Central Arizona Phoenix

Papago Municipal Golf Course

Arizona Golf Authority Golf Course Buzz: People haven’t stopped buzzing about Papago Golf Course – the finest municipal golf course in Phoenix – ever since it underwent a redesign in 2008. The “Buzz” is Papago remains No. 1 among Phoenix’s five “munis’’ simply because the design was too outstanding and the nearby Buttes of the same name are a creation to behold.

Papago Municipal Golf Course No. 9
Papago Municipal Golf Course

Built in the late 1960s by noted architect William F. Bell, whose resume includes Torrey Pines near San Diego, Papago was the site of the 1971 U.S. Public Links Championship, and at one time was the course where all the best players in Arizona brought there game.

One of those was Billy Mayfair, who grew up at Papago along with his junior “sidekick,’’ the late Heather Farr. Another, the legendary Johnny Bulla, still holds the course record with an 11-under-par 61, a score he shot, unbelievably, swinging both right-handed and left-handed. The only wild card at Papago is the course conditioning, which has waned since the renovation even though it was in top shape when it hosted the LPGA’s International Tournament in 2009.

But, as Mayfair noted: “It’s such a great golf course, even when it’s in lousy shape, you can still see the beauty in it.”

Be ready to play from the start, the first three holes are a thorough examination of your game. And unless you’re scratch, stay away from the 7,333-yard black tee markers, we’re using 6,771-yard blue tee marker yardages here.

The 544-yard 5-par opener sweeps left to right, the green is elevated above eye level and pitches from left to right towards a pond. Whether attacking it with a long second shot, or a short iron third, anything deep or right of green-center is gravity-drawn to that water. The amateur-play is to select a club for center of the green yardage and let the elevation change leave you in the front 1/3 of the green; it’s more fun than starting with the dreaded “double”.

The 350-yard second asks you to bend your tee shot the other way, right to left, and the downhill fairway makes it play like the classic “short par-4” that finds it’s way into every current golf course design; this one’s been here over 50 years. Any club, from driver to 6-iron, off the tee will do, the second shot is uphill to a heavily contoured green that features the Papago Butte rock formations as a backdrop. The green undulations, the striking Buttes, or both produce a lot of 3-putts here.

The third at Papago is as demanding a golf hole as you’ll find in Arizona, bar none. Standing on the tee, however, it doesn’t let you know that. What you see is a straight-away, slightly downhill 438-yard par-4 with a high-right to down-left swale in the tee shot landing area; native desert hugs both sides of the fairway. Be advised, when the tee ball lands, it’s going to run left, a lot, and there’s desert over there. Start it too far right though, and the swale kills the tee-ball’s momentum, kicking it right toward the desert on that side. You’ll have to mold yourself into the hillside for your second as there are no level lies in this fairway. An enormous, well bunkered and severely undulated green complex completes this test. Bogey here is fine for amateurs, the occasional par is thrilling.

Three of Papago’s 3-par’s ask for 200-yard clubs, the fourth, number 11, is a mid-iron carry over water.

The strong finisher, 441-yard left to right par-4  at Papago makes the whole day worthwhile, especially late in the day when the sun, low in the western sky, paints the Papago Buttes backdrop with reds, purples, pinks and oranges you’ve never seen on any mortal-artist’s palette. The tee shot needs to carry the crest of the hill for some roll out, and the second must be carved into a mid-sized green sloping from right to left toward sand bunkers and desert.

Papago’s practice facilities are generous, all turf and artfully situated adjacent to the Buttes; even the poor shots look a little better against that elegant backdrop. Although a new clubhouse is planned, check-in and so forth is currently handled in temporary pre-fabricated facilities, which work just fine. Papago has also installed a monitoring system for the golf cart fleet that prevents the carts from being driven into the desert, thereby protecting the natural setting and wildlife residing therein.

Although you may not find the manicured course conditioning featured on the elegant tracks in North Scottsdale at Papago, you will find a first-rate test of golf in a lovely natural setting where well played shots are rewarded, and against that backdrop. even the lousy ones will look a little better.

