What makes golf in Arizona so memorable? Arizona. Much of the credit goes to the spellbinding Southwestern topography beyond the fairways. Golf courses in every region of the state celebrate their natural surroundings as much as they do the challenges at hand.

Sightseers have been coming to Arizona for nearly a century to get up close and personal with the landscape. In the state’s vast and varied geography the Sonoran Desert floor bonds with alpine mountain ranges. Saguaros give way to Ponderosa pines.

Visitors trek into these matchless surroundings to hike canyons, climb buttes, drink in fresh air and sunshine…and play golf.

Do not look up. In Arizona the cardinal rule of golf is a tall order. Standing over a crucial shot, golfers on these layouts are just as apt to find themselves staring in awe at the captivating panoramas, best observed from the vantage point of an elevated tee or perched green.

Slope and course ratings aside, this mix of Arizona golf courses puts the topography in play for a look and feel exclusive to Arizona golf.

Eight golf courses to see (and play) in Greater Phoenix

The desert layout at The Phoenician Golf Club climbs high onto Camelback Mountain. From the fairways of this prominent Phoenix landmark, the elevated view is a sweeping cityscape of much of the metropolitan Phoenix area.

The Southwestern ambiance golfers enjoy at Grayhawk Golf Club gains an extra dimension with the pervasive McDowell Mountains as the backdrop behind fairways, lakes and the fabulous clubhouse patio.

In the foothills that separate Scottsdale and Fountain Hills, SunRidge Canyon Golf Club carries players right up to the surrounding desert terrain. As the course descends through a canyon, respite comes with a wide-open desert panorama before the back nine climbs through another ravine to the clubhouse.

In the same area, Eagle Mountain Golf Club hugs the edge of the McDowell Mountains foothills, overlooking the entire East Valley of Greater Phoenix.

Etched into the Usery Mountains east of Mesa, the elevated tees on Las Sendas Golf Club set up commanding views of the distant Phoenix skyline. Other holes play directly into Spook Hill, the area’s most prominent natural feature.

In Goodyear, in the far southwest corner of the Phoenix metropolis, the desert golf experience at Golf Club of Estrella blends with the sublime desert terrain in a way that does not overpower the course, but awes those playing it.

Twenty-three miles northeast of Phoenix, the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation’s We-Ko-Pa Golf Club layout pays tribute to the Four Peaks mountain range across the Verde River to the east. With no real estate developments to impede the majestic expanse, the club stakes its claim on the sweeping desert panorama that takes in the ubiquitous Superstition Mountains and the famed Weaver’s Needle in the distance.

The Superstitions are highlighted in all their glory at Gold Canyon Golf Resort. Stretched out at their base, the back nine on the Dinosaur Mountain course takes players on a manicured, yet thrilling, ride through the desert wilderness.

Gorgeous golf in Tucson & Southern Arizona

golf-0002.pngDesert mountain ranges surround metropolitan Tucson and dominate the vibrant golf scene that stretches from Marana to Rio Rico.

The Santa Catalina Mountains loom over the La Paloma Country Club. Set high in the Tucson Foothills, the view takes in the city then stretches over all of southern Arizona and on into Mexico.

From the western slope of the Santa Catalinas, the rugged outcroppings on Pusch Ridge in Oro Valley captivate golfers at The Golf Club at Vistoso.

Farther south – in the community of Green Valley – the picturesque Santa Rita Mountains and the Santa Cruz River Valley are the distant focal points of a number of high-desert golf courses. Golfers in the area looking for great views head to Haven Golf Course, Quail Creek Country Club, Canoa Hills Golf Club or Canoa Ranch, San Ignacio, Desert Hills or Torres Blancas golf clubs.

Not-to-miss courses in Arizona’s high country

golf-0001.pngA complete tour of Arizona’s scenic courses must include a round in the stately Ponderosa pines of Northern Arizona, as well as a trip to Sedona’s Red Rock Country.

Before the train leaves from Williams for the Grand Canyon, work in a round at Elephant Rocks Golf Club, named for the unusual natural rock formations at the entrance to the property. From the elevated 18th tee, the view of Bill Williams Mountain defines high-country golf in Arizona.

At Oakcreek Country Club in Sedona, famed sandstone buttes frame the quintessential red rock golf experience. Play gets you a close-up view of Bell and Cathedral rocks.

Just a few miles away, Sedona Golf Resort sashays up a mesa to one of the most photographed golf holes in Arizona, which offers a sweeping vista of pristine red-rock formations.

Lake Powell backs up behind Glen Canyon Dam and the Vermillion Cliffs in the high desert region along the Utah border. In Page, this surreal coming together of sky, rock and water serves as the dramatic backdrop for Lake Powell National Golf Course.

Turning south after the Grand Canyon, the Colorado River serves as the recreational mecca locals call Arizona’s West Coast. In Parker, the river borders Emerald Canyon Golf Course, where fairways cut through mesas of red clay resembling the Painted Desert.

Who would have thought? Arizona golf even makes the subject of geography more memorable.