In 2013, ten years after The Golf Club Scottsdale first opened for play, businessman Bob Parsons stepped in to purchase the golf facility then immediately set about changing just about everything associated with it – starting with a new name; Scottsdale National.
One of the first moves he made was hiring Jackson Khan Design to make improvements to the Mineshaft course, design a new 18-hole layout called “The Other Course,” and add a little 9-hole short course named “The Bad Little Nine” to add some spice to the set-up.
Tim Jackson and David Khan, along with associate Scott Hoffman, had all worked with Tom Fazio on high-profile projects like Gozzer Ranch and Shadow Creek and they’d also been involved in the renovation of the Dunes course at Monterey Peninsula so they were hardly unknowns.
Still, entrusting a young, enthusiastic design team with such a demanding project took a fair degree of courage on the part of the owner, who continued to snap up additional little plots of land along the perimeter of the 223-acre site he’d acquired for the new-build.
The landscape was pretty flat and featureless so shaping the terrain was a huge effort. Over a million cubic yards of soil was shifted, 20,000 tons of rock excavated, 36 miles of irrigation pipe laid and 73,000 tons of sand used to cap the fairways – along with planting more than 100,000 shrubs, trees and cacti.
The design team spent at least six days a week on site during the 15-month construction, with the course opening on 29th October 2016. Incredibly, anybody now looking at what’s been built, will probably think the architects were fortunate to be given such a great natural site to work with.
Notable holes include the 170-yard 6th, “Dragon Fly” (featuring a wide, boomerang-shaped green with a small protecting bunker in the middle) and the 535-yard 10th, “Gila Monster,” where run off areas surround the green and bunkers are set back from the putting surface.
On the back nine, the 300-yard 17th, “Butterfly” is a wonderful short par four with a huge central bunker extending past the front of a massive, rolling green measuring all of 15,500 square feet in area. It’s a great opportunity to bag a late birdie but nothing can be taken for granted here.
Bob Parsons decided to add another course to his first course, The Mineshaft, which I was told is a more traditional desert course where he has continued to make substantial changes to make a good course even better. I have not played The Mineshaft. I was also told the second course, named The Other Course, is very different to The Mineshaft. After playing The Other Course, I accept this statement as being true.
The Mineshaft course sits primarily on land previously occupied by The Golf Club of Scottsdale until the course was purchased by Mr. Parsons in 2014. Jackon Kahn Design, a five year old firm sent a congratulatory note to Mr. Parsons offering their services. Both Tim Jackson and David Kahn, along with their friend Scott Hoffman, had all trained under Tom Fazio and worked on many of his highly recognized courses such as Gozzer Ranch. They were first asked to make substantial changes to the Mineshaft course, particularly on holes 15-18. While this was underway, Mr. Parson acquired 223 acres of adjoining land from Lyle Anderson which was made available for a second course, a nine hole course called “Bad Little Nine,” a second clubhouse, cottages, and the PXG facility. During construction on the 223 acres, Mr. Parsons continued to buy even more adjacent land to act as a buffer.
The Other Course laid out by Jackson Kahn Design is non-traditional with six par 5’s, six par 4’s and six par 3’s, which I have only seen at Cabot Cliffs. There are no two holes of consecutive par. The course features wide fairways that fit with one of the goals of the course that if one hits straight shots all day they will never play from the desert. The rocks on the golf course all came from a single man-made pond but are often there for visual purposes as opposed to defense. The course offers views of the many local geographic landmarks such as Four Peaks, The Mazatal and Superstition Mountains, Tom’s Thumb, Pinnacle Peak, and numerous others all of which can serve as guide points depending on the hole.
The land upon which the course was built was previously featureless and dull comprised of desert dirt, a few rock outcroppings, smaller native plants, and was mainly flat with slight rises and falls here and there. 1.5 million cubic feet of earth was moved to create the course which moves up, down and across a wide stretch of desert. To make the course more visually attractive, over 110,000 plants/cacti/trees of native vegetation to the Sonoran Desert was added including cacti and native trees. A 23 million gallon pond was created from which the large rocks on the course were sourced and moved to their locations on the course. Many of the holes rise or fall at least twenty feet, some about thirty feet. The result is one of the most enjoyable walks one will have on a golf course as grass goes from tee to green to the next tee. Other than landing in a bunker, one has to hit a very wayward shot to step off of grass. The other result of the design is that it might be the most fun course you will ever play. On nearly every tee shot and every approach shot, no matter the challenge, I felt a mixture of exhilaration, calmness, inspiration, and joy due to the expansive views on every hole combined with the attractiveness of each hole due to well-placed bunkers and very interesting green contours and surrounds. One will find The Other Course to be near the top of courses known for their “playability.” The course is unique among desert courses as grass is continuous from the first tee to the eighteenth green. Your footsteps are silent here.
