SCOTTSDALE, AZ - Many have said the blueprint for desert golf was made when Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish designed the Troon North Monument Course back in 1989.
Today, however, Morrish downplays that.
"Actually I think the target-golf standards were set by Jack Nicklaus' Desert Highlands and then our design of Troon Country Club, the private course," Morrish said. "Troon North is certainly a marvelous piece of property and the Monument Course was one of the neatest assignments I've ever had. The owners left us alone and let us create. They just wanted to know when we were finished."
When Troon North opened many golfers gasped at the $80 per round price tag. Troon Golf was offering a "country club for a day" but soon it became a must-play for the Arizona golf tourists and few are surprised that just a little more than 10 years later a round at Troon North will cost you $225. Tee times are hard to come by.
Troon North is worth it. Even the annoyance of noisy carpenters, toting boom boxes and spreading out over the Sonoran Desert landscape like a cloud of gnats, shouldn't deter any avid golfer from worshipping at the Troon North altar at least once.
Today, Troon North includes the Pinnacle Course, too, which was designed solo by Weiskopf in 1995. Perhaps the Monument Course did set a standard for daily-fee courses because those early target layouts were private golf clubs. Both layouts are ranked high by Golf Magazine. Monument is No. 20 and Pinnacle is No. 42 in its 2000 Top 100 You Can Play List.
Vince Foley, a desert golf tourist thought the Pinnacle Course was an outstanding layout and surpassed the Monument Course in difficulty.
"The Pinnacle Course combines a classic desert design with the demands of a hot putter to score well. I liked it better than the Monument. The words 'I found it' should never be uttered when venturing into the native habitat to look for a wayward drive on either course. Bring many TopFlites for the tees and Titleists for the greens," Foley said.
"These are my favorite courses in the world," said Joe Knight of St. Louis. "Both courses are in excellent shape, the views are inspiring and the course has a true harmony with the desert. The Monument hole is one of the most intriguing par 5s I've ever seen with lots of risk-reward options. The price tag is high. The pace is slow. The amenities are among the best and the service is great most of the time, but not always. Troon North is a place I want to return year after year."
First-time golfers will find it beautiful, distracting and tough. When a helicopter made an emergency landing last summer on green of The Monument hole of Troon North's Monument Course, it was just a little ironic.
Imagine the golfers dismay. This par-5, 564-yarder requires you to dodge a giant boulder anchored in the middle of the fairway 262 yards from the Black Tees. Now here's a dragon fly looking machine in the way on the approach to the green. There are enough obstacles on 36-hole desert idol to target golf to raise your score. Imagine trying to make a putt, jumping the runners of this wounded 'copter.
During construction the crews kept trying to move The Monument, but thankfully they gave up when the City of Scottsdale put up a squawk wanting it to be left alone. Weiskopf and Morrish said "fine" and it was incorporated into the hole.
The Monument Course stretches to 7,028 yards and a par 72. The Pinnacle Course is 7,044 yards and a 37-35 par 72. Both courses will challenge you with arroyos, natural washes, huge saguaros, mesquite, ironwood and lush green fairways, some hidden behind boulders, high-lipped bunkers and mounds. Then there's the huge, tricky greens. Many tees seem to be pedestals perched above the fairways.
No. 6 named Gamble is a Weiskopf-Morrish trademark - a short, but tricky par 4 at 306 yards. There are four bunkers down the fairway, the one on the right is huge, and there's a boulder in the middle of your line-of-sight.
No. 10 on the Monument Course was going to be No. 1 in the early design days. It's a rolling dogleg left in two distinct sections, an Allister MacKenzie-like false-front green and a pile of boulders stacked three times higher than an elephant's eye in back.
No. 13, a 176-yard par-3 is named Saguaro has a forest of saguaros surrounding the green. No. 16 is named Postcard is a 140-yard signature gem with water right, a centered pot bunker and two huge bunkers left and right. The view must have been incredible until someone built a house right behind it. If you look in the clubhouse you can see a photo of the hole before the house wrecked the view.
