Photo Review: Desert Forest Golf Club


  • Scottsdale, Arizona
  • Private
  • Robert Lawrence (1962)

One of the original desert courses still stands the test of time thanks to recent work from David Zinkand in 2013. A few greens were moved, and bunkering updated as well as green complexes slightly modified, but the classic routing stayed the same.

Desert Forest is one of the desert favorites in Scottsdale. My caddy at Estancia actually thought Desert Forest was the best course in the state, and while I’m not that high on it (my vote is still Estancia) it’s quite good, and Estancia is the only course I have ahead. It’s a player golf course, but it’s fair, and still quite difficult. The greens are quite fast, the architecture is also quite good, specifically the green complexes, and used the land given quite well. Let’s get into the holes!

Front Nine

The approach to the 404 yard par 4, 1st, plays slightly uphill to a devilish green complex
Simplicity is Desert Forest’s biggest strength, as shown by the par 4, 2nd’s green complex
Just a mid or short iron at 171 yards, the par 3, 3rd is a beautiful hole
An accessible green complex, not without its defence, awaits the player at the 441 yard par 4, 4th
Looking up at the 464 yard par 4, 5th
The approach to the par 4, 6th at the Forest
Perhaps the best hole here, the par 5, 7th has a double fairway off the tee, then crossing the desert wash to another low profile, yet well undulated green complex
The 231 yard, par 3, 8th is a difficult hole near the end of the front side
The superb green complex at the reachable-in-two 9th

Back Nine

The 10th plays similar to the 1st, but angles, depending on the pin location, matter here with a slightly bigger and wider green complex
While there could be more room off the tee here to give more options, there is still enough room for the player to feel comfortable, as shown by the tee shot here at the 594 yard, par 5 11th
An elevated green running away on all sides awaits the player with a full 194 yards at the 12th
The 466 yard, par 4 13th bends slightly to the left
The 14th is a drivable par 4 at 329 yards, with a ridge running through the fairway into the right side of the green, making a harsh fall off on the right side of the bunker in the distance
A difficult tee shot at the 435 yard, par 4 15th to what feels like a sliver of grass in the desert has actually more room than you think
An interesting tree in the middle of the fairway on the 535 yard, par 5 16th. This hole has a splendid tee shot that unfortunately a camera couldn’t capture well!
The final par 3 and the penultimate hole at Desert Forest plays 169 yards
As expected from a course rated 75.5/149, the closing hole, over rolling desert terrain, is no slouch at 467 yards

Desert golf is associated with boring, similar style golf courses and over penalizing for missing the fairway, and while Desert Forest is perhaps a bit of the last one at times, it is anything but your typical desert golf course. There’s nothing boring here, nothing similar or stale–just a classic golf course. It’s one of the best walks in the desert I’ve seen to this point, and one of the few courses in Phoenix I would jump at the opportunity to return to (so far, only Estancia, Apache Stronghold, and We-Ko-Pa Saguaro are the other three). If you’re an architecture guy like myself, Desert Forest is not to be missed on a trip to the desert.

I will say that Desert Forest may be too penal at times, and could use a little bit more width off the tee just for playability and options, but for the member playing from the correct tees it’s still generous enough to get around. Just be prepared to have to stripe it from the back tee boxes!

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