1. Ease and intimacy of routing: 8
Compact returning nines, with a counterclockwise front and a clockwise back. Desert floor and a central drainage wash with cottonwood trees provide plenty of separation between holes.
2. Integrity of design: 8
No discordant elements or piling of features. Course has a softer, more settled look than most new desert courses, and there are well-designed areas for the ball to roll into without the nuisance of catch basins.
3. Overall land plan: 5
Hotel intrudes between Nos. 8 and 13, leading to the lone unduly long mid-round walk. A constant stream of air traffic from adjoining Scottsdale Municipal Airport is amusingly annoying. Holes sit low enough that the round isn’t affected by neighboring office buildings. Clubhouse anchoring start and finish of each nine is a powerful presence.
4. Greens and surrounds: 8
Generous greens average 6,500 square feet, with the occasional fall away or devilish sideswipe roll. Great attention paid to angles of approach, with greenside bunkering appearing ominous but there is more room behind them than it first seems.
5. Variety and memorability of par 3s: 6
Good mix of shots and lengths. From the 6,653-yard tees, I hit two 9-irons, a 7-iron, a 4-iron and a hybrid club on the five par 3s.
6. Variety and memorability of par 4s: 8
Three holes have lay-up options, and two have split fairways. The most intriguing (and widest) is the short 15th hole, which plays 281-334 yards from the middle tees, depending whether you blast away at the well-protected, slightly elevated green or tack way right off the tee. Fairways are 45 yards wide, providing width and playing angles that are useful when approaching well-tucked hole locations.
7. Variety and memorability of par 5s: 5
Slight doglegs, perhaps a bit too mild or conventional. The best is the long, uphill 17th into the prevailing wind, with a big green tucked behind mounds.
8. Tree and landscape management: 9
Cottonwoods, mesquites and palo verde give the place a mature look without making it appear overrun. Desert flora is lovely, especially the orange-tipped bird of paradise.
9. Conditioning: 8
Emerald Green Bermuda putting surfaces and 419 Bermuda fairways and rough are well established. Superintendent Jeff Plotts plans to overseed with a fresh coat of ryegrass for winter play. Strong environmental commitment evident in that the course is maintained with recycled effluent.
10. “Walk in the park” test: 8
Green-to-tee walk (a new, exclusive Golfweek measure from green to middle tees after each of first 17 holes) totals 1,005 yards, which is a little high for walkability except that a quarter of it comes in the awkward bypass to the eighth tee. More importantly, the walks are on level ground. In other words, easily walkable.
Strong rating for an Arizona public course and a model for any contemporary municipal facility, yet certainly strong enough to attract regular play from high-end resorts such as the adjacent Fairmont Princess and Marriott at McDowell Mountains.