On October 18 2007 the PGA Tour visited the Raptor course at Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale Arizona. Canadian Mike Weir emerged victoriously for the first time since early in the 2004 season claiming the Fry's Electronics Open.
Scottsdale is to desert golf what the Ayrshire coast is to links golf. Grayhawk is among the finest 36-hole facilities located within a radius of only few miles, including The Boulders, Troon North, We-Ko-Pa, Talking Stick and the TPC of Scottsdale.
The Tom Fazio designed Raptor course, which opened in 1995, is one of the most beautiful courses in the region with spectacular panoramic views of the McDowell Mountains and the surrounding desert dotted with large saguaro cactus. The layout features generous, rolling fairways with beautiful large bent grass greens. There are very few forced desert carries with most holes having fairway the entire route between tee and green.
The Raptor has numerous swales and bunkers many of which are large and deep and must be avoided in order to score well. The signature 156-yard 8th called “Aces & Eights” requires a tee shot that is all carry to a large double-tiered green fronted by three large, deep bunkers with a beautiful mountain view as the backdrop. The finishing hole, called “Big Sky” is a fun par five requiring a lot of nerve on the approach due to the water along the right side for the final 200 yards to the green and bunkers on the left.
The course is usually in perfect condition from fall to spring but as with many Arizona courses conditions suffer in the 100+ degree summer heat. The Raptor and its sister course, the Talon, have been listed in Golf Magazine’s “Top 100 You can Play” and Golf Digest’s “Top 100 Public Courses”.
Article by Stewart Abramson
The Raptor course at Grayhawk is a fine design by Tom Fazio. This public course once hosted a PGA tour event, the Frys.com Open from 2007-2009. It was also scheduled to host the NCAA division I men and women’s golf championships this year, but hopefully will be able to do so in 2021 and 2022.
The Raptor course is often listed on the “top 100 courses you can play” in the USA. For public play in the Scottsdale area, the Raptor course is likely among everyone’s top five. My top choice is the very fun and beautiful Saguaro course at We-Ko-Pa resort. This is followed by the two courses at Troon North, Monument and Pinnacle. I prefer Grayhawk Raptor over the pricey TPC Scottsdale, although I have not re-visited the TPC course since it had some alterations a few years back. I have not played the Talon course nor made a run up to play the courses at The Boulders.
Due to the wide fairways, the Raptor course should not punish you off the tee. Like many courses in the desert, there are some forced carries from the tees; however on the Raptor course these are generally short and do not come into play as a challenge. Despite many of the fairway bunkers being placed inside the fairway line to influence the direction of the tee shot and the line into the green, I find the fairways still wide enough to avoid most of them. For me, the more important defense of the course is at the greens. The greens are large. The undulations on the green surfaces utilize tiers and slopes more so than using mounds, humps, or depressions. Many of the greens are either placed uphill or on rises above the fairway. The bunkers near the greens are generally deep. There are also short grass collection areas near many of the greens offering a reasonable chance of recovery depending on the pin location.
Typical to the land in the Scottsdale area, the course goes up and down over “gentle/longer” rises. There are no abrupt hills that will lead to having to take an extra club or having a blind shot, with the exception of thirteen which likely requires another club. There are a few washes one has to consider as you go through your round, but they are easy to see although a well-executed shot is still required. The tenth is a good example of this. Water is used on two holes although I thought they were there more for visual appeal than for defense, although some might disagree with me regarding the eighteenth where longer hitters definitely have to consider the pond that runs next to the right side of the green.
The course offers some very nice views of the McDowell Mountains, more so on the back nine, although not as dramatic as some of the views at Estancia, Desert Highlands, or Silverleaf. For me it looked a bit more like the “distance” views at Desert Forest. Much like the other desert courses, there are a lot of cactus and trees bordering the fairways, so for someone originally from Ohio, now living in Pennsylvania, looking at the saquaros, palo verde, ironwood and mesquite trees is always a visual delight. However, as the course crosses roads several times and works around housing on the front nine, the holes feel a bit more disconnected. The inner nine does not cross any roads, nor are they long cart rides or walks as it is more of a “core” golf course.
The Raptor course plays to a par 72. From the Raptor tees it is 7151 yards, rated 74.2/140. I played the Palo Verde tees at 6526 yards, rated 71.2/135. There are two sets of lesser tees. The rating feels about right although it looks (and likely plays) as a more difficult course from the Raptor tees so maybe that slope is a bit low. Unlike some courses where only 5-6 holes have a significant difference in yardage, on the Raptor course the difference in yardage is significant on most of the holes between the Raptor and Palo Verde tees.
The course was in excellent condition the day I played it.
The look and feel of many of the holes seem to run together with very few that distinguish themselves enough to remain in one’s memory. Do not take that as a big criticism, as none of the holes are “bad.” Instead, the holes seem to blend as one with the differences being the green sites, except for the two water holes.
My favorite holes are the fourth, ninth, twelfth, sixteenth and seventeenth.
