The Rim Golf Club is located about an hour to the northeast of Scottsdale and is set in an exclusive, private residential estate. The golf course is nestled amongst the vanilla scented stands of Ponderosa Pine and the Rim was fashioned by the team that created Scotland’s famous Loch Lomond Golf Club.
Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish designed The Rim Golf Club, which opened for play in 1998 and Weiskopf reckons this final collaboration with Morrish was also one of their best. The course routing features rocky outcrops and the dramatic mountain backdrop of the Mogollon Rim – an unusual mountain plateau that extends across Arizona for nearly 200 miles from northern Yavapai County to the border with New Mexico – from which the club takes its name.
Five of the par four holes on the scorecard measure more than 450 yards in length from the back tees so, even with the advantage of playing at high altitude, golfers who can hit the ball long and straight will prosper here.
The signature hole on the card is the downhill, 581-yard, par five 13th, named "Spirit Hollow". Only reachable in two by the aforesaid long hitters, the downhill fairway leads to a green framed to the rear by a remarkable outcrop of enormous boulders stacked on top of one another.
In 2014 The Rim was purchased by Phil Mickelson and is now one of five layouts (including Stone Canyon, which was a solo design by the late Jay Morrish) in the Mickelson Private Golf collection.
I love The Rim. With all due respect to Mark White and M. James Ward this course was challenging, scenic and perhaps most importantly fun. Granted, all roads do not lead to Payson, AZ, but then again, they don’t lead to Augusta, Ga either. I do agree with Mark that the front is stronger. The driveable, but not by me 5th is a super whole, for several reasons. One, big hitters can get there, bu they need to think and earn it. Second, I encourage players to look at the hole from the far left tee and then from the far right. Completely different perspectives and approaches as to how to play it. The down hill par five 13th is probably the signature hole with natural stack rock boulders behind the green. Mark is correct there are some blind shots, most noticeably the 14th tee shot. There is an aiming flag and frankly, it is too far left. If you are 20 yards right of that your drive will catch the downslope and leave you with a flip wedge to the green. The par 3 17th is probably the weakest hole. I really liked this course and would pay to play it again and again and again. Oh yes, in case you are wondering I played well also. Perhaps, that is what is driving my euphoric prose….
We teed off on the tenth hole of The Rim, a design by Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish, and after playing the first five holes I began to wonder how this course was rated so highly. There was not much I liked about the back nine due to the substantial number of times one needed to guess at the appropriate line off the tee, the line into greens due to the numerous blind shots, or shots where one was guessing what the ball would do nearer some of the edges of the fairway. Both of us found ourselves puzzled when we saw a tee shot run out of fairway, or hit a hill on the edge of a green but not come back down. There were numerous blind shots from a hollow/lower ground. In addition, the bunkering appeared to be overdone.
However, the front nine is splendid which made me reconsider some of the elements I thought were wrong on the back nine. If I were to sum it up it would be that the front nine simply has better land than the back nine making the front more playable and interesting. As the outward nine also ends a better hole, I also wondered whether the nines should be reversed.
This course is very much a mountain golf course. On most holes you are met with a beautiful view, sometimes a very long view of perhaps 15-20 miles, and sometimes of beautiful rock formations and crests of hills nearer to you. There are holes with beautiful ponds that reflect the sky above. The views can be distracting. I would put this in the top five of the most beautiful inland courses I have played.
I am certain that the more one played the course the more one would enjoy and appreciate it. This is a course that needs to be learned both to determine the appropriate lines off the tee as well as the club to hit on a couple of holes, There are no yardage markers on the sprinkler heads and as my partner had forgotten his distance finder it resulted in us guessing several times at the distances. We judged the distance correctly about half of the time.
Also, the more one plays this course the more they learn the greens. We were baffled a few times with putts going the opposite way of what we saw, never by a lot, but enough to make the next putt more challenging than we would have liked. For me, the greens were very good; quick but receptive, the right size, and in excellent condition.
As we played the back nine it made me think of this as being a resort course, a “bonus” thrown in for those coming to stay at a property that offers outstanding views. After playing the entire course, I cast that notion aside and thought it to be worthy of its recognition.
By the way, the drive from Scottsdale to Paxson is one of the more scenic drives one can take, particularly on the return trip with the sun in a better position.
I likely will not do the hole-by-hole review justice as we played the round in under 2:30 given it was cold, although sunny. While 90% of people would opt for a riding cart, we did see four people walking the course which would be a very good workout. We did not go to the range or putting green, opting to go right to the tenth tee given the near two hour drive to get there. Because of the cold, there were only sixteen people listed on the tee sheet for the day.
The course is 7193 yards, par 72, rated 72.9/140. There is a combo tee at 6877 yards, rated 71.9/138. We played the White tees at 6619 yards, rated 70.6/135. There are five other sets of lesser tees so there is a good yardage for any level of player.
