The 36-hole facility is east of Highway 101 and is located on land that really doesn't provide much differentiation. The word "subtle" is often used to describe the design but one can as easily apply the word "lackluster" too. Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, the talented design tandem, have done a number of stellar designs but the finished product at Talking Stick North simply underwhelms. To the credit of Crenshaw and Coore, they did not attempt to superimpose an amazing amount of earth moving in order to provide some form of artificial differentiation which would stick out in a garish manner.
The par-5 2nd is a solid example of a hole that appears easy but will bite quite quick and hard for the over aggressive play as out-of-bounds on the left side follows the entire length of the hole and then comes extremely close to the green. Those going for the putting surface in two shots cannot pull or hook their attempt without risking a big number on the scorecard.
There's nothing per se bad about the course but there's nothing that really stirs the blood either. Sometime when minimalism is used the idea that "less is more" can result in "less is less."
One of my favorite holes is the superb par-4 12th hole. The challenge is deciding one's line of attack. You can play to the wider and safer right side -- or opt to take a more direct line that features a far longer carry and greater risk with out-of-bounds again on the left side hugging ever nearby and a desert wash that runs parallel to the line of play.
The issue for Talking Stick's North Course is that the bar for golf in the Valley of the Sun has risen dramatically with various facilities at sites that include a full range of epic shotmaking challenges and visual stimulations.
The desire to include two 18-hole courses on the property meant a number of holes at the North running parallel to one another and follow a north/south dynamic. There are moments of note when playing the North Course but they are often so muted to be more in the shadows than what might have been.
by M. James Ward
Date: July 28, 2017