The Boulders is one of the finest golf resorts in the Western US with two championship courses, the North and the South designed by Jay Moorish in the mid-1980s. Built in the foothills of the Sonoran desert covering 1300 acres, both courses feature scenic views of the Black Mountains, natural desert terrain peppered with native saguaro cacti and rock formations. Large mildly undulating and consistently well-conditioned greens are the norm here. One of a handful of public access courses in Arizona with bent grass greens, the courses alternate between member access and public access daily.
Wildlife is abundant. You may be sharing your round with coyote, bobcats, quail, ducks, owls, roadrunners, and a resort favorite – the pig-like javelina. The Boulders Resort itself is a high-quality Hilton property with separate rustic casitas hosting wood-burning fireplaces, a 33,000 square foot spa and a variety of desert adventure activities. It’s worth staying on-property. A multi-million renovation was completed in 2016. It is one of only two Gold Medal resorts in the Scottsdale area, as rated by GOLF Magazine.
The thirty-six holes were built nine-holes at a time. Jay Morris completed both the third nine (1984) and the final nine (1992). He worked with Robert Trent Jones, Nicklaus and Weiskopf before striking out on his own. The Boulders was his first solo design. “The Boulders afforded me the chance to create a sort of desert Pine Valley with a lot of forced carries for the good players,” Morrish said. Although desert carries are frequent, five sets of tees ensure that they can be reasonable if you select the correct tees for your skill level. Otherwise, it won’t be much fun.
The Boulders North Course
The North Course opened with the original lounge/restaurant in January 1984. It lacks the consistently stunning scenery of the South. There are no impossible forced carries (from the correct tees), the fairways are generous, so it’s not as easy to blow up your score. But the greenside bunkering is extensive, and the longer back nine has a bite. Although this course is more playable for the higher handicaps than the South Course, it remains a significant challenge. If the North Course is your first experience at the Boulders, you will come away totally impressed.
When you see on the card that the North Course opens with a Par5, you think that’s a great way to start, and perhaps an early birdie is in the cards. When you arrive at the first tee and see the forced carry and accuracy required, you realize you’ll be thrilled with a par.
This course often requires careful placement of the tee shot in the fairway for the best approach. On the fifth hole, a well-placed tree guards the entire left side of the green requiring a towering high approach.
On the eighth hole, a rock outcropping guards the left side of the fairway.
On the long Par4 eleventh hole, an accurate tee shot will launch between two steep cacti.
Water only comes into play on two holes on the North Course. The Par3 Hole #14 is over water from the rear tee and just a tiny fairway slice on other teeing grounds.
The Boulders is a tranquil and exhilarating experience at the same time. You are treated well. The North Course is more playable than the South Course. The South course is more scenic and challenging. You will rave about both. It’s not inexpensive, but it’s worth it. It’s a Troon managed course, so Troon Prive and Troon Advantage members get great discounts.