Talking Stick

Talking Stick GC, Scottsdale. O’odham (North) Course by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, 1998.

Looking back at #12

A lot of people tell me they didn’t like this course. “It’s flat,” they say. That, at least, is true. Some say, “It’s boring.” I suppose they also simply mean that it’s flat, but conflating the two ideas drives me crazy. This course is flat, yes, sort of plain-looking, sure, but boring? Not even close.

It’s not a promising site, but it’s also not bad by any means—away from the city and no housing, with some decent mountain views. If anyone else built a course here and moved a bunch of earth, no one would suggest this site had any kind of limitations. But Coore and Crenshaw decided with the North course to move very little earth—for all the world, it doesn’t look like they did anything but dig bunkers and use what they took out to create some green contours. But they nonetheless designed 18 truly interesting golf holes, including some real standouts for any strategic architecture geek. The 2nd and 3rd use an out of bounds fence hard against the fairway to more effect than any course outside Scotland. The fence comes back into play at the 12th, too, which also uses a shallow wash to great effect. The par 3s offer a good variety of distances and shots required. There’s a nice stretch of holes on the back nine that get a lot out of a small hill (this hill wouldn’t even be noticed on other courses but here it’s the sole elevation change).

Virtually all of the greens are at grade and though they are contoured to create interest—several significantly so—they seem entirely at peace with the rest of the ground. It’s just 18 holes of really great golf without any other real fluff, and as such it’s one of very few courses in the state I could pretty happily play every day.

Arizona 1st Decile [2019]


Talking Stick GC. Piipaash (South) Course by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, 1998.

Looking back from over the 11th green on the South course

I don’t know this to be true, but it’s always been my impression that the South course was the concession Coore and Crenshaw made to the developer to allow them to build the minimalist North course. Tree-lined with lakes and streams and rounded bunkers and pushed up greens, the South is not just different from the other course at Talking Stick, it’s different from anything else I’ve seen from Coore and Crenshaw.

Having said that, it’s still pretty no frills in terms of shaping, except where the greens are pushed up, and it uses angles and all the other strategic tricks at an architect’s disposal to great effect. It’s a fun change of pace, because it’s not quite like anything else in the area—even the other attempts at parkland style in Phoenix aren’t like this. And the holes are good, if less interesting around the greens, which is sort of the point. I enjoy rounds here but frankly if I’m playing the South it’s usually because I couldn’t get a spot on the North.

Arizona 3rd Decile [2016]

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