Scottsdale National Golf Club
Arizona, United States of America

Eleventh hole, 135 yards, Blind Squirrel; Tim Jackson, David Kahn and Scott Hoffman are grateful for what they learned while working for Tom Fazio and they certainly appreciate the role that aesthetics play in the overall experience. Thus, the three men spent a lot of time on the composition of each hole. Parsons got what he bargained for in that the three men were on site 6 1/2 days out of the week during the fifteen month build process. That kind of time on site directly led to many postcard worthy moments and more importantly, to so many holes that play as good as they look, including here.

The architects seized advantage of the opportunity to build a tiny target, knowing that the course would likely receive less than 5,000 rounds per annum. A hole like this would be a poor fit on a heavily trafficked resort course.

Twelfth hole, 395 yards, Coyote; Desert golf can be fairly straightforward: hit it anywhere but the desert! Therefore, it is refreshing to find a course like The Other Course where the golfer is given gobs of short grass and the question shifts from what not to do but rather can the golfer discern what to do. The twelfth is one such hole and it descends worry-free downhill to one of the course’s widest fairways, stretching 130 yards (!) from side to side. Not that there are any cramped moments at Scottsdale National but this is an especially fine time to swing out. Of course, complications ensue. One is the lumpy fairway, where the more level lies are afforded only to those that steer right of the green off the tee or lay-up short down the left; those that bomb away directly at the flag are guaranteed a hanging lie. Additionally, the hole location on the triangular green has a great deal to say as to where one should place the drive. Essentially, the twelfth is wildly irritating in that the architects provide more than ample room and in so doing, they analyse the golfer’s mind. The resulting report card is often unflattering.

The day’s hole location dictates what part of the immense 12th fairway the player should seek from the tee.

Fourteenth hole, 470 yards, Javelina; Was all the earth works warranted? That is tantamount to asking, did it create a special environment and did it add to the golf? As to the first question, the photographs included in this profile speak to that. As for the second question, the golfer standing on the fourteenth tee sees a sloping hillside with a small pit carved into it. A big thump with the driver will have the golfer over it and if he is bold enough to clear the highest point of the slope, he is rewarded with the ideal angle into the green, which is of the pushed-up variety. Putts from above the hole jangle the nerves of even the smoothest putters. From flat land emerged a memorable blind drive over the brow of a hill and another green pad that rewards proper placement. Did the earth works enhance the golf? You bet.

The aggressive line is just right of the pit bunker …

… as that line leaves the golfer looking up the spine of the green, as captured in this photograph from Gary Kellner’s drone behind the green. The hard, offset nature of the front left bunker works in concert with the tee ball to create the hole’s playing interest.

Fifteenth hole, 600 yards, Rattler; The word ‘journey’ cuts both ways. Depending on the state of one’s game, it can mean something long and arduous or if by some miracle the swing is cooperating, it can portend  a grand adventure. So it is here with the golfer hoping his game holds up in the later stages of the round as he needs to hop, skip, and jump across various features on this admirable, rambling three shotter that bends left off the tee and heads toward Cholla Mountain. The fifteenth exemplifies that hazards directly in the line of play are far more satisfying to conquer than those meaninglessly found on the sides of fairways as on so many other desert designs.

Another appealing uphill drive, the ideal tee ball is a draw around the central bunker ….

… which leaves the golfer facing a carry over the diagonal cross bunkers as seen from above …

… and at ground level.

If successful, the final task is a pitch over a federally protected 404 natural wash. Of note, the first four par 5s are quite receptive to running approach shots from ~240 yards out while the final two feature greens that are sealed off across the front.

Sixteenth hole, 160 yards, Yellow Jacket; The sixteenth tee happens to be one of the prettiest spots on the property to the point where the golfer may be lulled into a false sense of comfort with harebrained decisions soon to follow. After all, the hole isn’t terribly long and the green is over 9,000 square feet. What could go wrong? Several things. The imaginative use of islands in the great fronting hazard stimulates less than straightforward recovery play. Having lost that battle more than once, the member naturally steers away. Yet, the oblique angle of the green to the tee makes it a more slender target than one realizes. A shot that drifts just a bit long is carried away by short, tight grass, leaving the golfer an uphill chip … to a green that speeds away … toward the very hazard he sought to avoid. It is a great match play hole – and it is aptly named too – as the hole can sting.

The last of the six one shotters is every bit as hard as it is handsome. It is no accident that the green pad was built up just the right amount to show off the Superstition Mountains in the distance. Weaver’s Needle is the jagged point left of the flag.