AZGA Arizona Golf “Local Hang” for Papago includes the Tee Pee Tap Room, just west of 44th Street on Indian School Road in Phoenix and, Duke’s in Scottsdale, south side of McDowell Road, just east of  76th Street.

AZGA Arizona Golf AuthorityClick to read what other local players have posted about playing Papago.

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

Palo Verde Municipal Golf Course

AZGA Golf Buzz: One of the popular events here involves more than just golf clubs. You also need a glowing golf ball, glowing necklace and a flash light. In the movie “Caddyshack,” the character played by Chevy Chase talks about “night putting,” which is part of the experience when Palo Verde Golf Course hosts its monthly “Night Flight Golf” events.

This nine-hole executive course in northwest Phoenix, which opened in 1962, is one of eight courses in the municipal stable and a popular place with kids and golfers who want to work on their short game. The par-30 course plays at 1,752 yards with an 18-hole rating of 57.3 and slope of 81 for men, and 57.4 and 82 for women.

The layout starts with a 300-yard par-4 and ends with par-4 holes of 256 and 305. Everything in between is a par 3, with yardages ranging from 123 to 192. A lake brings water into play on each of the first three holes on this course, which is relatively flat and easy to walk.

Palo Verde Golf Course also features a lighted driving range, snack bar and full pro shop. Low-cost youth golf classes and lessons are popular here, including “Itty Bitty” lessons for beginners 5-7 years old. Green fees are among the lowest in the Phoenix metro area and those rates are cut even more for golfers who purchase a city of Phoenix discount card.

Central Arizona Phoenix

Moon Valley Country Club

Moon Valley Country Club

AZGA Arizona Golf Buzz: One of the oldest courses in the Phoenix metro area, Moon Valley was created largely through the efforts of Bob Goldwater, the brother of long-time Arizona Senator and former presidential candidate Barry Goldwater.

Bob is considered the “father of the Phoenix Open,” a longstanding event on the PGA Tour, currently sponsored by Waste Management and held on the TPC Stadium Course at the Tournament Players Club of Scottsdale; perhaps you’re familiar with the par-3 16th hole there.

Moon Valley, conversely, served as the site of an LPGA Tour event for 15 years and may well forever hold a distinction in professional golf the TPC Scottsdale will never achieve; it’s the golf course where Annika Sorenstam shot the only round of 59 in LPGA tour history.

Designed by Dick Wilson, it opened in 1959 and was redesigned in 1999 by Bob Cupp, whose portfolio includes Baltimore Country Club and Pumpkin Ridge. Cupp respected Wilson’s designs and tried to keep some of the original routing intact while modernizing the layout and adding length.

Elements of the $4.5 million project included new tees, greens and bunkers and re-contoured fairways. It remains a traditional style layout that winds its way through residential neighborhoods on relatively flat topography with some interesting twists, including a pair of double greens. In fact, Moon Valley, which is now managed by Troon Golf, likes to bill itself as the “oldest new club” in the Valley of the Sun.

The course has six sets of tees, ranging from 5,292 to 7,223 yards, with water in play on seven holes. From the tips, the course is rated at 74.3 with a slope of 125.

Memorable holes start with the third, a drivable risk-reward par 4 with a tricky green surrounded by bunkers. The par-3 fifth, which plays at 152 yards, requires a full carry over water and is one of the most scenic holes on the course, with mountain foothills as the backdrop.

Many consider the par-4 ninth to be the signature hole and the course has considered flipping the two nines to make it the finish. It’s only 383 yards, but the gentle dogleg has water running down the left side, starting about 150 yards out, and a creek that cuts across the fairway on an angle to the right side of the green, which is guarded by bunkers on the back right.

The finishing stretch can be a handful with a 211-yard par 3 at No. 15, followed by a 443-yard par 4 with no greenside bunkers – length alone protects this hole. The 17th is just s 360-yard par 4 but packs a severe dogleg left, tall trees and a lake your approach shot must carry to reach the green; it will also drown a hooked tee ball.

The 18th finisher,  a 411-yard par 4 with bunkers along the right side and a lake lurking on the left, presents a severe, shallow two-tiered green guarded front and back by large bunkers. Your task is to stop your ball on the proper level of this small, 1-club deep green; accomplish that and your birdie putt is very makeable.