I very much enjoyed the routing. At Cabot Cliffs, I felt a bit let down by the holes of the 6-6-6 combination but perhaps it is because my eyes were so often drawn to the water views. At The Other Course the routing make perfect sense. As we played the course, I told my host it felt like the perfect hybrid combining elements of the traditional desert courses with the minimalist style more in vogue with today’s more recognized architects. While the fairways are welcoming in their width, there are preferred paths to the greens. While some courses are known for being second-shot golf courses, The Other Course is more than that. The angle into the green from those wide fairways is important thereby necessitating choosing the right part of the fairway and is heightened by the location of the pin. On most holes the angle to the green is dependent on the pin position of the day with the more advantageous line varying by 50 yards in some cases.
Mr. Parsons and his course superintendent do not over-seed. When the Bermuda fairways are dormant, which is how I played the course, the fairways are painted green. This leads to more rollout of shots and brings more ground options into play nearer the greens. It also makes the holes even more colorful and dramatic.
The course measures 7165 yards from the one tees, par 72 rated 73.3/136. We played a set of tees at approximately 6500 yards as we jumped a bit on a few of the holes. Overall there are six sets of tees but with combinations there are essentially nine. Our set of tees likely played out to par 70.0/130.
Overall I slightly preferred the par 3’s but the par 5’s were equally compelling. The par 4’s were a touch behind but only because of the more gentle starting hole and the short seventeenth which are both a bit more straightforward, although still visually attractive. None of the holes look or play the same. Ask me on another day and I might flip the order, or put the par 4’s at the top because those pin positons dictate the round. I could not list my favorite holes as I found too many I liked.
1. Par 4 – 400/384/359. Playing slightly down then up, the tee shot goes to a wide fairway. One feels they can hit it almost anywhere and not be penalized. But a center-line bunker that begins about twelve yards from the green and a false front to a slightly thin green makes the tee shot direction more important. My host hit two shots into the first green to show me the importance of the line. The green is nicely contoured for a beginning hole.
2. Par 5 – 567/543/512. The first par 5 is a standout with a diagonal wash about 150 yards from the green with waste-area like bunkers wandering aimlessly on both sides. But the star of the hole is the green with its many undulations and fall-offs making the angle approaching the green critical to where one should try to play their second shot. As an example, we had a middle right flag which has a sizeable false front before that side of the green as well as a tilt behind it that can bring a right back bunker into play. This meant the approach shot needed to come in from the left to have a chance of holding the green. The left side of the fairway brings a long bunker into play. The bunker on the left begins about 80 yards from the green. Had the pin been on the left, it would have meant coming in from the right, a difference of as much as 40 yards. When the pin is on the left of the green, that bunker that began 80 yards from the front is set hard against the left edge while three bunkers that begin about 45 yards short of the green on the right side come into play. Given the bunkers left and right, one might think the middle of the fairway is the safer play, but unless one can stop a wedge close to the pin or has a middle pin, you will likely have a putt of 25 feet or more with multiple undulations. It is a superb green complex.
3. Par 3 – 239/200/178. The first par 3 has a green that appears to be angled off to the right with opposing long bunkers. The front of the green is open and available but does have a false front so running a ball onto the green requires a very low shot. The green has a central somewhat perpendicular ridge running through it with a higher back half. Behind the right side of the green is a large hill which pulls your eyes towards it. One has to block the image of that hill out of your mind and concentrate on the proper line.
