Central Arizona Chandler

San Marcos Golf Resort

San Marcos Golf Course – Arizona Golf Courses
Arizona’s first golf course just got better – $3.9 million dollars better. So if you want a feel for the early days of golf in Arizona, have a loop at the historic Crowne Plaza San Marcos Golf Resort, located in Chandler, one of several communities just southeast of downtown Phoenix. Not only was it the first course in the state with grassed greens, but the first property in Arizona to offer a full complement of resort amenities.


In fact, it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The San Marcos Resort was built in 1912, the year Arizona was granted statehood by the U.S. Congress, by Dr. Alexander Chandler in the suburb he founded, that still bears his name today. The putting greens at San Marcos were grassed one year later.

While old is good when associated with the National Register of Historic Places, it isn’t necessarily considered a plus when it comes to golf. That’s why the owner of the resort, Interwest Capital, who purchased the property in January 2013 spent $3.9 million to upgrade the golf course and clubhouse for the next century.

san-marcos-golf-course-photographThe San Marcos golf course re-opened in November 2014 with a classic blending the old and new. The “old” elements include mature salt-cedar and tamarisk trees lining the fairways of this 6,640 yard layout as well as lakes and a canal that come into play throughout the 18-hole tract.

The “new” incorporates lush green fairways and fluffy sand bunkers providing plenty of birdie opportunities for golfers who don’t try to overpower the course. Also new is the 19th hole, now called Grill 60, which happens to be the course record for low score shot by John Quarty several decades ago. The Pro Shop also falls into the “new” category as it has been completely renovated and features an array of contemporary apparel and equipment.

The course provides the perfect setting for a relaxing round of golf. Unlike many of the desert courses in Arizona, the fairways are wide with generous landing areas. The greens are well-bunkered and undulating putting surfaces vary in size and shape.

The finish is fun with a pair of par-5s that are reachable in two shots. The 18th is a risk-reward challenge, however, with the canal cutting across the fairway just short of the green and large bunkers guarding both sides. If you decide to go for the green in 2, take enough club to cover the front of the green; how you stop it then, is up to you.

The AZGA “Local Hang” for San Marcos is awfully convenient. Grab a seat on the cocktail patio of Grill 60 and settle in to watch the groups behind you finish. Although you probably won’t see another 60 carded, the grill’s staff will have you a couple under par before you’re through.


Central Arizona Chandler

Whirlwind – Devil’s Claw Course

Devil’s Claw 16th – “Komatke” Mountain

The Buzz: The Tribal Council of the Gila River Indian Community spent several years developing a plan to make use of land southeast of Phoenix that would generate revenue to support its people, while preserving its beauty and respecting what nature provided. The initial structure was a golf course, the first of two designed by Gary Panks, which was named Devil’s Claw and opened in 2000. What has grown up around it is the Sheraton Wildhorse Pass Resort & Spa, one of the most impressive resorts in Arizona with its elegant hotel, casino, pristine landscaping and tributes to ancestors who walked and worked this land 2,000 years ago. “We worked long and hard with the tribal cultural committee to stay true to the land’s heritage,” Panks said.

Devil’s Claw put the tribe’s best foot forward. It has more turf than you will find on other desert courses, meaning ample fairways, but the tiered greens demand that you be accurate with approach shots. The course that hosted a Nationwide Tour event in 2001-02 remains one of the quality layouts in the Valley of the Sun, and if you have an appreciation for Native American history, golf here becomes all the more meaningful. It begins on the second hole, a somewhat short par 4 at 399 yards from the back tee and the No. 17 handicap hole.

All holes on the Devil’s Claw and Cattail courses have a name and this one is called “Where the Dog Spoke.” That is translated to “Math heg Gogs am Niow” in Gila vernacular and comes with a story: This hole faces “Vee-cum Gahk-Woot”, also known as the Superstition Mountains, which are among the Valley’s most majestic landmarks. In the O’odham story of creation, there is a chapter that tells of a great flood in which the people turned into stone. Just prior to the flood, a dog spoke to the people urging them to move higher on the mountain to escape the flood waters. Anyway, you get the idea this isn’t just about birdies and bogeys, although the golf is outstanding.

