Central Arizona Phoenix

Vistal Golf Club

Arizona Golf Authority AZGA Golf Course Buzz: Vistal Golf Club takes advantage of its central Phoenix location and offers up great golf and the best views of the city’s skyline from a fairway, anywhere in town.

Vistal Golf Club

Originally designed by Arizona golf legend Johnny Bulla, the golf course opened in 1957 as the Thunderbird Country Club. The course received a major redesign in 2000 by PGA Tour Design Services, who assigned local resident tour player consultants Howard Twitty, Tom Lehman and Billy Mayfair to the job.

The local boys produced a gem that re-opened in November of 2001 as the Vistal Golf Club to accolades all around. Quickly named a “Top 10 New Public Course in the U.S.” by Sports Illustrated, Vistal Golf Club was selected as the host course for two local U.S. Open qualifying tournaments.

Some of Bulla’s original holes remain intact, particularly on the front nine, and the new back nine winds up through the rugged mountain foothills while maintaining a traditional feel. Four sets of tees range from 7,013 to 5,235 yards with a rating of 72.9 and slope of 129 from the tips, 69.4 and 116 from the most forward tees. More than 80 bunkers add to the challenge and three lakes bring water into play on six holes, most notably at the third, the ninth and 18th.

Vistal entertains right from the start and begins with a birdie, a bogey and the anything from a 2 through “I’m in my pocket” third hole.

The 526-yard par-5 first features an elevated tee and fairway-pinching bunkers in the landing area. Negotiate them successfully and make a putt to bag an opening birdie. The second is a classic 440-yard par-4, straightaway; both the yardage and a swale in the center of the generous green produce a lot of bogeys here.

The par-3 third hole at Vistal is a birdie hole when the pin is left; but if the cup is cut in the right half of the green, you can make numbers that won’t fit on your card. Playing just 167 yards from the tips, 108 forward, the right half of the green is a lake-wrapped peninsula that demands precise yardage control from the tee. You can drown several pieces of ammo if you’re a bit short, a bit long or just a little bit right of your intended line of play. Tournament golf; play left and card a two-putt par – recreational golf; have some fun and have a go.

As you would expect, the PGA Tour player’s authored a strong finishing stretch at Vistal Golf Club. The 16th is 438-yard par-4 with an angry green surface devoid of a single flat spot more than 4-feet in diameter; it’s still a lot of fun to putt. The 17th is 597 yards of 5-par golf into the prevailing breeze in these parts; just play for par.

18th Green - Vistal Golf Club

The par-4 18th is a terrific tournament golf closer. Playing at 427 yards, the tee ball must be shaped into a fairway running on a diagonal to the tee, miss a little left and your second will be played from a bunker. A lake runs along the left side of the fairway, and the left side of the green wraps behind it, so depending on pin placement, you may need to carry it on the approach. Two well struck shots produce a routine birdie putt, but miss either shot just a hair and the leader board can change quite dramatically.

Vistal offers full practice facilities, complete with classic rock music piped in. After the round, the Blue Pig Patio is a good place to relax with excellent views of several holes and the Phoenix skyline in the distance.

Originally, some holes on the back-nine holes were located west of 7th Street. As part of the 2000 redesign, that property has been re-crafted as the Thunderbirds Par-3 Course and the official home of the First Tee of Phoenix program. Designed by Tom Fazio, the course plays at about 600 yards and level par of 27.

After golf, as long as you’re in the neighborhood, spend some time and check out two more Phoenix originals. The entrance to South Mountain Park is just down the street, south on Central Avenue, and you can make the short drive up to the 1,000-foot summit for the view; it’s spectacular, day or night.

And if you’re on south Central Avenue, at #8684 you’ll drive right past one of the best meals in town at the family owned and operated restaurant, Los Dos Molinos. Named by Victoria “The Two Grinders” for the chili grinders she and her husband Eddie each received from their grandmothers, this is hand-crafted New Mexico style cuisine presented in a small, homey atmosphere. The food is great because as Victoria says, “There’s no assembly line here, my daughters and I prepare each dish, with one helper at most.”

Read the Arizona Golf Authority AZGA Arizona Golf Course Review for every golf course in Arizona at

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

Central Arizona Phoenix

Raven Golf Club – Phoenix

Arizona Golf Course Guide’s AZGA Arizona Golf Course Review: When the Raven Golf Club opened for play in 1995, the tectonic plates of the golf landscape in Phoenix shifted forever. Sure, high-quality golf course designs were already scattered around North Scottsdale’s foothills back then, but most were private country clubs designed for the exclusive enjoyment of the members and their lucky guests.

