Troon North Golf Club Set the Bar High for Arizona Courses

By: Steve Habel


There's little doubt that the formula for desert golf established and perfected at Troon North Golf Cub set the bar high for the hundreds of desert courses that followed, both in Arizona and other such locales.

The Desert & Monument GC Contrast Beautifully

Troon North Golf Club, North Scottsdale's crown jewel since opening in 1990, features the Monument and Pinnacle courses that gracefully wrap around the northern slopes of landmark Pinnacle Peak. Giant granite boulders strewn across the rugged landscape of the High Sonoran Desert provide startling relief for the beautiful green fairways that demand a golfer's attention.

What's amazing about the 36-hole golf experience at Troon North is that during its more than two decades of existence, the club's two courses have not lost their appeal or luster even in the face of economic challenges that have driven other such courses to their knees. Former PGA Tour star and current golf architect Tom Weiskopf, along with Jay Morrish (who helped on the original routing), made sure the courses would remain interesting and pertinent for years to come.

It helps that Monument and Pinnacle underwent an extensive reconfiguration in 2007 that blended the two courses together and changed the hole-to-hole sequence. Under Weiskopf's direction, the outward nines of Monument and Pinnacle were conjoined to create today's restructured Monument layout, while the inward nines of two tracks were blended together to produce a new Pinnacle Course.

Monument's Namesake Rock

A two-year, multi-step renovation created an entirely new playing experience. "Both courses can now be played exactly as the land dictates, the way Mother Nature intended," Weiskopf remarked. "The new configuration was something we contemplated in 1996 when we built the second course."

To create a consistent overall design, new Pennlinks creeping bentgrass putting surfaces were added to every green, and bunkers were reconfigured or removed from the both layouts.

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. Many tees seem to be pedestals perched above fairways. Then there are the huge, tricky greens.

Monument

Monument has been rated the fourth-best resort course in Arizona and 45th best resort course in the nation, while Pinnacle is rated the top resort track in Arizona and 21st best in the nation.

Monument was named for the large boulder in the middle of the 564-yard, par-5 third hole, but the entire track is a top-notch example of desert-style target golf. The real surprise to some is that Monument has the feel of a link-style course, thanks to the opportunity it creates for bump-and-run shots into greens. Heck, even the names of some holes - Swale, Hell Bunker and St. Andrews - spirit you away to the coasts of Great Britain, at least temporarily.

The real challenge at Monument is the need to keep your ball in play at all times and to wave away the intimidation factors that desert/target golf instills. It's more visually intimidating than actually difficult; if you hit the ball straight the course is not overwhelming.

Troon North's Monument Course

For all its forced carries and distractions along the fairways, Monument is a very fair course that provides real chances to score, thanks mostly to wide and forgiving fairways that are defined by berms, mounds and natural areas.

Monument will, however, claim its pound of flesh if you're not at your best. The course plays at 7,070-yards from its back set of five tees, where it carries a rating of 72.9 and slope of 147.

Monument is fun to play, with lots of variety to accompany the beautiful scenery. The course asks you to play left to right and right to left, has multiple elevation changes, a few blind shots, and some daunting bunkers near landing areas and greens. The fairways meander up and down the desert and are lined with tall cactus of all shapes and sizes and a wide variety of desert flora, some of which is in bloom. The local wildlife of bobcats, rabbits, birds, lizards and other creations live around the course. And the desert definitely enters play; on the par-4 fourth hole, for example, a cactus about 40 yards off the tee is pockmarked with golf-ball size holes.

Like most Troon golf courses, Monument is in great shape, with manicured fairways and greens that roll quick and true. The collection areas around the greens also are playable for average golfers, assisting low shots and even a few skulled irons onto the putting surfaces.

One of the things that make a golf course great is versatility, and Monument has that in spades. A Weiskopf signature element, there are two drivable par-4s under 310 yards - the 306-yard sixth (which has four bunkers in the landing area and a huge boulder in the middle of your line-of-sight) and the 299-yard 15th (the approach can be tricky since the green is somewhat elevated and hidden).

A trio of Monument's par-3s stretch more than 200 yards, including the beautiful 16th that measures 244 yards from the tips and drops about 50 feet from tee to green.

The huge boulder that splits the middle of the fairway on the course's namesake hole is about 35 feet tall and has a bush growing on top of it; this rock has caught more than a few balls and spit them out sideways or backwards.

Monument's greens vary in size, are in excellent condition with good speed and have some slope and undulation, and all are well protected with some huge bunkers.

There is a lot to like about Troon North's Monument course, and the track is a must-play on any trip to the Valley of the Sun for desert-golf aficionados. Just bring your "A game" and enjoy: it's hard to beat the four-and-a-half hours spent here.

