Scottsdale, Arizona is a bit of an American mecca of golf courses. A quick Google search of Scottsdale courses gives a who’s who of golf courses.
TPC Scottsdale, Troon North, Silverado, Quintero. The list goes on and on.
One that may get overlooked in the area is Kierland Golf Course. A 27-hole golf club with an on-site resort. And while it may not have the reputation, name recognition, or vistas of some of the others, it should definitely be on a golfer’s Arizona bucket list.
I recently hosted a two-day, 32-man golf tournament at Kierland. Many of us played the course three days in a row and became intimately familiar with the course’s character, strategy, and design. Not to mention lots of interaction with staff in and around the golf course.
The tournament itself was a rousing success. And it had a lot to do with the people at the course. Jeff Moore and his staff took care of us as if we were the only golfers on the course and our tournament was the most important thing happening at the course that weekend.
And after playing the course a few times, I really wanted to share my experience from tee to green. Well, sometimes it was from tee to desert then to green. But you get the point.
Kierland is a bit of a hidden gem in the Phoenix and Scottsdale area that a lot of golfers would really enjoy playing.
First, Let’s Talk Course Conditions…
Kierland is pristine.
The exact kind of conditions one would come to expect from a Troon-managed golf course. Perfect tee boxes, smooth fairways, and true greens. With three nines available, it allows the course to keep 18-holes clean and perfectly manicured.
The design of the course lends itself to any and all handicaps, featuring lengths between 5,000 to 7,000 from five different tee boxes. And the scorecard itself will recommend which tee you should be playing from based on your handicap.
The cool thing about the different tee boxes is the course is designed to still force you to think through your shots regardless of what color tee you’re playing. In other words, just because a golfer is playing “shorter” doesn’t mean the course is any easier.
At the same time, it is a resort course. So, while some of the other more “well-known” courses within the Scottsdale area will claim to challenge you more than others, this one is a bit more forgiving.
Fairways are a bit wider, with very little to no rough. Compared to other desert courses, Kierland allows you to play across fairways more than others. And, yes, I speak from lots of experience. Overall, it’s much different than the other courses I’ve played in the area.
But, again, that’s not to say it isn’t a challenging and interesting golf course.
We played the combination of Ironwood and Mesquite each day during the tournament.
The very first hole, Ironwood 1 in our case, immediately jumps out with a rarity on an Arizona golf course. A nice, big tree, standing tall on the right side of the fairway. And from any tee, it is absolutely in play.
From the Copper tees, from which we played each day, you can choose to avoid it completely and go left, but that also means you’ll also probably have to club down. Going long and left is either going to put you on the driving range or in a long-grassed, uneven lie stance. So a shorter, tree-avoiding shot will leave you with a longer second shot into the green.
Or, you can decide to go driver off the tee and take on the tree. If you’re successful, you’ll be rewarded with a sloped fairway that will feed your ball back towards the middle of the fairway and leave you a stress-free short iron for shot two.
And so, you’re round at Kierland has begun.
As you wind your way through the Ironwood 9 and through the Mesquite 9, you’ll have to make a decision on nearly every hole either on the box or with your approach shot. Whether you should be aggressive here or aggressive there. Where you should land your tee shot. While at the same time, if you are just playing for a straight shot and hoping for the best, the course will allow for that. Granted, with a few more difficult putts.
One of the things Kierland loves to do during your round is force you to pick a side off the tee, especially on the longer holes, if you get aggressive and choose to go driver. All four of the par 5s during our rounds were reachable in two provided you hit your drive exactly where the architect wanted you to hit it.
In some cases, that would be on the right side of the fairway, allowing your ball to follow the slope down and in towards the middle of the fairway. In other cases, it would demand you hug the left side, just along the cart path, in order to give you a good look for your second shot.
Another choice, especially beginning on the par 4 Mesquite 1 and closing on the par 4 Mesquite 9, is going driver or mid-iron off the tee. Just like the par 5s, if you land where you’re supposed to land, your golf ball will roll forever, setting you up for a Jason Day-esque bomb and gouge play. But if you miss, you’ll be scrambling for a good look at par. Meanwhile, if you want to stay short with 6-iron, you’ll still have a manageable look at the green, in most cases.
Overall, the course is what you want it to be based on your ability and how much you want to challenge the architect. Kierland does a great job balancing thoughtful, strategic play with some opportunities to just see it and hit it.
Either way, a good shot is always rewarded. And with receptive greens, you can take a chance and do a little flag hunting if you’re so inclined to do so. Just be ready to pay the price if you miss.
If you have the chance, I would highly recommend playing Kierland. I found it to be the perfect combination of grip it and rip it, thoughtful course play, and visually pleasing holes.
Combine all of that with the people that manage and run the course and you’re sure to have yourself a good time. I know my group and I did.
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