Among the memorable holes is No. 7, Dragonfly Falls (“Vag che dagi Shudagi”), a 160-yard par 3 over a lake where you can hear the sound of cascading water. Legend has it that an oriole discovered colorful dragonflies enhancing the sound with the furious flapping of their wings. Don’t become too engrossed because you need to hit a shot carrying that entire lake, which wraps around the front and right side of the green. There is bailout area left, also over the water, but don’t go too long or you’ll reach one of the two bunkers, leaving a shot across a slick green and toward that same water hazard. No. 16 is another stunning par 3 backdropped by Komatke Mountain, which is one of the most culturally significant peaks in the Gila community.

There are many more memorable holes on this course and also on Cattail, which is the tougher of the two. Devil’s Claw has four sets of tees, ranging from 5,539 to 7,017 yards, and is rated at 72.7 with a slope of 127 from the back tees. Whirlwind also is home to the Bird Golf Academy with PGA and LPGA teaching pros. A 9,000-square-foot clubhouse is well-appointed, including locker rooms, showers and the Sivlik Grill, which includes a restaurant and lodge that serves up tasty Southwestern food and offers excellent views of both courses and three mountain ranges.

Practice facilities are equally impressive and, if you are fortunate enough to stay at the resort/casino, be prepared to indulge. Amenities include the Aji (“Sanctuary”) Spa, an onsite equestrian center called “Koli,” and the resort’s signature restaurant, Kai, which means “seed.” While there is plenty more to do and see around this area, Whirlwind stands as an all-inclusive golf escape filled with memorable holes, history, culture and “Aji”.

Central Arizona Chandler

Whirlwind – Cattail Course

Whirlwind Cattail – Arizona Golf Courses
There are two outstanding golf courses, both designed by Phoenix architect Gary Panks, at the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort and Spa, and Cattail the one where American Indian heritage is displayed most prominently. Panks, who is among Arizona’s most heralded designers, worked closely with the Gila River Indian Community to preserve and respect this land, where its ancestry can be traced back 2,000 years. The tribe takes great pride in what was created, obvious in the pristine condition of both courses, draped across 242 acres of desert landscape. Native American workers maintain the surroundings while the resort’s signature wild horses and other wildlife prance in their unspoiled habitat.

Cattail, which is the newer and tougher of the two courses, hosted a Nationwide Tour event from 2003-05. It spreads out across open desert weaving its way through mesquite and Palo Verde trees and saguaros, past the now-parched Gila River that once was the lifeblood of this community. They have even constructed a two-mile replica river here, where guests can climb aboard boats and be ferried from one part of the resort complex to another. Deep canyons, pristine lakes and flowing streams, stocked with cattails and other natural vegetation, accent the course in the shadows of the South and Estrella Mountains, creating stunning views. But the beauty of this layout, which opened in 2002, isn’t limited to aesthetics. Panks did a nice job of creating a course friendly enough to suit the recreational player and challenging enough for the tour pro. In doing so, he built in the kind of variety that makes golf rounds memorable.

Each of the par-3 holes are strong, topped by No. 10, which plays at 245 yards from the tips and starts the toughest three-hole stretch on the course. It not only requires length but also accuracy because what you can’t see from the tee is water that wraps around the back of the green. Aim left-center, but not too far left because a large bunker waits on that side. Next up is a 481-yard par 4, the toughest hole on the back nine. It requires a strong drive but an even more challenging second shot as the entire fairway slopes right, into the deepest dry canyon on the course. Two words: Stay left. This diabolical stretch ends with a 581-yard par 5. Aim at the large mesquite tree on the left and don’t mess with the bunker and canyon on the right. On the approach, avoid the fairway bunker short and left of the green, but shots too far right are destined for a water hazard. Make it through this stretch at even par and you’ll feel like you conquered Amen Corner. No. 18 is the toughest driving hole, with bunkers on the left side of the primary landing area and a deep pot bunker right. Golfers who choose not to hit driver off the tee then face a long, uphill second shot on a 450-yard par 4.