No. 6, Canyon Pass, is your birdie chance, but the scenery will take your thoughts. It's driveable at 299, but most will just play a safe iron off the tee. The second shot can be tricky since the green is somewhat elevated and hidden. A boulder pile in back frames another photo op.
Lone Mountain, No. 7, will test your distance judging. It's 239 yards downhill, with a stack of rocks in front of a green heavily guarded by three big bunkers.
No. 10, named Bobcat Hill, presents you with a par 4, 405 yards. From the back you can't hit it further than 226 or you land in a rocky ridge that ends the fairway. The uphill second shot is all carry. Hit it short and the slope, bunkers or boulders will reject all balls.
Par-threes at 14, 206 yards, and 16, 187 yards, are rocky-terrain carries and set you up for the finale, No. 18, The Pinnacle, which aims right at Pinnacle Peak. It's a 407-yarder, with a 250-yard carry from the back to a monstrous fairway-wide bunker.
Pinnacle Peak is also your view from the new Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale, on the site a scene from the movie Raising Arizona was filmed. The world-class resort opened its door on December 22, 1999, and it completed the Troon North complex as a world-class resort. American Way magazine ranked the joining as the No. 8 golf resort in the USA. A block of tees times are reserved each day at Troon North for the resort guests.
Monument, Pinnacle Courses
10320 E Dynamite Blvd
Scottsdale, AZ 85255
Green Fees: $225, includes cart, range, bag tag, yardage book. Cart-path only golf course. Fees reduced in hotter months and shoulder seasons.
Internet: Troon North
Directions: From central Scottsdale go north on either Scottsdale Road or Pima Road. At Dynamite Blvd turn right (east). Troon North is on the left side of Dynamite about two miles east of Pima Road. It takes almost an hour to get to the course from the Phoenix Sky Harbour Airport (with no traffic delays). http://www.troonnorth.net/location/default.htm.
Awards: Troon North Monument is Golf Digest's No. 4 in Arizona. No. 1 in Arizona by Golf Magazine and Golfweek.. No. 20 on Golf Magazine's 2000 Top 100 You Can Play List. Cross Country, No. 14, is a 604-yard, par 5, that was voted one of "The Best 18 Holes You Can Play" by Golf Digest in 1997. GolfWeek selected the course 22nd in the category of "America's 100 Best Modern Courses" for 1997, 26th for 1998 and 36th for 1999 and No. 1 resort in Arizona. Golf Digest's 5-Star Award. Hosted 1990 Merrill Lynch Shootout. Hosted LPGA Mitsubishi Championships 1991-1993.
Troon North Pinnacle Course is No. 42 on Golf Magazine's Top 100 You Can Play List for 200. No. 2 Best New Upscale Course in America 1996 by Golf Digest.
10600 E. Crescent Moon Drive
Scottsdale, AZ 85255
Check the web site for golf, tennis and spa packages.
The view is Pinnacle Peak, perfectly framed out of your luxury casita's patio door just minutes from Troon North. There are 188 guest rooms with kiva fireplace and private latilla-covered patio. If you book one of the 22 suites you will have your own private plunge pool and a telescope to gaze on the starry Arizona sky. The twinkling lights of Phoenix are also in view.
The land was used in the 1940s as a girls' finishing school, owned by Louise Kellogg. It had two guest houses, a bunkhouse and main building. In 1967, 80 acres of the 110 total were sold to Gordon Ingebritson for $900 an acre. His son, Jack, later purchased the remaining 30 acres to add to the family's investment, called the Crescent Moon Ranch.
Acacia is a contemporary American restaurant rated one of the "10 Best New Restaurants in the Valley" by Phoenix Magazine. Crescent Moon is a rustic Italian bistro created for a fun dining experience and serves a great breakfast buffet. Saguaro Blossom, located at the edge of the pool, offers outdoor dining and a bar. It offers salads, sandwiches and Mexican dishes.
Practice Fac.: A
Clubhouse/Pro Shop: A
Pace of Play: A-
Resort Hotel: A
Overall Rating: A