Whisper Rock Golf Club is tucked away in the north Scottsdale desert. This private members facility is accessed via the guard-gated entrance to a residential community which just so happens to have two fine golf courses in their collection.
The Lower course (2001) was the first course to open on the Whisper Rock property and it was also the first course designed by Phil Mickelson. The second course, the Upper, was fashioned by Tom Fazio in 2005 and is the centrepiece of Whisper Rock. Billed as “the Pine Valley of the southwest”, the 7,118-yard Upper course certainly has a label to live up to and, while it will never be Pine Valley, Whisper Rock is about as good as desert golf gets.
Key to scoring well and maintaining a prickle free round is to keep the ball in play as rough desert and spiky cacti surround most holes. Once you have negotiated the forced carries, there’s plenty of generous fairway width to play with. Where the Upper course asks questions is at the approach shot which often requires pinpoint accuracy in order to avoid the desert and find the playing surfaces. It’s better to be in a greenside bunker than in the Arizona scrub with the cacti and lizards!
Membership to Whisper Rock is by invitation only and there are only around 300 members and 20 of these are golf professionals including tour pros Phil Mickelson (who clearly enjoys playing on his own creation), Tim Herron and Billy Mayfair. Apparently the average handicap at Whisper Rock Golf Club is a very respectable 8.
For some reason, courses in Arizona have a tough time cracking the top 100 or 200 course ratings. That always seemed puzzling to me as I think they are totally underrated. On my last trip, I had the lucky chance to play some of the nicer private tracks in Scottsdale but Whisper Rock (Upper) stood at as the best golf course I played.
It is what you would expect from a higher end club, beautiful range, great food, top notch service. What was beyond expectations was how great the course flows.
Every par 3 was a photo opportunity but where the course really stands out is on the back 9.
Holes that stood out,
9 - Par 5 that is surprisingly reachable with a good tee shot
13 - Terrific risk/reward par 4 with a very tough green
14 - Gorgeous par 3 that favours keeping the ball to the right
18 - Tough hole where water gets into your psyche
If you get the invite to "The Rock", take it immediately, you will not be disappointed.
If the Upper course at Whisper Rock stood out as the best golf course the reviewer played in N.Scottsdale, he apparently didn't play Desert Highlands!