There are five sets of tees ranging from 5,394 to 7,334 yards, and the course is rated at 73.6 with a slope of 133 from the tips. Pay close attention to the yardage book and you might even learn a new language. Each hole shows its name in both the English and the Gila Indian translations. The first hole, for example, is Arrow Shot, or “Lipa Kyaam.” Two Mesquites translates to “Gohk Kui,” Gila Monster becomes “Chiadagi,” and Coyote Leg is “Bahn Kayio.” In any language, this golf experience is “Suh-weet.”

Central Arizona Chandler

Sunbird Golf Resort

Arizona Golf Course List – Arizona Golf Authority Golf Course Guide

Sunbird golf course can justifiably be called a “power executive” layout as you’ll find plenty of challenges uncommon for an executive facility. With the front nine playing at 2,614 yards and five ponds in play, it has a lot of the look and feel of a regulation course.

The test eases up on the back nine, which is highlighted by short par-4 holes that offer several birdie opportunities, and features two more ponds and some nice views of the surrounding San Tan Mountains. It is a semi-private course that opened in 1987 in the Sunbird active adult community, where residents receive discounts and tee-time preferences, but the public is more than welcome.

Designed by Gary Panks, who has created several of Arizona’s top courses, it plays to par 66, has three sets of tees at 4,350, 4,059 and 3,601 yards, and is rated at 64.3 with a slope of 95 from the back tees. There are just three par-3 holes on the front nine, which also features one par-5 offering, the 469-yard seventh that has ponds along both sides and a heavily bunkered green.

The highlight of the front side is a three-hole stretch that starts with No. 2, a 402-yard par 4, followed by the longest par 3 on the course at 214 yards, and the narrow par 4 fourth hole at 368 yards.

On the back-9, which plays 700 yards shorter, all of the par-4 holes are drivable for long hitters, with the longest being the 18th at 285 yards to a well-bunkered green. The facility features a driving range, putting green and full-service bar and restaurant. It is owned and operated by homeowners and memberships can be purchased only by residents, but punch cards are available to the public.

Visit our Arizona Golf Course Directory List and read the AZGA Player’s Review for every golf course in Arizona at

It’s “All Things Arizona Golf” from the Arizona Golf Authority.

Central Arizona Chandler

Springfield Golf Resort

Arizona Golf Course List – Arizona Golf Authority Golf Course Guide

Designed by Fore Golf, Springfield golf course opened for play in 1996 as the centerpiece of Springfield Resort, another gated community for active adults built by Del Webb. The good news, though, is that Springfield is a public facility.

It is classified as an executive course but serves up far more kick than most in that category. It plays at par 61 with three sets of tees at 4,231, 3,467 and 3,853 yards. From the back tees, it is rated at 60.9 with a slope of 99.

Springfield’s course features seven par-4 holes, ranging from 301 to 390 yards, and 11 par 3s from 135-219. The front nine is nearly 400 yards longer than the back and starts with the longest par 4 and par 3 holes on the course. Highlights on the front nine include the par-4 third hole of 346 yards and the par-3 fourth at 168, with a lake flanking the right side of each.

The back nine starts strong with a lake coming into play on the first three holes, which play at 348, 188 and 152 yards. Right behind them is a 301-yard par 4 with a narrow fairway lined by trees and out-of-bounds. Overall, it is a user-friendly layout with wide fairways, and has a driving range and putting green available.

Golfers playing here during peak season need to be patient because, with the overall quality of the facility and its bargain pricing, tee sheets fill up and the pace of play often is slower than it is at many other executive courses.

Amenities enjoyed by Springfield residents include outdoor tennis, swimming, bocce, bike/running paths and two recreation centers with a fitness facility, ballroom, billiards and card rooms.

Visit our Arizona Golf Course Directory List and read the AZGA Player’s Review for every golf course in Arizona at

It’s “All Things Arizona Golf” from the Arizona Golf Authority.