Raven Golf Club - Phoenix

The Raven boldly placed a first-class David Graham – Gary Panks layout right in the heart of Phoenix, added all the customer service the private places had, and then offered the same experience to daily-fee public players – Home Run.

Not only did the locals flock to the course, but due to its location near Sky Harbor International airport, avid traveling golfers always scheduled it for play on the day they arrived, or the day they were leaving town. Many outfits have copied the formula over the years, but no one in Phoenix does it better than the Raven – for two reasons: the golf course, and the staff.

First, the golf course. Wow!

Messrs. Graham and Panks were given a site along Baseline Road in a longstanding agricultural area near South Mountain historically cultivated as flower nurseries; the fields are directly adjacent to a major irrigation canal. They moved some earth, imported 6,000 Georgia Pine trees and produced a spectacular golf course that the editors at GolfWorld included on their 2009 List of the Top 50 Public Courses in the U.S.A and Golf Digest awarded 4.5 of the 5 possible stars they hand out. Trust us; you don’t buy your way into the rankings issued by those two groups.

The Raven – Phoenix is an ever entertaining and playable golf course from the middle tees, while providing a championship caliber test from the tips. At its full 7,078 yardage, the course rating is a healthy 72.8 and slope is 130. Two sets of middle tees offer a more comfortable rating of 70.5/125 from 6,722 yards and 68.1/119 from 6,264. The forward tees are set at 5,759 and the rating creeps back over par at 73/129.

Raven Golf Club – Phoenix is the model for the “member for a day” mantra you hear so often these days. Visit the expansive practice ground to loosen up and don’t be offended if you find the surfaces are better than the fairways you play on at home. Take plenty of time to prepare and be ready to play from the start because a stern 3-hole test appears early on the front-9.

Standing on the 3rd tee you’ll notice two things, a generous pine tree-lined fairway and not a single fairway bunker. You know what that means, and a glance at the tee marker will confirm your suspicion; it’s the strongest par-4 you’ll see all day and, at 477 yards, the No.1 handicap hole on the course. Resign yourself to a longish second and take solace in the fact that the Graham-Nash team provided a bunker-free green complex that accepts a long iron or hybrid shot-trajectory.

Now that your long game has been stretched out, No. 4, a 596-yard par-5 provides another chance to use it. The AZGA staff recommends we amateurs play this one as a three-shotter due to the elevated green complex. Approaching this green with a short iron ensures a more reliable result as deep bunkers menace the right half of this tiered green, both front and rear – sandy birdies are rare here.

The early 3-hole workout culminates at the 6th tee where the designers test another part of your game: your judgment. You’ve just played two holes that suggest “long ball is good” and now they tempt you with their 324-yard drivable par-4. The fairway doglegs sharply left-to-right around a menacing family of bunkers and the multi-tiered green sits just beyond them, tantalizingly exposing its wide but shallow-depth side to you from the tee; the deep long-axis of the green is angled some 60-degrees away from you, in line with the safer, dogleg fairway approach. Carry the bunkers and you’re home free, miss a bit and well, you know the drill. It’s your choice, and therein lies the fun.

The back-9 is a bit shorter and the layout offers several more choices about what shot to hit. Standouts are the 11th and the 15th. Tee boxes at the par-3 11th are placed from 195 to 112 yards and it’s one of the few golf holes where an amateur player might actually, consciously, genuinely reach the following conclusion – “You know, if I miss this green, after looking at the angry ocean-like undulating chipping area over there on the right, that bunker on the left doesn’t look so bad.” They’d be correct, too.

No. 15, a par-4 playing a modest 366 yards, is an elegant eye-candy golf hole disguising an intriguing choice about your tee shot. Challenge and stay short of the bunker, located just 250 yards from the tee and defining the gently sweeping left-to-right dogleg, and you’re left with a level lie and the full depth of a two-tiered, elevated green for your second. Drive your tee ball longer into the generous fairway left of the bunker and you’ll find everything but a level lie, and the green, now diagonal to your line of play, is a very shallow one-club target.

The Raven Golf Club – Phoenix is home to one of those rare golf courses where even if you did reach the milestone of playing every day, you would always be entertained by the course. Each day would bring a little different lie, a different shot angle, or a change in strategy off the tee; that’s the mark of thoughtful design and careful course routing.