10 – par 4 455/428. This hole plays downhill from the tee with the edge of a pond creeping in on the right side but a bulge in the fairway out to the left opposite it. The play from the tee is to be as close as possible to that pond as one will get a more favorable bounce forward as well as further up the fairway trees pinch in from the left. The green sits well above you, perhaps as much as 50 feet with three bunkers short of the green on the left and a bunker on the right front that eats into the green. Behind the green is a hill creating a half-bowl effect. I hit a good pitch for my third pin high to about ten feet while my partner played his third from the lowest left bunker and thought he had gone too long. He caught the rise in the back and his ball came back to two feet. While I felt the blind nature of the green should have had fewer bunkers on the front slope of the hill, I did like that bowl effect.
11 – par 4 – 476/440. We hit drives that did not go far enough and therefore we were left in non-man’s land. This hole is a sharp dogleg right with opposing bunkers off the tee and a knob/waste area on the right that leads to a blind shot. This scruffier area cuts the fairway in half with a fall-off down to the left side if one does not try to clear the rougher area. We should have driven ahead to look at the hole. Had we done so we would have realized the severity of the dogleg and that the appropriate play was over the rougher ground. Instead, we laid up opposite it leaving 150 yards into a green that has two bunkers on either side. It’s a large overall green. As I mentioned in my opening comments, if one knew this hole better, one would appreciate it much more and put the “blind” second shot out of their mind.
12 – par 3 – 145/108. This is a slightly uphill shot to a green that is surrounded by four bunkers with an additional small, pot-like bunker in the front middle. The green has more interior movement than the tenth and eleventh where those greens are more defined by an overall back to front slope.
13 – par 5 – 581/537. I was told this is Mr. Weiskopft’s favorite hole on the course. From an elevated tee with outstanding views, the player has options here which were not as apparent to us. One can play out to the right but not take a driver as the fairway will run out. One can play down the left side of a bunker/tree/large rock area that sits almost in the middle of the fairway. But if one goes left they will go into lower ground, almost a small valley and have a blind second shot as well as lose the option of getting a favorable bounce forward. For the bravest of players, the line is as near (or over) that bunker/tree/rock area where they could get as much as 150 yards of additional roll as the hole cascades down the side of the mountain. There are two other rough areas on the left farther up but they do not present as much difficulty to escape from it. I ballooned my tee shot and found the other side of the tree but a half swing five iron went nearly 230 yards down the hill leaving only a gap wedge to the green. The green has a large rock to the left with a small swale while the back right has a bunker. The green is framed by a beautiful large rock formation behind it. I can see why many would like the hole but for me it was a bit too gimmicky. However, for members I would bet they think this hole to be a lot of fun as well as beautiful. This is definitely a hole where playing it more often would up the thrill of it.
14 – par 4 – 435/408. There are two options for this hole, play down the left side and try to crest a narrower landing area which brings a much better angle and perhaps less distance into the green, or play to the wider part of the fairway to the right which brings a longer, downhill shot over a pond to a green that sits immediately behind it. Should one not crest the hill on the left, the smart play is a lay-up from a blind position. The green is angled left to right adding to the distance required to clear the pond if there is a left/back pin position. Adding to the defense of the green is a large bunker left and right. The hole is very pretty and I liked the options offered.
15 – par 4 – 361/338. This hole plays to a fairway that works to the right with a bunker on the right that should not be in play. The hole plays uphill so it plays longer than the yardage. The fairway is very thin with a couple of trees on the right and trees pinching in from the left. It takes a precisely placed tee shot to have a chance at the green which sits above you and is bracketed by a large bunker right and two smaller ones on the left. This is my least favorite hole on the back nine.
16. par 4 – 431/397. This hole also goes steeply downhill with a spindle-like large bunker on the right side. The right side also features a substantial fall-off into a valley where one is likely to be blocked by the high trees that come in from the right. The fairway is reduced to a fourth of the six after the spindle bunker. Only the most confident of players will try to thread a drive to the narrow part of the fairway. There is really no reason to do so as one likely has only a 130-150 yards shot into the green. The green is defended by a large, deep center-line bunker with two bunkers placed at the rear. For the second hole in a row, the fairway gets very narrow which I felt was a bit of a design flaw in the hole, more so on the fifteenth than the sixteenth.
17. par 3 – 221/196. This holes plays uphill with a large fronting bunker and another on the left side. Because the hole sits below higher ground surrounding the hole to the left and behind, it lacks the views offered by the other holes and therefore is a bit bland in comparison. It does have a decently sloped green.
18. par 4 – 454/426. From an elevated tee there is an early bunker left that should not be in play unless the wind is in one’s face. Another bunker on the right is much more in play. Beginning about 90 yards from the green is a pond on the right side. The green is shaped as an inverted heart with a fronting middle bunker and two waste-like areas set off to the right nearer the pond. Much like the seventeenth, despite the hole playing uphill after the tee shot, it sits below higher ground and does not offer the views one expects. It is a good hole, but for me lacks the quality of the ninth hole.
