Under the Radar Golf Courses

By local contributor
Scott McGinty

Scottsdale boasts more than 50 golf courses within the city and more than 200 in the surrounding area. With such volume, it’s easy to overlook a few hidden gems that provide an outstanding golf experience at an exceptional value.

Starfire Golf Club

This course is built on the site of the old Scottsdale Country Club, one of the city’s original golf courses. Located in north central Scottsdale, Starfire is a daily-fee club featuring 27 holes of golf designed by Arnold Palmer. The layout takes players on a winding journey through thick eucalyptus, pine and cottonwood trees as they navigate the par-28 Mulligan 9 or The King, an 18-hole, par-70 track. The courses are an ingenious reconfiguration of the club’s former layout which featured three 9-hole courses.

Gainey Ranch Golf Club

This gem is located at the beautiful Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Gainey Ranch. The first of the club’s three nine-hole courses, The Lakes, is a gorgeous challenge with gently cascading water features on six holes. The aptly-named Dunes course is similar to a Scottish-style links course with natural hazards and sand dunes. And the Arroyo course, the longest of the three nines, requires both power and placement, especially on the peninsular green of the finishing hole. While the club is a private facility, guests of the hotel are permitted to play.

McDowell Mountain Golf Club

Nestled in the majestic foothills of Scottsdale’s McDowell Mountains, McDowell Mountain Golf Club offers an eco-sensitive layout that takes advantage of natural terrain and vegetation. Working under Audubon International Institute guidelines, this 7,072-yard, par-71 course features wetlands and cattails mixed with cactus and mesquite in a desert-golf oasis. The meandering front nine serves up a variety of test-your-skills par threes, strategic par fours, and a risk/reward, par-five ninth that challenges with a dramatic dogleg left, split fairway. The back nine starts off with a straightforward par four and builds the excitement with an almost-drivable par-four 16th and a gut-check par three over water on the long 17th. The uphill beast of an 18th hole features a dramatic waste bunker that puts a premium on driving accuracy.