No. 6 at Pinnacle

Pinnacle

Pinnacle takes a back seat to no course, not even its more ballyhooed brother. As great as a round of golf is at Monument, you may like Pinnacle even more. Always considered the handsome little brother of the club's two offerings, those days are past, thanks in part to Weiskopf's renovations and the extra years of maturity Pinnacle has enjoyed.

Named after a towering peak seen miles away, Pinnacle was transformed during the remodel, with a continuous routing that doesn't return to the clubhouse until the 18th hole. The enhanced layout stretches 7,025 yards, and it was changed from a par 72 to a 71. With a rating of 73.0 and a 149 slope, Pinnacle usually is a shot or two more difficult than Monument.

The 14th Green at Pinnacle

Saguaro cacti stand sentinel behind greens, massive stones - some bearing ancient petroglyphs - dot the landscape, and raised tees provide breathtaking vistas of golf holes and the arid landscape from which they've been carved. Pinnacle will mesmerize you with its picturesque scenery and some amazing golf that won't soon be forgotten.

Pinnacle throws a little bit of everything at golfers, forcing them to use course management and near-perfect club selection to score well. Like Monument, Pinnacle has multiple doglegs, elevated tees and greens, blind shots, plenty of forced carries over desert detritus, tilted fairways, lots of huge bunkers and well-protected greens.

Pinnacle is now walk-able due to shorter distances between greens and tees; the proximity between front and back nines has also been shortened.

Pinnacle has a good mix of holes, and they're all memorable. The opener, a 392-yard par-4 dogleg-left, is a good gauge of what's to come. Keep your tee shot left of the fairway to set up a short-iron approach. The fairway ends about 125 yards from the green, where it doglegs sharply left for an approach shot over a wide and dry wash. Finding the right portion of this huge multi-tiered green is critical - if you're left with a 70-foot putt, three-putting will be a challenge.

The 456-yard par-4 seventh houses huge boulders just right of the fairway that can completely block out your approach to the green, which is still 200 yards away. Get behind them and you could be punching out sideways or backwards. No. 8, a 190-yard par-3, plays over a deep ravine to a sloping green lined left by high rocks and ringed by three bunkers. A collection area right and below the green makes for a testy up-and-down.

The 404-yard par-4 ninth presents perhaps the toughest tee shot at Pinnacle, with one of the longest forced carries to one of the narrowest fairways. Both the drive and approach are set up for a pronounced right-to-left shot, which will give average players fits.

The inward nine under the new configuration is a 407-yard par-4 that features a pinnacle-shaped peak behind the green. That's followed by a great risk-reward 539-yard par-5, a dogleg-right that tempts long hitters to cut the corner to set up the approach across an arroyo. There is danger of being in the desert if you miss this small green on either side.

No. 14 is another excellent three-shotter. Thanks to the elevated tee shot, this 609-yard beauty plays quite a bit less, so some players can get there in two shots, but that won't happen often.

The 16th is arguably Pinnacle's signature hole. Maxing out at 140 yards, this downhill "postcard" par-3 plays shorter than its yardage, but with water in front and bunkers left and right, distance control is everything. The round comes to an end at the 407-yard 18th, which features an impressive glimpse of Pinnacle Peak in the background. This testy par-4 requires a good drive and an even better approach for a chance at birdie or par.

Troon North's Pinnacle is a must-play course. It is fun to compare which of the two courses at the facility is the best, but you can't go wrong with either.

Four Seasons Resort, Scottsdale, at Troon North

Besides two fine venues for golf, the semiprivate Troon North Golf Club boasts a 32,500-square-foot clubhouse with locker rooms, a restaurant, and banquet and meeting facilities large enough to accommodate 200 people each. The facility also houses one of only a handful of authorized Callaway Performance Centers.

Overnight Accommodations

Four Seasons Resort, Scottsdale, at Troon North is an oasis in the most literal sense of the word. Set on 40 acres, the resort contains 210 guestrooms and 22 suites along with various dining options.

For more information about Troon North Golf Club, visit www.troonnorthgolf.com.

Steve Habel is one of Cybergolf's national correspondents, contributing news stories, features, equipment and book reviews and personality profiles from his base in Central Texas. He is also the managing editor for Texas CEO Magazine and works as a contributing editor for Horns Illustrated magazine, a publication focusing on University of Texas sports. He also writes a blog (www.shotoverthegreen.blogspot.com), which features news on golf and the Longhorns, and another (www.checkinginandplayingthrough.blogspot.com) on his many travels, which took him across the nation and to 105 different golf course in 2009. Habel is a member of the Golf Writers Association of America and the Texas Golf Writers Association.


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