By Tim J. Randall
With the massive Topgolf facility in the foreground, and the bustling Talking Stick Resort and Casino casting a wide shadow across the desert landscape, the unique golfing treasure of 36-holes at Talking Stick Golf Club in Scottsdale is a must-play experience for golfers.
Located in Scottsdale off the Loop 101, across from the Salt River Fields, the two 18-hole masterpieces designed by legendary architects Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore provide two distinct experiences for players.
Situated on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, the two courses’ names honor the traditions of the region’s Native American populations. O’odham (formerly North) Course and the Piipaash (formerly South) Course offer a galore of shot making opportunities.
Beginning with the O’odham layout stretching to 7,133 yards from “the tips,” the Par 70 track highlights an offering replete with angular approaches and the opportunity for players to utilize low trajectory shots with emphasis on a ground game, including bump and runs, Texas Wedges and stingers.
Notable holes on the outward half are the second hole–Pinnacle Peak with Out-of-Bounds running down the length of the left side. The third-Sand Hills provides a formidable test on the drive and iron or hybrid approach. On the inward half, the 12th, Red Mountain may be one of the best holes in the Valley, a spectacular split fairway tempting the long hitter to drive the green, but with a massive ravine cutting the short grass in half, and Out-of-Bounds all done the left side. And 18-That’s It, We Will See You Again, is a 471-yard bruiser requiring two perfect shots and a deft touch with the putter to secure a Par 4.
The Piipaash track is a 180-degree opposite style design crafted in the more traditional parkland course offering. A much shorter, 6,833 yards from the back tees, the Par 71 delivers quite a punch to players who are distracted by the distance margin. Coore and Crenshaw’s focus with Piipaash is an emphasis on aerial attacks requiring pinpoint and high soft approaches to hold the firm greens. Capacious bunkering on most holes is the course’s defense, as are the tree-lined fairways.
Noteworthy holes on the front side include the Par 5 seventh, Kneel and Pray, and the ninth, Half. Shots on each require precision, or the prospect of double-bogey or worse lays in wait.
On the back nine, the 16th, Water’s (River’s) Edge, is as challenging a Par 5 as there is, while the 18th, Badger’s House, is a short-yet-treacherous Par 4 with water on the right side, ready to wreck a mid-70s round.
Navigating each track, players will be surprised at the differences each course offers and how divergent are the strategies, layout, topography and look and feel. Traveling to Scottsdale for a golf adventure is not complete without a visit and 36-holes of masterful golf at Talking Stick Golf Club.
Talking Stick Golf Club, 9998 Talking Stick Way, Scottsdale, 480-860-2221, talkingstickgolfclub.com.