Best golf courses in Arizona, according to GOLF Magazine’s expert course raters

we-koo-pa golf club

We-Ko-Pa is a must-play when visiting Arizona.

Lonna Tucker/We-Ko-Pa Golf Club

For every great course that made GOLF’s 2020-21 ranking of the Top 100 Courses in the U.S., dozens of more must-plays were left on the outside looking in — including at least a handful in your home state. Some of these designs just missed out on a Top 100 nomination, others finished deeper down the ranking, but all are worthy of your time. To shed light on the best courses in every state, we broke out the full results of our Top 100 Courses polling into state-by-state lists. Here’s a closer look at Arizona.

Arizona golf by the numbers:

Number of courses and U.S. rank: 369 (15)*
Number of golfers per capita rank: 11*
Average public-course greens fees: $$$ out of $$$*
Average daily temp and rank: 60.3 (10)
Annual precipitation and rank: 13.6 in. (47)

*Source: National Golf Foundation

Best Arizona golf courses (2020/2021)

1. Forest Highlands – Canyon (Flagstaff)

2. Desert Forest (Carefree)

3. Estancia (Scottsdale)

4. We-Ko-Pa – Saguaro (Fort McDowell) [P]

Book a tee time at We-Ko-Pa.

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5. Scottsdale National – The Other Course (Scottsdale)

6. Desert Highlands (Scottsdale)

7. Whisper Rock – Upper (Scottsdale)

8. Whisper Rock – Lower (Scottsdale)

Forest Highlands’ Canyon course is spectacular. Courtesy

9. Pine Canyon (Flagstaff)

10. Talking Stick – O’odham (Scottsdale) [3, P]

Book a tee time at Talking Stick.

11. Desert Mountain – Chiricahua (Scottsdale)

12. Troon CC (Scottsdale)

13. Stone Canyon (Oro Valley)

14. The Rim (Payson)

15. Apache Stronghold (San Carlos) [P]

Book a tee time at Apache Stronghold.


1 = GOLF Top 100 Course in the U.S.
2 = GOLF Top 100 Course in the World
3 = GOLF Top 100 Resort
P = Resort/public golf course

Ed. note: Some courses were omitted from our rankings because they did not receive enough votes.

Course spotlight: We-Ko-Pa (Saguaro) in Scottsdale, ranked 4th in Arizona. There is a concept in golf architecture that posits that the ideal course is more challenging for more skilled players and more playable for the average golfer. How many courses really accomplish this goal? Not many. Pinehurst No. 2 comes to mind. Talking Stick sits on one of the flattest pieces of ground of any quality golf course. Yet Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw created a course of much strategic interest, and the Course Rating of 2.6 over par tells you it offers plenty of challenge to the scratch player, while the 124 slope indicates a relatively gentle ride for the rest of us.  — GOLF Top 100 Course Rater

A beautiful desert vista at Troon Country Club. Courtesy

How we rank America’s best golf courses

For the newly released 2020-21 U.S. list, each panelist was provided a list of 489 courses. Beside that list of courses were 11 “buckets,” or groupings. If our panelists considered a course to be among the top three in the country, they ticked that box. If they believed the course to be among Nos. 4-10 in the U.S., they checked that box, followed by 11-25, 26-50, and so on.

Panelists were also free to write in courses that they felt should have been included on the ballot (we had fewer than a handful of such additions in the U.S. vote).

Points were assigned to each bucket; to arrive at an average score for each course, we divide its aggregate score by the number of votes. From those point tallies, the courses are then ranked accordingly. It is an intentionally simple and straightforward process. Why? Because it invariably produces results that are widely lauded. Like the game itself, there’s no need to unnecessarily overcomplicate things.

For much more on how we rate courses, click or tap here.

Meet our course raters

We empower and hold accountable a group of 97 well-traveled — and well-connected — golfers/aficionados, each capable of expressing their own sense of design excellence at the highest level. The group is seasoned and experienced — we look for raters who know what’s out there, what’s changing and what’s coming down the pike. And from judging posts across four continents, our panelists are positioned to place courses from different regions around the globe into proper context, one of the main reasons GOLF’s Top 100 Courses rankings are the most esteemed in the game.

Other ranking outlets employ thousands of raters. Our less-is-more approach creates a more meaningful and thoughtful list. Think about it: When you plan a golf trip, do you call every golfer you know for their take? No. You contact a handful of people whose opinions you value most.

Meet our full crew of panelists here.

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