medium-sized greens and, depending on the 2-nines you play, water can come into play on 13 holes. There are some nice views of the McDowell Mountains and Camelback Mountain, but this is an urban golf experience and can feel a little cramped with holes surrounded by homes and the course bordered by some of Scottsdale’s busiest roads. Those factors also limit its length, so this isn’t the place where you’re going to wear out your driver. Each course has four sets of tees and yardages from the front and back tees with each combination are: Squire/King, 6,040 and 4,362; King/Hawk, 6,098 and 4,467; Hawk/Squire 5,622 and 3,933.
Par-3 holes are the strength of the layouts, especially the eighth on King and the fifth on Squire, which are considered their signature holes. The former plays at 205 yards from the tips to a well-bunkered green surrounded by water. The latter is shorter, at 175 yards, but trickier and plays over water with bunkers on the left and a series of mounds on the right.
The Squire’s fifth starts a very nice four-hole stretch created by strategic use of water hazards. The highlight of that stretch is No. 7, which was the first hole of the original country club. The par 4 is just 324 yards and has a sunken lake in the middle of the fairway with very little grass around either side, and a fountain that shoots water high into the air. Because you can’t see the lake from the tee, it looks like a geyser coming right out of the ground.
The signature hole on Hawk may be the ninth, a narrow par 4 at 339 yards that puts a premium on accuracy off the tee and into the green. The par-4 sixth also has a neat feature with a pair of palm trees, which you must split on the approach, like a field-goal from 150-yards out. The approach shots to both the par-4 seventh and the par-3 eighth are over water.
The clubhouse is reminiscent of those popular in Palm Springs. The 19,000-square-foot facility is tastefully adorned amidst a grove of palm trees with a full-service restaurant, an outdoor terrace and a pro shop with a nice array of equipment, apparel and accessories.
Starfire offers a practice chipping area and putting green but no driving range. It is a popular course with female golfers, hosts many scramble tournaments and offers lower green fees than most of its neighboring courses. With its location near central Scottsdale, there are plenty of quality hotels and dining options in close proximity.