4. Par 5 – 575/553/520. The fourth features rolling/humpy fairways, central bunkers, a sizeable hump right of the green, and a punchbowl back right of the green along with a pronounced ridge left creating an upper tier. This hole also goes up 30 feet tee to green adding a bit more to the length. As with most of the holes on the course, but seemingly more so on the par 5’s, the pin location determines the preferred line into the green for the average length player. In this case the green is a small one at just below 6000 square feet. Off the tee the longer hitters will likely fly the two central bunkers, set into a slight rise, to get extra roll. The right side has a longish bunker of perhaps 40 yards. Because the green is set on the left side of the hole, the average length player might try to shorten the distance by going left on their second shot, but another 40 yard long bunker awaits. Another central bunker is placed about 80 yards short of the green. The choice for most players is to lay short of that second central bunker or play out to the right, both of which can leave a more difficult approach shot. The bigger hitters will try for the green in two, with a small, deep bunker placed off the right side of the green and two on the left side. The back right of the green will see a lot of balls gather there due to the punchbowl effect. The shaping of the green basically results in six different sections with a substantial mound of increasing height running diagonal before the green as well as ridges on the green. It is another interesting green complex completely different from others on the course.
5. Par 4 – 519/476/433. This long par 4 begins with a blind tee shot and finishes with a plateau green of approximately 21,000 square feet. As I looked at it I remarked to my host it felt as if it were the size of one of the double greens at the Old course at St. Andrews. To get to this green one has to again pick the correct side of the fairway as a central vertical ridge runs down it. This hole features a sizeable bunker collection that cuts across the fairway from the left fairway. A small bunker sits to the right of the raised green but the bigger danger is going down one of the swales on the left side of the green because the green rises over nine feet from front left to back right. A front right small bunker offers a very difficult recovery to a back pin location. There is a final small bunker on the back left. This hole is back-dropped beautifully by mountains in the distance but with no “framing” near the hole. To add to the mystery of the hole, my host informed me that the flag is much larger on this hole which creates confusion as to the distance from the green. Given the 21,000 square feet green, there are obviously as many pin placements as one would ever want.
6. Par 3 – 189/171/154. This hole features a hybrid of a boomerang green, not as obvious as the one at the Golf Club of Colorado, but the small, central bunker pinching into the middle of the large green makes the green wider than it is deep at the middle. This central bunker is built into a bank at the front creating a substantial false front. Other large bunkers to the left and two on the right of the green offer a lot of “eye candy” to create doubt as to whether a bailout area actually exists (potentially it is right of the green). The bunker to avoid is that central bunker which is small, deep and sharp although if one trickles into the front of the large bunker on the left that is equally difficult. Once again, distant mountains offer a compelling view from the tee but there is no definition near the hole other than the green complex itself.
7. Par 4 – 419/387/365. The seventh hole has a tiny green of just over 4000 square feet. The dogleg left fairway has a diagonal valley cutting across about 150-110 yards from the green. Fronting the green are deeper bunkers making it feel like this is a smaller island green. For the shorter length player there is a sort of double valley before a higher plateau down the right side. In order to get a better view of the green to judge the distance, one gets a substantial benefit by not being in the either of the valleys. The green sits off to the left accentuating the dogleg left with a fronting bunker and another left side with a final one set about six yards from the green in the rear. The green falls off substantially to the left as well as front right. Again, the architects did not build surrounding features to provide a feeling of depth around this small green as one only sees the desert. Because of its length, I did not concentrate as much as I should have and had a double bogey which made me slightly crestfallen until I saw it is rated the third most difficult hole on the front despite the length.
8. Par 5 – 568/538/508. The eighth hole offers a blind tee shot and has a bunker built into a sizeable hill on the left side of the fairway. The tilt of the fairway will kick balls right. Three bunkers are placed down the right side. There is a central cross bunker farther up with four bunkers left of the green and one on the right. The green is beautifully back-dropped by mountains but this beauty can distract you from the approach shot which requires real quality as there is a substantial swale on the right front/middle that creates two plateaus on this green – one left and one right. This swale cuts deep into the green and likely dashes one’s hopes of hitting it close to the pin. Balls will roll back as much as 50 feet. If one tries to take the swale out of play by going deeper into the green they bring a rear bunker complex into play. Due to a front right bunker set inside the hill on the side of the green and the bunker complex at the rear, there is a small peninsula-like area on the back right of the green setting up a difficult pin placement to access. One could argue this is one of the most interesting greens on the course, but one could make the case for their favorite green from any number of holes. Longer hitters will definitely go for this green in two but catching that swale will increase the chances of them having made only par as this green is perhaps as much as nine feet in height.
