The Talking Stick Resort is in a rare class with Bandon Dunes (and that’s usually a good thing), featuring two Coore & Crenshaw routes available to the public. The O’odham course tends to generate more chatter at Talking Stick but the shorter Piipash is an ample display of golf course architecture to round out a day for GCA enthusiasts.
Piipash is also somewhat a rarity for the C&C design firm, who have been known for a minimalism above all. Although O’odham features no “extra” hazards, Piipash brings a more traditional casino course vibe with a pair of man-made ponds that come into play on a range of holes. Don’t expect any island greens, however. Coore and Crenshaw maximize strategy over heroism.
That said, if you feel like playing the hero is your best move, you’ll have an opportunity. No. 16 is a par five that offers the best approach angle to those who carry the crossing creek, rather than play it safe. There is less penalty but equal excitement at No. 14, another par five that dares big hitters to carry desert wash to reach an alternative fairway...cutting the distance significantly on this 540-yard hole.
I hate to say it, but as a lover of Coore and Crenshaw this course is my least favorite of the dozen or so of theirs that I've played. It's supposed to be a second course at a resort, good for people staying at the hotel for whom golf is just an additive. There's not many unique holes or interesting green complexes as compared to the North course.
The Piipaash course at the Talking Stick Casino/Hotel/Resort designed by Bill Coore & Ben Crenshaw is a very average golf course suitable more for people who rarely play. This is a bad choice to play for avid golfers, particularly those interested in golf architecture. Nearly every green is sloped back to front and the only question is which way is the tilt. The only real variety I found in the greens were on eight which is slightly crowned, ten with a false front, twelve with a swale on the left front to send balls into the bunker, and thirteen with a raised “island” green.
To be fair, the land is flat and uninteresting yet I know many outstanding golf courses built on a flat piece of land.
The only two holes I liked were nine, a par 3 of 177/155 to a slightly raised green and thirteen, another par 3 which has a raised green and is well surrounded by bunkers. Some of my playing partners also liked fourteen, a par 5 requiring one to carry a chasm.
For people coming from out-of-town give this one a miss and play the O’Odham or go elsewhere, even if staying at the casino.
When one thinks of Coore/Crenshaw designing Sand Hills, Bandon Trails, Streamsong Red, Cabot Cliffs, and Frair’s Head, it is hard to even fathom how this course could have possibly happened unless one assumes the purpose was to provide a public option for people who rarely play or for those who like to walk without any effort.
The names Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw usually mean connection to top quality designs. Not so here. I concur with the previous review because the Piipaash Course is like flat beer -- there's no meaningful taste.
No doubt when you have a boring piece of terrain it will take some real imagination to get the juices flowing from the player's perspective. Sometimes the mantra of "less is more" will result in an outcome where "less is actually less."
Clearly, the greens are the defense of the course but the shotmaking requirements leading up to them is simply pedestrian stuff.
It would be most interesting to see Coore and Crenshaw return and attempt to give the Piipaash a bit of a makeover. For those who are enamored with the architectural duo the only real golf option on property is the course next door -- the 18-hole O'odham layout.
Given the quality of golf that lies throughout the area it's best to head elsewhere.
M. James Ward
Coore and Crenshaw are often lauded as one of the best golf course architects of the last 20 years and their courses appear in the top 100 rankings of many publications.
Where there is a top, there is a bottom and after having played half of their courses, this course is at the bottom. Whereas its sister North course has intriguing challenges off the tee some sloping to keep you honest and solid green complexes, the South course offers a golfer nothing but flat terrain with "tricked up" water hazards which really seem out of place in desert golf.
It is a shame because the North course, on similar terrain, offers a much more enjoyable day and doesn't deserve to be thrown in with the South. The South isn't all bad, some of the bunkering complexes are interesting and as a resort course, it is in fantastic shape during any season but overall, I would recommend playing the North course a few times if you are doing a stay-and-play and leave the South course out of your plans.