What a treat! For our final tournament of the summer semester at the Golf Academy, we got to play Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale. These are Phil Mickelson’s stomping grounds, and the club’s relationship with the Arizona State University Alum and World Golf Hall of Famer dates back well before the opening of the Talon Course in December of 1994.
Mickelson is a close personal friend of Grayhawk’s developer. The grillroom (one of four restaurants on the property) is named in his honor and showcases memorabilia from Mickelson’s playing days at ASU as well as highlights of his PGA Tour career. You may remember seeing the Grayhawk logo on Mickelson’s golf bag in his Secrets of the Short Game DVD series.
Grayhawk is a 36-hole facility, and as you might expect, everything is top of the line. The course web site features the slogan, “36 Holes. Tour Tested. Open to Everyone.” And like a lot of things in life, it is as long as you have the money, honey. The Talon Course was designed by former U.S. Open and PGA Champion David Graham and golf course architect Gary Panks. It plays 6,973 yards from the Talon Tees to a Par of 72. The Raptor Course, which opened in December of 1995, was designed by Tom Fazio and plays 7,135 yards from the Raptor Tees to a Par of 72.
Raptor is generally considered to be one of the finest daily-fee golf courses in Arizona and is listed among the “Best Public Golf Courses in Arizona” by Golf Magazine. It was the host site of the 2007-2009 Frys.com Opens, a Fall Series PGA Tour event. It has also hosted the inaugural Williams World Challenge and the semi-finals and finals of the Andersen Consulting World Championship of Golf. The Waste Management Phoenix Open holds its Pro Ams on Raptor.
Talon is no slouch though. It’s one of the highest rated, daily-fee golf courses in Arizona, and is included on Golf Magazine’s prestigious list of the “Top 100 You Can Play in the U.S.” The course has also hosted the semi-finals and finals of the Andersen Consulting World Championship of Golf, Pro Ams for the Waste Management Phoenix Open, and the Heather Farr Trophy Matches.
Because Grayhawk is in the middle of a major renovation project, we played the front nines of both courses. The back nine of Talon was closed for aeration, but the back nine of Raptor is having its bunkers redone and holes 15-17 are being reconstructed to improve drainage. Raptor is on schedule to re-open October 5th, and I was told they’re already starting to put down new bermudagrass. We played a Beat-the-Pro 4-1 Scramble from the Palo Verde Tees (one up from the back). Here are some of the highlights of the round:
Holes Worth Writing Home About
My fivesome started on Raptor’s Par 5 4th Hole, Peek-A-Boo. I love it when all of the holes have individual names. At 562 yards, this is a great hole, but I thought the prettiest hole was the Par 3 8th, Aces & Eights. It plays 174 yards from the back, but today it was only playing 140. There are three huge bunkers guarding the green short and left, and another big bunker you have to navigate on the right. We got lucky: the pin today was right up front. Raptor offers panoramic views of Scottsdale’s rugged McDowell Mountains, and this is one of the best.
Our back nine was Talon’s front nine. My favorite hole on this side was the short Par 4 2nd, Bogie. It’s a slight dogleg right, and it’s only 346 yards from the back tees. You just have to avoid the large fairway bunker that runs nearly entirely down the right-hand side. From the tees we played, it was only 253 yards to get to the corner, so we busted driver. Talon is on the same property but provides completely different visuals than Raptor. You get McDowell Mountain vistas but you also get shots of the Phoenix/Scottsdale skyline. I really wish we had gotten a peek at the back nine. Grayhawk’s website describes the holes as being “built around a series of deep box canyons with a handful of holes skirting steep drop-offs and thick stands of Mesquite, Palo Verde, and Ironwood trees.”
Talon also has a few holes with railroad ties around bunkers. They may fool you into thinking you’re playing a Pete Dye design.
In the summer, a lot of courses will let their greens grow a little longer. Not at Grayhawk. The bermuda greens out here are still good, even if they’re on the slower side of fast. In the winter, Arizona’s high-season, I’m sure they’re spectacular.
Even though anyone can play Grayhawk, the course is not affiliated with GolfNow. Instead, you’ll want to go to grayhawkgolf.com to view the latest specials and to book a tee time.
There’s one other thing I saw at Grayhawk that I’ve never seen done at any other golf course – the pin flags had a notch in them like something you would see in medieval times. The flags have a XX on them to commemorate Grayhawk’s 20th Anniversary in 2014. I thought they were classy-looking. On Raptor, all of the hole signs are carved into varnished wood, while on Talon, they are carved into flagstone.
Remember, we were playing a scramble, so the best shot of the day was more of a team effort. The Par 5 3rd hole on Talon is named Three Sisters. It’s just 505 yards from the back, but we had a chance to go for the green in two because it was playing just 465. We had 182 yards in to an elevated green. I hit a 5-iron that rolled just onto the back ridge. One of my teammates elected to chip from just off the green and nearly holed it for eagle! Even though it didn’t go in, it was still the best shot of the day.
While We’re Young
Grayhawk wants you to get around in no more than four-and-a-half hours. I think that’s doable, but because of the format we were playing, it took us more than five hours to finish. I’ve never liked fivesomes for this reason. As a general rule, I think they play a lot slower than foursomes, and they slow everyone down.
Next On the Tee
Arizona Biltmore Golf Club: Links Course. We played the Adobe Course as a class after winning the 1st Semester Attendance Challenge. I may be playing Adobe again, but I’m doing to campaign pretty hard for Links so I can post another course review.
As we walked up to Grayhawk’s massive clubhouse, there was a huge banner hanging out front welcoming us to the tournament. The range and multiple practice greens were in great shape, and the staff couldn’t have been more friendly to us Golf Academy students. As if getting to play the course wasn’t enough, Grayhawk threw us our own, private banquet lunch after the round and told us it was part of their philosophy to give back to and grow the game of golf. It was a classy thing to do, and we were very appreciative. It was a special day, and Grayhawk put on quite a show.