And if you do show up every day, rest assured you’ll be in good hands. O.B Sports’ General Manager at the Raven – Phoenix, Derek Crawford, has been doing this for 30-years and he’s distilled the art and science of customer service to its essence.

“It’s simple really; my staff and I do whatever we can to enhance a guest’s experience today. It’s not hard to get over there and open a door for someone whose hands are full, or take a moment to smile and thank them for choosing to come over and play our course. We just believe that, in a world which seems a bit less civil today, the little things we do have a big impact on our guests”

How refreshing.

The Raven Golf Club – Phoenix also offers a well appointed Pro Shop and great food and beverage ambiance in the Raven Grill, as well as complete banquet services in their Event Pavilion overlooking the 18th hole.

After golf, as long as you’re in the neighborhood, spend some time and check out two more Phoenix originals. The entrance to South Mountain Park is just down the street, south on Central Avenue, and you can make the short drive up to the 1,000-foot summit for the view; it’s spectacular, day or night.

And if you’re on south Central Avenue, at #8684 you’ll drive right past one of the best meals in town at the family owned and operated restaurant, Los Dos Molinos. Named by Victoria “The Two Grinders” for the chili grinders she and her husband Eddie each received from their grandmothers, this is hand-crafted New Mexico style cuisine presented in a small, homey atmosphere. The food is great because as Victoria says, “There’s no assembly line here, my daughters and I prepare each dish, with one helper at most.”

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 Phoenix

Arizona Country Club

Arizona Golf Authority AZGA Golf Course Buzz: History abounds at Arizona Country Club, a private facility that has more than 100 years of tradition, including hosting the Phoenix Open 10 times between 1955 and 1973 (Phoenix Country Club also hosted the event during that period). The course has been graced by some of the all-time greats in PGA Tour history, with Arnold Palmer winning the Phoenix Open title on this course three consecutive years.

The club actually began as the former Ingleside Golf Resort, a nine-hole layout which featured sand and oil greens just north of the current location. A new course was built in the late 1920s, and was re-designed by Willie Wansa and Ernest Suggs in 1946, when it re-opened as a private club. It has undergone four renovations over the years, with the most recent being a $15 million project that was completed in 2006. Legendary pro Johnny Bulla made the most significant design changes in 1964 and Gary Stevenson oversaw a modernization project in 1999 that included revamping tees, bunkers and putting surfaces.

Arizona Country Club’s setting, near the heart of Phoenix and Scottsdale historic districts, offers some splendid views of the landmark Camelback Mountain and Papago buttes. Water comes into play on five holes of the course that features smallish, undulating greens and are known as some of the “purest” in the Valley of the Sun.

The unusual layout has a combination of eight par-4 holes, five par 5s and five par 3s; three of each form the front nine. With 117 acres of irrigated turf, there is ample room to crank up the driver, and although errant shots don’t end up in desert ravines here, the 1,800 mature trees create plenty of challenges. There are three sets of tees at 6,756, 6,319 and 5,558 yards, and the course is rated at 72.2 with a slope of 130 from the back.

Arizona Country Club features its own version of “Amen Corner” at holes 10 through 12. The 10th is the longest par 5 at 600 yards and tough to reach in two shots. It features a fairway guarded by trees and two large fairway bunkers on the right, and a two-tiered green with a stone waterfall flowing into the water hazard that guards the front and two bunkers in back.

The 11th is the signature hole and the longest par 3 at 195 yards. A large lake protects the front and right of the green, a large bunker guards the left side and there are two more bunkers behind.

The trifecta is completed by the 12th hole, a 436-yard par 4 with a dogleg right guarded on both sides of the fairway by trees and a large, tiered green protected by four bunkers. Play this stretch in even par and you deserve an “Amen” from your playing partners.

The most recent renovation also included redesigning and expanding the two-story clubhouse, which spans 60,000 square feet in a project directed by award-winning architect Doug Fredrikson. Amenities at the club include swimming pools, tennis courts, a health and fitness center, spa and a separate “Kids Klubhouse”.

Arizona Country Club offers exclusive fine dining with an impressive wine cellar as well as casual dining at the bar and grill. Several memberships are available, including junior, sports and social, along with full golf memberships.

Read the Arizona Golf Course Directory AZGA Buzz for every golf course in Arizona at; it’s “All Things Arizona Golf ” from the Arizona Golf Authority.