1. Par 4 – 430/380. The Raptor tee creates more of a dogleg left whereas the Palos Verde tee makes this feel straight although the greens sits off to the left. There are flanking fairway bunkers with the left side coming first, 270 yards from the Raptor tee. There are trees behind this left side bunker which narrow the fairway and block a line to the green if coming from the left. The green is elevated with a back to front slope and a lower front tier with a deep bunker before it. It is a good starting hole.
2. Par 4 – 395/360. You cross over Grayhawk Road. This hole is a reverse of the first hole as the green sits off a bit to the right. Even the bunkering is reversed, with the fairway bunkers reversed as to which side comes first, this time the first fairway bunker on the right is only 230 yards from the tee while the left is 275 yards. The fairway bunkers are steep faced. The bunker on the left of the green is fairly deep.
3. Par 4 – 478/419. You cross Grayhawk Road again. This is a difficult hole both due to length and the bunkers are much larger, both the early fairway bunker set on the right and the large, long bunker front right of the green. A miss to the right side of the fairway can lead one down a small depression. I think the green is perhaps overly done for the already strong challenge of the hole although it is the second largest on the course.
4. Par 5 – 562/530. What I remember most about this hole is the placement of trees near the fairway on both sides for the tee shot. This occurs at the bend in the dogleg to the right. After that, the trees are not used on this slight dogleg right. The green is crowned and elevated with fall-offs to all sides. The bunkers are large near the green. Reaching this green in two is difficult due to both length and the elevated green. I like the look of this hole all the way to the green.
5. Par 3 – 203/180. I like this par 3. The smaller bunker on the right side is more penal than the large one on the left. Do not go over the green as the recovery shot faces a steep decline away from you.
6. Par 4 – 345/334. This hole did not do as much for me. It is relatively simple for the average length player who cannot hope to drive the green. The real defense is the deep bunker on the right front of the green.
7. Par 5 – 502/474. You cross Grayhawk Road for the third time. The fairway shrinks on the left side due to a collection of trees and following the tee shot the fairway remains narrow. The green has a lot of sand on both sides that leave a small gap in the opening to the green. The green is angled to the left and one should not be short here. The defense of the hole is with the two tiers in the green.
8. Par 3 – 192/156. This is another nice par 3 with the fronting bunkers short of the green although it looks as though they are at the edge of the green. There is good tilt to the green from left to right. This is the first truly nice look at the McDowell Mountains.
9. Par 4 – 464/427. You cross Grawhawk Road for the final time. This is a hard finishing hole as the fairway bunker complex, complete with trees on the right side is large and comes into the fairway on the inner corner of this dogleg right. The green is sloped to the right with fall-offs. I think this is one of the more interesting holes on the course.
10. Par 4 – 390/359. This is a generous fairway with the pond to the right not really in play as it stops before the fairway starts. The second shot has to clear the wash, complete with bunkers to a narrow green. A stream that feels more like a ditch goes down the right side of the fairway before crossing diagonally in front of the green about 35 yards short before it finishes down the left side. The green has a vertical split with the right side being higher. I do like the hole because it is different to the front nine.
11. Par 5 – 615/539. A long par 5 – yawn. The distinguishing feature to this hole is the green being angled left to right set off to the right with deep bunkers on both sides. As I played it I never seemed to get closer to the green until I was 90 yards out. The green is plateaued with slopes to the left and back to front. I again feel the green is too difficult when adding to the length and bunkering of the hole.
12. Par 4 – 468/441. The hardest hole on the back nine due to the bunker fronting the green. This hole plays as a slight dogleg right and more uphill than the other uphill holes. Big hitters might be able to clear the rise and catch the downslope. There is a bit of a valley before the green. This hole begins three holes with nice views of the mountains. I like this hole due to the uphill and downhill nature as well as the beginning of the very nice views.
13. Par 3 – 230/200. A long par 3 that is average but with very nice views of the McDowell Mountains. This hole is the one hole where an extra club is likely as it is uphill. The hole slopes to the right towards the valley.
14. Par 4 – 429/379. This hole has the largest green on the course with a depth of 41 yards. This hole has the best views of the mountains. There is a very large fairway bunker off the right of perhaps 90 yards. This is also one of the rare holes with a bunker behind the green as well as one fronting the green. One can miss left and the ball will likely come back onto the green. This green has a swale in the middle.
15. Par 4 – 437/415. Another longer par 4 where the green is protected by a front bunker. The hole plays shorter than the yardage as it is downhill followed by an uphill approach to the green. There is a collection area of three bunkers down the left side of the fairway. The green is well sloped with a diagonal swale separating the front left from the higher back right.
16. Par 3 – 159/138. This is the smallest green on the course with a depth of 28 yards which is still plenty big. Although it does not have the mountains in the background, this is one of the more visually appealing holes on the course. The sixteenth plays downhill into a natural amphitheater. A large grass collection area to the right side of the green is a safe play. The front right bunker is a difficult recovery due to the shallow nature of the green. The green slopes to the left with a fall-off left where a ball will likely roll-out as much as fifteen yards. From the tee this is an appealing visual.