9. Par 3 – 163/145/134. This shorter par 3 has an amphitheater green with rocks placed surrounding it playing over the pond with a huge bunker just after the water eating to the edge of the green before peeling off again to the right. A very difficult bunker sits on the left side of the green set into the side of a rock bank. The right side has a raised bank that will send a ball back onto the green which is the way I played my tee shot with the ball disappearing for what seemed like five seconds before I saw it going horizontal across the green. A precise shot is required here that must be judged correctly as to line and length. This green can be very speedy and the break can often be under-estimated. Given this is the only hole with a pond which shimmers and reflects the clouds above, it is another visual delight.
10. Par 5 – 545/535/498. This hole is a dogleg right with an outer corner bunker for the tee shot. Those trying to cut the corner from the lower right side might miss the bunkers on the right awaiting them about 125 yards from the green edging up to the front. A final bunker is placed off to the right side of the green. The fairway is tilted to the right towards all of those bunkers although one could end up in a swale short of the final one. The green reminded me of some I saw at Wild Horse, with multiple waves and ripples which creates compelling and thoughtful putts. This green feels very different to the other greens on the course.
11. Par 3 – 140/134/125. This hole has a green of just over 4000 square feet, probably the smallest on the course. The eleventh is one of the prettiest inland par 3’s one will ever see perfectly framed by rocks, back-dropped by mountains, with the grass offset by white sand set below the raised green. The hole offers a narrow path to the green between the bunkers with a different right side bunker climbing up a hill beyond the green. This hole reminded me of Barnbougle Dunes with what seemed to be an enticing small target, but one that plays very different depending on the pin location which likely leads to a fair number of balls landing in the bunkers.
12. Par 4 – 423/396/357. This felt like the widest fairways from the tee. One can seemingly hit it anywhere but the lumpy fairway dictates more the right side. Longer hitters can gain yardage down the left. This is another plateau-like green with a substantial fall-off of the left side into a bunker placed below the green. The right side of this triangular green has two small bunkers with a final bunker placed on higher ground behind the green. The green has a perpendicular ridge creating a higher back section.
13. Par 3 – 227/215/169. I felt this par 3 played longer than the third as it is uphill. Large bunker fronts the green with another long irregular bunker set off to the left. We had a back right pin location that I thought I had cleverly gotten to between the bunkers until my ball fell into the right one. The green is large with a lot of inner slopes.
14. Par 4 – 492/472/439. This hole is a dogleg right with a semi-blind tee shot with a small central bunker that should not be in play as one should play out to the left. Bigger hitters will try to stay right to shorten the hole but they have to clear the large hill in which this central bunker is placed. The hill on the right creates a blind tee shot. There is a substantial opening between the bunkers that are on either side of the green with the left side bunker being perhaps 40 yards in length. The right front bunker sits below the green while going left or long will lead to a run-off from the raised green.
15. Par 5 – 617/601/548. The next to last par 5 offers one of the more compelling tee shots due to the plateau fairway on the right and long bunkers placed on lower ground below a rise on the left. This is a hole that needs to be navigated throughout as a thin wash dissects the fairway followed by a bunker on the right and a small one on the left that create the appearance of cross bunkers. While the hole is straight, one needs to play right, then left, then right to get to the green. The green has a natural wash set hard against the front with a long bunker down the right and two bunkers at the back left along with a substantial fall-off at the rear. For me, the hole played as two shots and then like a par 3 with an island green with a small back right location. This hole is a puzzle to be solved beginning with the blind tee shot.
16. Par 3 – 167/158/129. This features a stunning plateau green with so much sand on the right it gives the appearance of waves crashing against the shore. The sand on the right nearly covers the front of the green which it tilted back to front perhaps as much as three feet. There are substantial fall-offs around this hole with a small bunker at the rear and two placed on lower ground on the left. Going long over the hole can leave one’s ball rolling all the way to the desert perhaps 50 yards away with a blind uphill recovery shot to a green going away from you towards the danger one tried to avoid. I marveled at the precision required for the tee shot as well as the way the green seems to cut the mountains in the distance in half.