Central Arizona Phoenix

Paradise Valley Park Golf Course

Arizona Golf Authority AZGA Golf Course Buzz: This is basic golf on an executive course with few frills and some of the lowest green fees in the north Phoenix area. Paradise Valley Park, which was designed by Jeff Hardin and former PGA of America president Brian Whitcomb, opened in 1986 with a traditional design, relatively flat terrain and generally hard surfaces, which translates to lots of run-out on most shots.

The par-61 layout has three sets of tees at 4,145, 3,789 and 3,404 yards, with a rating of 52.9 and slope of 88 from the back tees. There is just one par-5 hole, the ninth, which plays at 475 yards. The course has five par-4s with the longest at 335 yards and the shortest at 288, and the par 3s range from 113 – 212 yards.

The finish is the most demanding part of the round as water comes into play on the last two holes. A lake guards the left side of the par-3 17th, which plays at 150 yards and the par-4 18th, at 327 yards, features a menacing pond along the left side of the fairway. The course has a handful of bunkers but they aren’t prominent obstacles.

Paradise Valley Park doesn’t serve up many challenges for the low-handicapper, but works great for less-experienced golfers, short hitters and those looking to work on short- and mid-iron play. Natural grass driving range facilities are provided, along with a putting green and chipping practice area, and a small grille with refreshments available.

Central Arizona Phoenix

Stonecreek Golf Club

Stonecreek Golf Club - No. 14

Arizona Golf Authority AZGA Golf Course Buzz: Many avid golfers in the Phoenix area consider this golf course to be the metro-area’s most convenient high-value play. Stonecreek Golf Club, conveniently located near the point where Phoenix, Scottsdale and Paradise Valley all intersect, lacks the prestige and accolades of many of its neighboring courses, and yet offers many comparable services and amenities. The best news is it offers them at a much more affordable rate.

The layout originally was created by Gary Grandstaff and Roy Dye, the brother of legendary designer Pete Dye, in 1983 and four years later was re-designed by Arthur Hills, who created a stone-bedded creek that winds through the property, coming into play on 13 holes.

Together with the 5 green-hugging ponds on the course, they combine to create plenty of challenges with that pesky creek often appearing to have magnetic ball-luring properties. Treacherous bunkers, some as deep as 15 feet, are scattered about to mess with you and your scorecard as well.

The layout lies within and follows the contours of the Indian Bend Wash; that explains all the elevated green complexes. The course motif here is links-style play, with fairways bordered by trees, water and that pesky stone creek-bed. Green complexes feature a lot of undulation and smooth putting surfaces.

The greens themselves were re-shaped and renovated in 1996 using a Bermuda hybrid that is well-kept. The par-71 layout has five sets of tees, from 5,018 to 6,871 yards with a rating of 72.8 and slope of 131 and has hosted several prestigious tournaments, including local qualifying for the PGA Tour’s Phoenix Open, held at the Tournament Players Club of Scottsdale’s Stadium Course.

The signature hole is the sixth, a 389-yard dogleg-right par-4 where the stone creek cuts across the fairway in the primary landing area, and the approach shot must find a green protected back and right by a pond, and left by a deep bunker.

But Stonecreek really exposes its teeth at the five-hole finishing stretch. The 14th is a 378-yard par-4 with water reachable from the tee and extending along the right side of the green; a front-left bunker discourages anything but flying an approach onto this green.

The par-3 15th stretches 227 yards with the same water in play, and the 16th, a 609-yard par-5, plays into the prevailing breeze from the west, with a must-carry pond guarding the front of the green.

The 2 finishers are par-4’s which always seem to play longer than their yardages of 419 and 436. At the 17th, the stone creek runs down the full right side and wraps behind the green; another elevated putting surface here.

From the 18th tee, you see the creek bisect the fairway in the corner of the dogleg-right, and wonder if you can carry it. Here’s a tip: decide you can’t and play to the center of the fairway. You’ll be left with a short-iron approach to a heavily contoured green protected left and right by large bunkers.

Practice facilities at Stonecreek are very good and it has some of the best golf instruction programs in Arizona, including Purtzer Golf, created by former PGA Tour player Paul Purtzer.

The course offers stay-and-play packages in conjunction with Embassy Suites, which is adjacent to the clubhouse. After the round, check out the Up The Creek Restaurant, which serves up breakfast and lunch; pleasant patio, great staff, nice place to watch afternoon turn into evening.

Arizona Golf Authority AZGA “Local Hang” for Stonecreek includes Z-Tejas, just down the street on the northeast corner of Tatum and Shea Boulevards, and Ernie’s Inn, at the retail center on the southeast corner of Scottsdale Road and Shea Boulevard.