Moon Valley Country Club also has an 18-hole executive course called the “Moon Walk” that plays at 1,687 yards and provides a complete examination of any player’s mid-iron and short game prowess. Expert instruction is available from Tyler Kirkendoll, who works with tour professional’s games, at Moon Valley’s all-turf practice facility.

The club offers a lot more than golf, including a lighted tennis center with eight hard courts, a state-of-the-art fitness center, an impressive year-round aquatics center, and excellent full-service dining options.

The Sunset Room, the main dining room, features a terraced veranda and is the setting for banquets, dances and other functions. The most intimate setting, the upstairs Sky Room, offers panoramic views of the course and surrounding mountains. In 2009, it received the “Best private club clubhouse renovation” award from Golf Inc. magazine.

AZGA Arizona Golf “Local Hang” for Moon Valley includes Ammaccapane’s Sports Bar, just south of the club on the west side of 7th Street and the Pointe In Tyme Bar at Tapatio Cliffs, another half-mile south on 7th.

Central Arizona Phoenix

Maryvale Golf Course

Maryvale Municipal Golf Course

Maryvale Golf Course – Arizona Golf Course Reviews: Maryvale is one of three Phoenix municipal golf course treasures designed by William Francis (Billy, Jr.) Bell, who collaborated with his father, William Park “Billy” Bell, who had his hands on the classic layouts at Riviera Country Club, Bel-Air Country Club and L.A. North Country Club.

At Maryvale, Mr. Bell provides 6,646 yards of classic tree-lined fairways that dogleg in both directions around a fair amount of water and his trademark flash-bunkers. Sure, it’s rough around the edges, it’s a muni. But be advised, it’s a complete examination of traditional golf skills that’s no pushover. Our advice? Be ready to play from the start and save something for the finish.

The 1st is a birdie hole that produces an awful lot of bogeys, a gently sweeping 492-yard 5-par dogleg-left. The treachery here lies in the fact it’s reachable in two for most. Just don’t be a little short right or you’re bunkered, a bit left and the putting surface runs away from you, and above the pin on the small contoured green is a false-positive. It looks makeable and you’ll try to. Remember, par’s a fine start anywhere.

The 2nd is a straightforward 213-yard par-3 with an enticing opening between two bunkers to allow you to run the ball onto the multi-tiered green; read it carefully – the large tier undulations tend to grab your attention, causing you to miss the subtleties of each individual tier around the cup.

The 3rd presents a 421-yard tree-lined 4-par, sweeping left to right to an elevated green, playing directly into the prevailing breeze. Congratulate yourself if you’re even par through 3, you’ve earned a pat on the back and the pals in your group aren’t going to say anything.

William F. “Billy” Bell Design – Grand Opening 1961

The finishing stretch is a test too, so save some game. The 438-yard par 4 16th bends right to left, off a lake, to a smallish contoured putting surface. Trees and a fairway bunker inside the dogleg protect the left side of the landing area; the green is bunkered front-left. Long is the play here, both off the tee and on the approach; the back of the green allows a straightforward up and in.

The par-3 17th plays 206 yards and any shot pushed right will find the lake. The hole plays longer than its yardage as the large sloping green is elevated above the level of the tee.

The dead-straight 18th brings you 410 yards back home between two fairway bunkers flanking the fairway landing area, and two more guarding each side of the green. The front of the green narrows between them and a front pin here is the most challenging.

It’s another subtle nuance, the drive at the 18th, one of the many you’ll find scattered throughout this golf course. Mr. Bell has had you shaping tee shots both ways, all day long starting at the first hole, and yet when you reach the 18th he demands what may be the most terrifying shot in golf, whether a drive or a putt: the dreaded straight shot.

Maryvale municipal offers a full assortment of pleasant practice facilities, instruction programs and league play. An on-site snack shop provides all the expected menu items for food and beverages at the course.

Maryvale can be fairly described as “a wolf of a golf course, in sheep’s clothing.” Although modest in appearance, when you total your scorecard for the day don’t be surprised if Mr. Bell’s traditional layout has you wondering just exactly how all those bogeys climbed aboard your card.

