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Courses at Talking Stick in Scottsdale, Arizona feature minimalist golf and maximum enjoyment

World Golf: Courses at Talking Stick in Scottsdale, Arizona Feature Minimalist Golf and Maximum Enjoyment 
by David R. Holland, Senior Writer -- 

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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The 36-hole Talking Stick Golf Club complex -- built on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian community -- has been a premiere example of minimalistic course architecture since opening in 1998.

Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, two of the most respected authors of minimalistic design, crafted the courses here. There's nothing cookie-cutter about Talking Stick, according to Coore.

"One of the things we are most proud of is that every one of our designs are different," Coore said. "Minimalism is just a current catch phrase. We try to let the site dictate our design. If we are designing a course in Hawaii, the course is going to look like Hawaii. Go to Sand Hills in Nebraska and it is totally different. We take what is given to us and lay it as quietly on a piece of ground as we can."

The Talking Stick design "uses the flow of the land and never feels artificial," General Manager Steve Leonard said. "There are no houses and you feel the remoteness of it even though the city is very close.

"Golfers love the character of the golf courses."

In 2014 Talking Stick was voted the no. 1 golf course in Arizona by readers of Ranking Arizona, a list devoted to "The Best of Arizona Business." It's a gem for walkers as there are wide fairways, deep bunkers and fast greens.

Talking Stick Golf Club's North Course
The North Course at Talking Stick, a 7,133-yard par 70, presents golfers with views of Papago Buttes, Red Mountain, the McDowell Mountains and Pinnacle Peak, with a flat landscape. You will see palo verde trees, creosote and mesquite and coyotes and wild horses have been spotted by many golfers.

"There's an element of strategy here," Leonard said. "You must take the correct angles to hit your approaches close, and the greens are subtle and run 11 on the Stimpmeter. To putt well stay below the hole, but there is no Valley effect. You just need to play it a few times to become better on the greens."

Grip-it-and-rip-it golfers are going to love the North's 72-yard-wide fairway on the 552-yard, par-5 second hole. There are no bunkers until you reach the putting surface, and the entrance to the green is wide open.

Coore describes the North Course as open, windswept, low profile and a course that encourages you to play a lot of different shots, depending on what angle you take. One can fly the ball to the hole, roll it from off the greens, chip and run -- anything your imagination can handle. The greens are only slightly crowned.

You will use that imagination on the 12th, a 392-yard par 4 called Red Mountain Gambler. A huge waste bunker and ravine dissects the entire hole, with just a tiny target left, bordered by a barbed-wire fence that is OB. The smart play is to the huge fairway segment right, which appears as a dogleg left on the yardage sheet.

Talking Stick Golf Club's South Course
The South Course at Talking Stick is 6,833 yards at par 71. Coore said this one is more straightforward. What you see on the tee will tell you what to do. It is more parkland style, with trees and water, but you know where to play.

The South also features subtle elevation changes, fingered bunkers, tiered landscaping and native cottonwoods and hardwoods.

Talking Stick Resort
The huge Talking Stick Resort next door is a Four-Diamond Scottsdale property, with 240,000 square feet of entertainment and luxury. Rooms include free Wi-Fi and a Southwestern design with many types of suites available. Panoramic views can be found at the award-winning Orange Sky Restaurant and the Wandering Horse Buffet is superb. There's also Vegas-style entertainment and local favorites as they take the stage in the TSR Showroom. The Spa at Talking Stick will host you for a relaxing spa treatment overlooking views of the Valley.

The resort is also home to Arizona's largest poker room, known as The Arena Poker Room. It features Texas Hold 'em, Omaha and Seven-Card Stud, as well as daily, weekly and monthly tournaments.

Fairway to Heaven is the stay-and-play golf package, but Talking Stick also has Major League Baseball spring training, romance and spa packages.

First Tee at Talking Stick
Talking Stick has a brand-new designation as a First Tee program host, the first of its kind on tribal lands. Vision54 provides golf instruction.

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