Desert Forest - Arizona - USA

Desert Forest Golf Club,
37207 N. Mule Train Road,
Carefree,
Arizona (AZ) 85377,
USA


  • +1 480 488 4589

  • Roger Bacon

  • Robert 'Red' Lawrence, David Zinkand (2013)

  • Brandon Rogers


Desert Forest Golf Club is located at altitude in Carefree, Arizona, to the north of Phoenix and it was one of the earliest desert-style courses ever built. Desert Forest was fashioned in 1962 by Robert "Red" Lawrence who went on to shape numerous other courses in the American Southwest, consequently becoming known as “The Desert Fox” of golf course architecture.

Perched at 2,500 feet, Desert Forest offers welcome cool from the arid desert heat and the 7,035-yard course is routed over the landscape rather than through it with virtually no earth moving having taken place. The effect of this thoughtful routing has created a natural layout which rests in perfect harmony with its surroundings.

Desert Forest is unusual in that there are no ugly cart paths nor out-of-bounds markers. Missing also are fairway bunkers (they are redundant here) and there’s just one water hazard which must be avoided on the par three 3rd. Instead the golfer has carpeted Bermuda grass playing surfaces (bent grass greens), natural rock formations and the desert to contend with. It makes a pleasant and welcome change from the norm to play this spontaneous layout from either the immaculate surfaces or the desert itself.

At this altitude the Desert Forest topography is deliciously rolling with the natural valleys and peaks being used to maximum effect. Meghan Bolger won the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship here at Carefree in 2007, but following in her footsteps is not easy. Desert Forest is strictly private and exclusive, with membership levels set at about 250 you’ll need to befriend one in order to tee it up here.

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Description: Desert Forest Golf Club is located at altitude in Carefree, Arizona, to the north of Phoenix and it was one of the earliest desert-style courses ever built, fashioned in 1962 by Robert "Red" Lawrence who went on to shape numerous other courses in the American Southwest... Rating: 3.7 out of 6 Reviews: 3

Arguably the most destructive renovation in America. The majority of players are going insane with how extreme the greens are, specifically how firm they are. We were hitting crisp irons (lob-wedge, sand-wedge, pitching-wedge) and not a single iron shot held any green. All of us wanted to leave after 9 holes. The pushed up surfaces were worse than concrete. The holes are framed so well from the tees and the conditioning is as good as it gets, but the design variety is disappointing as you feel like you hit the same shot more than a dozen times. But the extremities of the putting greens were beyond reason. If this course ever appears on a US Top 100 list again, I'm making phone calls.
3 / 6
Desert Forest
April 12, 2015


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The first time I played Desert Forest, it began hailing after eight holes and that was that. The following week, my host had me back, but I never got out of the clubhouse because it was cold and rainy. Three years later, I got another chance when a friend from Minneapolis said, “My father-in-law is a member at Desert Forest.” So I finally got my round in. The father-in-law was the mayor of Cave Creek, so I met everyone we ran into that day, and they were all impressed with the fact that the mayor was playing with someone who was on a quest to play the Top 100. The mayor apologized for the course because, for the past few seasons, the fairways had not been overseeded in the winter, so it was brown. It played fine, but its appearance was a hot debate point among the members. It’s a bit strange to hear your playing partner say, “Good shot, you’re in the brown stuff.” This is one of the few clubs in Arizona that is not a real-estate development, so each hole is not surrounded by homes. It’s golf-only, no swimming pool or other activities. Members’ average age is 66 years old, and the course only gets around 17,000 rounds a year. The greens may be the fastest in the Phoenix area, and many people think it has the best greens in Arizona. Larry Berle.
3 / 6
Desert Forest
October 16, 2014


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Keith Baxter
October 16, 2014
The above review is an edited extract from A Golfer’s Dream, which has been reproduced with the author’s kind permission. A Golfer’s Dream, by Larry Berle, tells the story of how a regular guy conquered America’s Top 100 Golf Courses (following Golf Digest’s 2001/2002 list). Larry has exclusively rated for us every course in the hundred, using our golf ball rating system. However, Larry did not rate the 100 courses against every golf course he has played, but instead he rated them in relation to each other within the hundred. Consequently, in some cases, his rating may seem rather low. A Golfer’s Dream is available in Kindle format and also on Kindle Unlimited via Amazon... click the link for more. 

If you love golf course architecture then you’ll appreciate Desert Forest. It makes you think on each and every shot but it’s also honest and straightforward with everything laid out in front of you. It’s an easy walk (and yes you can walk here and leave the cart behind) but it’s tough as nails and be prepared to lose a few balls in the desert bush. Simply wonderful.

5 / 6
Desert Forest
October 30, 2006


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Lance Kazzi
October 07, 2008
Red Lawrence is my mother's uncle, which makes him my great uncle. Golf is in the family blood, and I've played several great courses inside and outside of the U.S. (The National, Fisher's Island, Merion to name a few, along with Muirfield, Carnoustie, Dornoch, etc). However, I've yet to make it out to Desert Forest. Bradley Klein recently wrote a fantastic book about the course and gave each of my family members a signed copy. Can't wait to get out there someday soon to see what is arguably his best original design work.