Assemble the complete Phoenix-rota of Mr. Bell’s municipal golf courses by playing Papago Municipal and Encanto Municipal as well, and revel in the enjoyable era of golf course design that today’s “bomb and gouge” layouts have lost.

Arizona Golf Authority AZGA “Local Hang” for Maryvale includes Max’s Sports Bar, just south of Glendale Avenue, on 47th Avenue, and TexAZ, located on the northeast corner of 16th Street and Bethany Home Road.

Central Arizona Phoenix

Legacy Golf Resort

Legacy Golf Resort

The Buzz: There are several golf courses around Arizona that blend modern golf with a rich history of the Old West, but you won’t find many that do it better than Legacy, and there probably aren’t any that combine those contrasts with all of its metropolitan surroundings. Located near Sky Harbor Airport, Arizona State University and the trappings of Phoenix and Scottsdale, Legacy was built on the site of former cotton fields and designed by Gary Panks, who has a particular knack for turning flat into fullness. This course, managed by In Celebration of Golf, is the centerpiece of an intimate resort that grew up around it, has preserved some important history and was strong enough to serve as host of an LPGA Tour event. Legacy is built on the site of a farm and ranch created by Dwight B. Heard, who was a founding father of the region and developed a high-tech (for its day) cattle operation. He also bought the Arizona Republican (now Arizona Republic) newspaper as a way to help get his good friend Teddy Roosevelt elected president.

Roosevelt often stayed at the Sierra Vista House, which sets to the right of the first fairway. Legend has it that Pancho Villa also stayed at this guesthouse. Other remnants of the farm/ranch have been preserved, such as three buckboards placed around the course and three grain silos along the right side of the 18th fairway, which, at 30 feet high, were the tallest structures in the county when they were built in 1902.

As for the course, it is an enjoyable play with variety and contrasts. Fairways are open and perimeter mounding helps keep shots in play, but fairway bunkers are large and steep, and leave little chance of reaching greens from them. Those greens also are a contrast, ranging from small to large and flat to tiered to sloping to undulating. Elevated tee boxes and greens provide panoramic views of Squaw Peak, Camelback Mountain, Four Peaks and the Phoenix skyline.

There are five par-3 holes on the par-71 layout and they are excellent, especially the three on the back nine. No. 11, at 183 yards, features an elevated tee and green with palm trees and mountain views framing the green, which is wide but shallow, guarded by a large, deep bunker on the left and a putting surface with tricky contours. No. 15 is just 163 yards but a tough shot to an elevated green that plays longer than it looks. The tee shot must carry over a lake and a series of bunkers guarding the front. Long is better, but that still leaves a tricky chip shot to a green that isn’t very deep and slopes toward the water and bunkers. No. 17 can be a beast at 200 yards. The long but narrow green sets on a ridge sloping to the left and an endless, steep-faced bunker, the largest on the course, stretches along the entire left side.

No. 18, a 510-yard par 5, is a nice finishing hole that provides a birdie opportunity if you can avoid the bunkers along the right side of the fairway, but you need an accurate approach shot to an elevated green that is well guarded by bunkers and surrounded by severe banking. This is the hole where Charlotta Sorenstam broke through for her first LPGA Tour victory in 2000, holding off a challenge by her big sister, Annika, among others. Resort owners flipped the two nines because they felt the four-hole finish would be more dramatic, although Panks still thinks what is now the front nine is the stronger of the two. There are four sets of tees, ranging from 5,404 to 6,802 yards and, from the tips, it has a rating of 72.1 and slope of 128.

This facility also is home to a world-renowned golf school run by Lynn Marriott and Pia Nilsson, the former Swedish National Golf Teams coach and Ryder Cup captain. It also is a host site of Blaisdell Performance Systems and has a respected golf school headed by Joel Vandersloot. Practice facilities are first rate and Legacy’s clubhouse is as impressive as most that you will find at public courses around the state, including excellent dining inside or on an expansive patio near the putting green.

The $200 million resort includes 328 guest suites in 12 separate buildings with Spanish mission-style décor and each has a balcony overlooking tropical courtyards, the golf course and mountain vistas. Excellent resort amenities include swimming pools, fitness facilities and dining.