17. Par 4 – 326/299/283. After the perils of the two previous holes, seventeen feels like a breather given its length. A central bunker placed into a rise cuts diagonally across the fairway about 60 -50 yards from the green. Bigger hitters will try to drive between it and a bunker on the left of the green in order to reach the green. This is another triangular/heart-shaped green and is large for the length of the hole at over 15,000 square feet which made me again think of the Old Course at St. Andrews.
18. Par 5 – 589/570/535. The final hole is another good one with a blind drive. After cresting the hill one sees the Mazatzal Mountains and Four Peaks in the distance. For me the tilt of the land seemed to make the hole play as a dogleg left but if anything it goes slightly to the right although the green is placed into the hillside on the left. The approach shots for the longer hitters will likely come from a downhill lie while average length players will seek a level area about 80-100 yards from the green. We had a front middle pin position behind the bunker that covers most of the front of the fairway and all of the front of the green. This bunker wraps itself around the left and back of the green. There is a hill on the left side that draws one eye to it with rugged native plants but mainly rock, a rare time that rocks come into play. I got greedy and went for the forward pin and a gust of wind knocked down my ball two feet short of perfection into a buried lie. Despite a good bunker shot I missed the five feet putt for par but picked my ball out of the hole with a smile as I thoroughly enjoyed the hole.
Where does Scottsdale National The Other Course rank with other courses in the state? It does not have the natural differences in height and natural land features as many of the other courses in Arizona such as Stone Canyon, Whisper Rock, Desert Highlands, The Rim or Estancia, all of which have many holes built into or influenced by nearby mountains. (I have not yet played Forest Highlands Canyon). But at Scottsdale National the architects moved just enough dirt to create substantial land forms that look natural. Some of the tee shots are more difficult at these courses due to fairways that run out. But at The Other Course the green complexes are superior to all of these courses named although both courses at Whisper Rock have interesting greens as well. There is vastly more variety in the holes at The Other Course beginning with the 6-6-6 layout. The Other Course has a very good routing with essentially an outer loop and an inner loop reminding me of Muirfield meaning any wind is sometimes your friend or not, but always need to be considered. At The Other Course one feels as if they are not playing the same shot over and over, whether into the green, around the green or even when putting. The green complexes are varied in shape, size and contours on the greens. The bunkering throughout the course is just where it should be both in location, shape and size. Some greens restrict front access while others greens have openings, although these are often not what they appear to be due to sizeable swales.
As mentioned, it is one of the most fun golf courses I have ever played. That alone puts it at the top for me and makes me think about where it fits in the USA. If one were to critique the course, I think the only negative is that the land provided was essentially a blank canvas, similar to Desert Forest. The architects were not required to do a routing that considered how to work around large natural features or to get to the other side of a mountain or canyon, such as at Bel-Air or Estancia. They did not have to consider lakes or ponds or perhaps protected land for environmental purposes in order to do the layout. But I will not fault them for that, instead I hope they get many more opportunities for other courses just as I wish Mr. Parsons might acquire more land/more courses. Yet, if Mr. Parsons did so, it would be difficult to do better what was done here.
Hi Mark, Berkshire Red also has the Devilish 666 configuration - expect you’ve played there too.
The Old Course at the Homestead Resort in Virginia is also 6-6-6 - I believe that's the only one I've played. I would love to see more courses like that.
I should have remembered Berkshire Red as I have played there. At that time I preferred the Blue as I played both of them on the same day. I would love to get back there if there was not 200 other courses in the British Isles I am interested in playing.:) It is a fabulous club with two wonderful golf courses with both being very beautiful. Of the courses in that area that I have played, I probably need to get back to Woking as I did not see what others see.
As for the Old course at the Homestead, I did not recall that having the 6-6-6 as I thought either the third or fourth hole was a long par 4 but in looking at my personal master file I do see it as a par 72 instead of my thinking of it as a par 71. What I do remember is making a long downhill putt on the first to save par which led to it being the first course where I had four birdies in the round, and scoring my then lowest round of 74.
Thanks to both of you.
I had the opportunity to play this very exclusive course and it’s absolutely fantastic. The complex and the course is super high end and so well maintained. This course is a links style course with some of the biggest and most challenging greens I’ve ever played. The employees and caddies were phenomenal and extremely helpful and nice towards guests. 10/10... definitely worth playing.