[Editor’s Update: As of February 2009, Apache Stronghold was closed until further notice.]
A few years ago, when a major golf magazine selected Tom Doak’s Apache Stronghold as the No.1 golf course in Arizona, we knew we had to make the two-hour drive east from Scottsdale to the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation to see if it was truly a “must play” on a Scottsdale Golf Vacation. After our round, we had only one question: What were they thinking?
When we visited, the grass was thin and the overall maintenance was far below Scottsdale’s standards. More importantly, it wasn’t nearly as picturesque as, say, We-Ko-Pa or Troon North. That said, Apache Stronghold is a superb design that often costs half as much as first-rate courses in Scottsdale.
Doak deftly incorporated the natural elements and features of the terrain into his design. Desert ridges, valleys, and washes wind through the course and form most of the hazards. And, although the course stretches to 7,519 yards with a slope rating of 138, it is extremely accommodating for most players.
It is not heavily bunkered and short hitters playing from the proper tees are not burdened by forced carries. In addition, Apache Stronghold has generous, level fairways and accessible greens, which help keep things moving. Doak also set out paths between greens and tees to encourage walking.
There is excellent variety to the game on this very fine course, yet it hardly deserves the title, “best in Arizona.” If you’re in the area, by all means, play it. But we can’t recommend making a special excursion from a Scottsdale, Arizona golf vacation to do so. It appears the magazine agrees; as it now has the course ranked in the middle of the pack.
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