Jay Morrish and Tom Weiskopf have made their mark on the Arizona golf community, whether it’s the perennially-ranked Forest Highlands or their series of resort courses throughout the Scottsdale area. Morrish was more than capable of working sans Weiskopf, however, as evidenced by the Boulders courses in Carefree, AZ.
The North course at The Boulders, a semiprivate club, offers numerous opportunities to consider its namesake. On the ninth tee, players can look behind them and marvel at the massive dome of rock embedded in the desert landscape. They will have just completed a more hands-on approach to geology on the previous hole, however. The short par four at No. 8 features several hazards to discourage bombers, including a long turf trench as well as a pile of boulders set in the center of the fairway to deflect shots that can’t make it over on the fly.
More curious is the par three at No. 17, where a front-right bunker features a large stone right in its center. We highly advise that if you miss the green short, miss it long-short and not short-short, unless you want a boulder blocking your sand wedge.
he Boulders North is a fun desert course. It opens with a welcoming par 5. Large landing area, however on the second shot you will need to deal with a wash. A decent drive and you should not have to worry about. Favor the left side to take the right bunkers out of play. The 2nd is a mid-length par 3 with a desert carry and one rear bunker. The 3rd is another par five, favor the right off the tee and the left on your second. There is a dry streambed in front of the green and a greenside bunker left. The fourth has ginormous fairway and the green has bunkers front left and right. This is one of the more undulating greens on the course. The fifth is the longest par four on the front. Favor the right off the tee. There are an assortment of bunkers down the right side and a solitary tree acting as a sentinel on the left about 30 yards in front of the green. The 6th is the shortest par 3. It is a narrow green with bunkers front rear and left. The 7th leans left and has an assortment of bunkers on the left side. Favor the right off the tee. The multi-tiered green has bunkers front left and rear. The 8th also bears left. Best line of flight is the middle rock outcropping. Other than the rocks, 8 felt eerily similar to 7. The 9th also bears left with a rolling fairway. The boomerang green has a large bunker rear left.
The back starts with the number one handicap hole and it is a doozy. Another left leaning par four, uphill with three bunkers on the left and the green is protected with grass bunkers. The 11th is another long par four, albeit, this one leans right. Aim just right of the rock out cropping. The green has front bunkers, left and right. The par five 12th can be reached in two, for those not going for it leave your second shot in front of the right fairway bunker. There are two bunkers long that must be there for aesthetics. The long par 4 13th is a tough par four. For starters you need to hit a good drive to give yourself a chance. The approach is over an arroyo. My playing partner said that he does not know why, but you should take an extra club on the approach. Only one of us made the carry. The 14th is a mid-yardage Florida par three. The 15th is the last par five and can be reached in two. Favor left of center off the tee to take the right fairway bunkers out of play. There are dominos of bunkers on the left side and the fairway contours left. The green is receptive to skulled irons. On the 16th favor the left off the tee. This is a well protected green with a dried out creek in front, three bunkers, two left and one back right and moguls right and back. The last par three is the longest, but downhill. The front right bunker has a boulder stuck in the middle of it. The finishing hole is a dogleg right, best drive is down the right side. There is a water hazard down the left side starting at the elbow.
Good not great, but I would play it again.
The Boulders is a marvelous facility that truly showcases the magnificence of the Arizona desert with a plethora of amenities at the resort including 36-holes of golf. The North is a quality layout, however, given the sheer number of other courses that have entered the Scottsdale scene in the last 20-25 years the course is now more of bystander than headliner.
There's sufficient challenge but actual architecture is about providing immediate entertainment rather than lasting memorability.
Having quality turf presentation really provides an eye-opening contrasts with the desert area that engulfs the property.
The nines have flipped over the years. When I originally played the North the 10th served as the opener and wow did that hole grab your attention with a fairway that necked down considerably the further you attempted to drive the ball. In flipping the nines the course provides a more gentle sequence of holes. In fact, the outward nine today is akin to wading into a swimming pool from the shallow end.
When you finally reach the 10th the nature of the challenge goes up considerably. The inward nine is the better of the two sides without question.
The ambiance of The Boulders still resonates today as a comprehensive resort. Golf is still on the menu but it's not the primary headliner.
M. James Ward