1. par 4 – 374/341. One plays slightly downhill and if one is a long hitter they will get a very favorable roll
down the hill to a valley before the green. There is a bunker set off to the left for the longest hitters. I recall this fairway as having more undulations than any other hole on the course. The green sits on a bit of a plateau surrounded by four bunkers and is angled to the right as well as sloped to the right. This hole is a bit more than a gentle handshake.
2. Par 4 – 476/410. Possibly my favorite hole on the course, this hole plays uphill and is a slight dogleg right. There are no fairway bunkers with the defense being the trees. The green is angled right to left with a fronting bunker that makes a left pin position more difficult to attack. This hole is rated the hardest on the golf course.
3. Par 4 – 429/374. Another favorite hole as this is a dogleg left with two inner corner bunkers that have to be carried by the bravest of hitters while two other outer corner bunkers sit further out for those trying for length but hit it too far to the right. The green is well defended by a large front bunker, two on the left and one behind the green. I liked everything about this hole.
4. Par 3 – 205/173. A longer par 3 with the green well above you adding to the length. Another large fronting bunker disguises much of the front of the green with two bunkers on the right and two behind the green. If one hits short right the ball will tumble down the hill leaving a blind recovery shot. It is likely the second best par 3 on the course.
5. Par 4 – 346/328. I did not care for this hole as there is an early tree in the middle of the tee box although one can go to either side of it to place their ball. Farther down the fairway is split by a line of other trees and a single bunker. The split in the fairway leads to a wider right side where two bunkers are placed. The line to drive the green is left of the trees to a narrow opening as another center-line bunker awaits and one on the left. A pond sits off to the left of the fairway but is mainly for beauty purposes.
6. Par 5 – 579/565. The longest par 5 has a semi-blind tee shot. This straight hole has a narrow fairway for its length. The hole plays slightly down, then up, and then finally onto higher ground where the green is placed. The green is fronted by a central bunker about 25 yards short and then two bunkers on the left side. I liked this hole from tee to green.
7. Par 4 – 467/449. From an elevated tee, this hole plays downhill and slightly to the right with a stream crossing about 120 yards out from the green. The right side of the fairway can lead to a blocked approach shot. The green is angled to the right with a bunker behind it. It is a challenging but fair hole and one where I was surprised to find it as the #7 index.
8. Par 3 – 225/193. A splendid par 3 and the best on the course as it plays over a pond to the right with a bunker placed between the water and the green. There are three bunkers left of the green. The pond also comes behind the green. The safe play is to hit short of the green but as the green is long and has a tier, a two putt is no guarantee. The green has additional subtle slopes to it. It is a beautiful golf hole.
9. Par 5 – 533/508. There is a long pond down the left side with two bunkers as well. The elevated tee has a bunker far up on the right for the longer hitters that narrows the fairway between this bunker and the pond. This hole plays straight and eventually the green is found on a rise with a large “S” shaped bunker on the right and two bunkers on the left. Adding to the defense is a long false front prior to the green. It is a very nice hole to finish on.
The Rim is a very nice golf course, one where you will delight in the excellent greens and the wondrous views on several holes. For me the front nine is very good which I believe is due to having better land for the holes while the back nine is more of a thrill ride. I would reverse the nines, but perhaps the current routing is used due to the better views on many of the holes on the back nine. The course does suffer from the numerous blind shots due to changes in elevation as well as the potential to be blocked by trees. There is a emphasis on central bunkers and narrowing of several fairways. Overall it is a course that members will appreciate while first-time players will likely struggle. It is very much worth playing.
The collaboration of Tom Weiskopf and the late Jay Morrish produced a good mixture of fine courses. The Rim is certainly one of their very best.
The course gets its name from the geological feature called the Mogollan Rim -- which one can see when playing the course.
The site is a thrill ride for sure -- plenty of movement in the terrain and while there are a few demanding holes in the mix -- the architectural tandem didn't include a heavy dose of inordinate difficulty given the fact that the course was meant for member play.
Part of the issue for The Rim is about location. Many people simply see Scottsdale as the primary destination for the more acclaimed golf experiences. Getting to The Rim is about getting away from the usual vegetation associated with Arizona -- the variations of cacti. The Rim is located in a ponderosa of stately pines. The scent of the trees envelopes golfers during their time on the course.
One thing to keep in mind -- the altitude does allow for increased yardages and players have to adjust in order to properly execute. Weiskopf / Morrish did include their signature "driveable par-4" with the fun 5th hole. So unless the tee shot is played with precision the net outcome may not be what the player is seeking.
The Rim has plenty of "flow." What I mean by that is Weiskopf / Morrish constantly keep things varied. Never seeking duplication but not doing so to the point of obviousness. When one speaks of the term -- a good member's course -- The Rim fits that description. The beauty of the surroundings -- both on and off site -- make for a grand time indeed. When you play the long downhill par-5 13th you really inhale the golf dimension and what it means to be in this area of Arizona.
Weiskopf / Morrish accentuated the "fun" elements in their designs. Not every design was memorable but The Rim clearly hits the high mark in delivering the connection between game and nature.
by M. James Ward