Golfweek’s Best Courses 2020: Arizona

We-Ko-Pa tops the list in Arizona for Golfweek’s Best Courses You Can Play 2020.

One hole in Arizona vacuums up much of the golf world’s attention each year, that being the par-3 16th on the Stadium Course at TPC Scottsdale. Only 163 yards long, the one-shotter is the scene of the biggest party in golf most years, with thousands of fans camped out in encircling bleachers to watch, cheer and taunt the PGA Tour players in the Waste Management Phoenix Open.

But there is so much more to the golf scene in the Grand Canyon State.

Golfweek ranks courses by compiling the average ratings – on a points basis of 1 to 10 – of its more than 750 raters to create several industry-leading lists of courses. That includes the popular Best Courses You Can Play list for courses that allow non-member tee times. These generally are defined as courses accessible to resort guests or regular daily-fee players.

No. 1 on that list is not the Stadium Course at TPC Scottsdale, but the Saguaro Course at We-Ko-Pa Golf Club in nearby Fort McDowell. Built by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw in 2006 on Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation land near a casino, the Saguaro features all the expected trappings of a great desert course, with a few twists. The course is walkable, a rarity in the Scottsdale area. And Coore and Crenshaw didn’t have to move a lot of dirt during construction, keeping with their naturalistic theme of situating holes on prime ground that doesn’t need much heavy lifting.

We-Ko-Pa is also home to the Cholla Course designed by Scott Miller, which ranks No. 7 in the state on Golfweek’s Best Courses You Can Play list. The pair make for a can’t-miss destination east of Scottsdale.

The Tortolita nine at Ritz-Carlton Golf Club at Dove Mountain (Courtesy of the Ritz-Carlton)

The No. 2 public-access course in Arizona is the Rees Jones-designed Quintero Golf Club in Peoria, just a short drive north of the greater Phoenix area. Rounding out the top 3 in the state is the combination of the Jack Nicklaus-designed Saguaro and Tortolita nines at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club at Marana near Tucson.

Wickenburg Ranch’s Big Wick, located northwest of Phoenix, is No. 4 in Arizona on the Best Courses You Can Play list, followed the famed Stadium Course at TPC Scottsdale in the No. 5 spot.

Troon North’s Monument course in Arizona (Courtesy of Troon North)

The list of great public-access courses in Arizona, especially around the Phoenix-Scottsdale area, hardly stops there. Ak-Chin Southern Dunes is No. 6 and definitely worth a round, followed by the prementioned Cholla Course at We-Ko-Pa, Troon North’s Monument Course, Ventana Canyon and Troon North’s Pinnacle Course. It’s not an exaggeration to say the great holes continue to stretch on for miles and miles, huge ribbons of green set against the desert backdrop.

If you’re looking for a great municipal course, definitely check out Papago in Phoenix. Designed by Billy Bell and opened in 1963, Papago is No. 22 on the Best Courses You Can Play list and is home to the Arizona State University golf teams – their incredible practice facility is among the best in the country. And the gastro pub-style restaurant at Papago is a perfect example of how a 19th hole can go well beyond the typical golf fare of hot dogs and prepackaged sandwiches.

Altogether, the public-access golf scene in Arizona is one of the best in the country. Check out all the rankings below.

Each year, we publish the three lists that are the foundation of our course-ratings program: Golfweek’s Best 2020: Top 200 Classic Courses, Golfweek’s Best 2020: Top 200 Modern Courses and Golfweek’s Best 2020: Best Courses You Can Play.

These are the best courses you can play in Arizona

  1. We-Ko-Pa (Saguaro), Fort McDowell (No. 199 m)
  2. Quintero, Peoria (m)
  3. Ritz Carlton Golf Club at Dove Mountain (Saguaro/Tortolita), Marana (m)
  4. Wickenburg Ranch, Wickenburg (m)
  5. TPC Scottsdale (Stadium), Scottsdale (m)
  6. Ak-Chin Southern Dunes, Maricopa (m)
  7. We-Ko-Pa (Cholla), Fort McDowell (m)
  8. Troon North (Monument), Scottsdale (m)
  9. Ventana Canyon (Mountain), Tucson (m)
  10. Troon North (Pinnacle), Scottsdale (m)
  11. Grayhawk (Talon), Scottsdale (m)
  12. Grayhawk (Raptor), Scottsdale (m)
  13. Verrado, Buckeye (m)
  14. Sewailo, Tucson (m)
  15. Boulders Resort (North), Carefree (m)
  16. Boulders Resort (South), Carefree (m)
  17. La Paloma (Ridge/Canyon), Tucson (m)
  18. Apache Stronghold, San Carlos (m)
  19. Legacy Golf Club, Phoenix (m)*
  20. Tucson National (Catalina), Tucson (m)*
  21. Starr Pass, Tucson (m)*
  1. Papago, Phoenix (m)
  2. Gold Canyon Golf Resort (Dinosaur Mountain), Gold Canyon (m)
  3. Camelback (Ambiente), Scottsdale (m)
  4. Sedona Golf Resort, Sedona (m)*
  5. Las Sendas, Mesa (m)*
  1. SunRidge Canyon, Fountain Hills (m)
  2. Kierland (Ironwood/Acacia), Scottsdale (m)
  3. Wigwam (Gold), Litchfield Park (m)
  4. Los Caballeros Golf Club, Wickenburg (m)

*New to the list in 2020

(m): modern
(c): classic

Golfweek’s Best 2020: Top 50 Casino Courses

The rankings below reflect where these courses fall among the top 50 Casino Courses in the United States.

5. We-Ko-Pa (Saguaro), 6.68

Fort McDowell, Ariz.; Bill Coore, Ben Crenshaw; 2006

12. Ak-Chin Southern Dunes, 6.27

Maricopa, Ariz.; Brian Curley, Lee Schmidt; 2002

17. We-Ko-Pa (Cholla), 6.18

Fort McDowell, Ariz.; Scott Miller; 2001

T-25. Sewailo 5.88

Tucson, Ariz.; Ty Butler, Notah Begay; 2013

34. Apache Stronghold, 5.73

San Carlos, Ariz.; Tom Doak; 1999

T-35. Talking Stick (O’odham, formerly North), 5.72

Scottsdale, Ariz.; Bill Coore, Ben Crenshaw; 1998

43. Whirlwind (Cattail), 5.48

Chandler, Ariz.; Gary Panks; 2002

44. Talking Stick (Piipaash, formerly South), 5.47

Scottsdale, Ariz.; Bill Coore, Ben Crenshaw; 1998

45. Whirlwind (Devil’s Claw), 5.46

Chandler, Ariz.; Gary Panks; 2000

Golfweek’s Best 2020

How we rate them

The members of our course-ratings panel continually evaluate courses and rate them based on our 10 criteria. They also file a single, overall rating on each course. Those overall ratings on each course are averaged together to produce a final rating for each course. Then each course is ranked against other courses in its state, or nationally, to produce the final rankings.