17. Par 4 – 331/301. A short par 4. There is a front right small, deep bunker about 10 yards short of the green in play for those trying to drive the hole. This green is narrow for the front half with fall-offs to the left. I like the hole because of the back to front severe slope of the green from the two tiers which makes the hole more difficult than the length would suggest.
18. Par 5 – 521/494. The finishing hole offers a view of Scottsdale and Phoenix. Playing downhill, the green can be reached in two by the long hitters, perhaps with as little as a 6 iron, but the approach shot has to consider an uphill, left to right slope with the pond to the right and two bunkers left. If they go through the green there is a bunker at the rear. Shorter hitters will also have to play to the left for the second shot due to the slope of the fairway. The green has two tiers. It is a nice finishing hole.
One will be satisfied with a round at the Raptor course. It is not in the league of twenty private courses in the Scottsdale area, but it is a fine golf course. It offers nice scenery and a decent routing. While many of the holes seem to blend together, more so on the front nine, there is challenge aplenty due to the well-constructed green surfaces and their surrounds. I consider it to be one of the four best public options in the area. As to whether it might be one’s favorite public course, it depends on one’s likes and dislikes. I found it fun to play but perhaps it was because I was with some of my favorite golfing buddies.
A good course to sample the delights of desert golf. Narrow fairways and some longish carries make it tricky at first but you soon get used to it. The scenery is awesome and most holes are visually appealing with nicely contrasting greens, bunkers and surrounds. You soon learn to keep your ball out of the desert while appreciating the amazing landscape. The whole Grayhawk complex is sheer fun. Phil's Grill, named after Phil the Mickelson, provided a tasty after round meal and drinks.
Course was in perfect condition, greens were well maintained. There are stunning views all throughout your round.
Scottsdale is regarded as one the worlds premier golf destinations and has an abundance of courses. One of the better facilities is Grayhawk which has 36 holes, extensive practice areas including music on the range and a functional clubhouse. Of the two courses The Raptor is my favourite. Both courses have plenty of variety and like most desert courses the fairways are pretty generous but if you stray offline finding the ball is a challenge. I cannot think of any weak holes but there are a few that standouts. The par 5 4th is nice par 5 which runs slightly uphill to a small raised green which is guarded by deep bunkers and run offs. Hole 6 is a fun drivable par 4 which again has a raised green with many areas to place the pin. The 10th, a mid length par 4 has a generous fairway with a brook running down the right…the fairway slopes a little left to right which makes the approach awkward to this green. The green is guarded by water on the left which will catch the pulled approach. Hole 18 is a decent risk and reward par 5 with water running down the right and a huge bunker lying in wait for those down the left. The green slopes from left to right and is protected by a deep bunker on the left and a lake on the right…the approach to this green will get your pulse racing! If you’re organising a trip to this area then I would recommend adding Grayhawk to the itinerary.
Both courses at Grayhawk are solid desert courses that are fun to play. I would say that neither course is outstanding but both courses are well conditioned, aesthetically pleasing and challenging enough to make for an enjoyable day of golf. The Raptor course is a fairly straightforward Fazio design using many of the design elements Fazio is known for. The fairway bunkers tend to define the holes rather than penalize the player. The greens vary is size, shape and defenses, with deep bunkers being the most often used element but steep slopes and multi level greens come in to play as well. I thought the par 5's offered the most variety, ranging from the shorter 502 yard 7th and 521 yard 18th to the 615 yard 11th. Most of the par 4's were interesting but straightforward, except perhaps for the oddly designed 10th hole which is pinched in by some trees on the left and a water hazard to the right.
I think this would be a nice course to take in on a trip to the area. It seems that most of the top courses around Phoenix and Scottsdale are private, and the Raptor course is a reasonable option open to the public.
Wonderful course,expansive fairways and extremely large greens. I was able to miss both more than I would have thought possible. The par 4 3rd is a &^%&$^ long with a huge fairway on the right side in the landing area. Number 6 is a short fun risk reward par 4. A decent drive will give you a flip wedge to the green, however there is a nefariously deep bunker short right, oh and the green doesn't hold worth a crap either. The par 3 8th is considered the signature hole. The mountains in the background create a photogenic setting. The 12th is a long par four uphill, a real beast. The 15th is a short par 4 with a great view. The 18th is a nice finishing hole with a great view of Scottsdale. Fun course to play
It was a very fast round, not maybe "playing" the course but yes hitting shots, skipping most of the greens as I had no time but I felt it was worth the ride on a quiet summer afternoon.
This is very close to TPC Scottsdale and quite different: more manicured, level changes, some very nice views and the typical Tom Fazio school of design. Beauty and a lot of grass, not big penalties if missing and a very fun course to play.
Although in summer and with almost no traces of ray grass, the course played in amazing condition compared to others in the area including TPC Stadium Course.
It is one of the best in Scottsdale and as many Clubs here, a great 36 holes facility with 2 different courses in the same piece of land. There is where you admire the work of the designer and this one is a very good work from Fazio.