This October 2018 photograph shows how the desert floor plantings have filled in nicely in just a few years.

The green is big and the bunker is larger but it is the slope away from the green on the left that can undo the player.

Seventeenth hole, 300 yards, Butterfly; The initials for The Other Course are T.O.C., which also happen to be the ones for the The Old Course at St. Andrews. Aesthetically and chronologically, the two couldn’t be more different but from a design philosophy perspective, similarities are rife. Both enjoy memorable hazards that punctuate wide fairways and immense, rolling greens. The first and last fairways are shared. Both are spacious enough to allow all caliber of players to enjoy themselves by tacking around the hazards, and the art of the recovery shot is alive and well. The set-ups are enormously flexible: when hole locations are moved to the more vexing perimeter locations, even the tiger struggles at both. The penultimate hole at T.O.C. in Arizona reminds the author of an amalgamation of the irritating qualities of the drivable tenth and twelfth holes at St. Andrews. One would like to think that a three could be had but more times than not, that proves to be wishful thinking. What a great place in the round to find a hole of this length.

The start of the gigantic central bunker is 60 yards from the front edge of the putting surface. Meanwhile, …

… the back of the bunker extends past the front of the green.

At a whooping 15,535 square feet, the 17th green poses the same time honored challenge as those at St. Andrews and Yale, namely, can the golfer get his second shot close when the target is so large?

There is large and there is very large!

Eighteenth hole, 570 yards, Mountain Lion; As we have seen numerous times, the three architects delight in providing temptation with the fruit just out of reach. The final drive is fittingly blind over the crest of a hill and sure enough, that implies that the tee ball will receive a helpful scoot forward, thus bringing the green within reach. As he crests the hill, an alluring scene unfolds below with the green nobly offset by sand and rock, the PXG clubhouse in the near background and the Mazatzal Mountains and Four Peaks in the distance. And yet … now what? The golfer might be within reach of the green with a 3 wood but almost assuredly, he will be striking the blow from a slightly downhill stance. Muddling matters, the green is tightly bunkered front and left and the putting surface is one of only a handful that measures under 6,000 square feet. Should one have a go? Perhaps, especially as an up and down isn’t unreasonable from the front bunker. Creating further uncertainty, the architects smoothed over a patch of fairway some 80-100 yards from the green. A near perfect stance is afforded there and the pitch is within most golfers’s ability. Which tactics – aggressive/attacking or thoughtful/prudent – are better rewarded over a playing season? The jury is still out. One thing is for sure: the tempting questions it poses are a microcosm for the rest of the design and highlights why this is a course that you would like to play all the time as you can’t help but enjoy your chess match in the desert with the architects.

As seen from 240 yards out, can the golfer get enough height off with his second to hold the green? Or …

… should he seek this nice level area 80 yards from the green?

What a day of golf. The Other Course couldn’t be more different than The Bad Little Nine. It is ‘inclusive’ architecture whereby literally everyone can have fun while The Bad Little Nine thrives on its pugnacious nature. Good on the owner for wanting two distinct offerings and on the architects for seamlessly delivering. A drink by one of the fire pits concludes an exhilarating time.

Given the backdrop of being built from nothing, comparisons to Shadow Creek are unavoidable, especially given the Jackson Kahn relationship with Fazio. Kahn and Hoffman even worked on the 2007 renovation of Shadow Creek. Big picture, similarities abound in that both are feats of engineering whereby a beautiful golf environment arose from a flat, featureless landscape. Rick Holanda was the Green Keeper at both. Two strong-willed owners each got what they wanted. Neither Shadow Creek nor Scottsdale National are crowded and even if they were, the golfer is more times than not cocooned in his own playing corridor while still enjoying views of distant mountains. In terms of differences, the holes at Scottsdale hit the ground in a greater variety of ways. When the architects had a rare chance to naturally find an ‘up and over’ hole like at the fifth, they did. When they didn’t, they created many fine blind drives including at the eighth, fourteenth, fifteenth and eighteenth. Additionally, there are more central hazards at Scottsdale National. At the greens, the putting surfaces at Scottsdale National are more diverse than those at Shadow Creek but that’s true over almost any course one can name. After all, how many courses feature greens that range in size from 4,000 to 21,000 square feet, where two of the greens (e.g. the fifth and eighth) have changes in elevation more than a man is tall, where one is a semi-punchbowl (e.g. the fourth) and where another features a horseshoe configuration?! Overall, out of ten rounds, the author would divide his time seven rounds at Scottsdale National and three rounds at Shadow Creek.

What lies ahead for Jackson Kahn? Hopefully, plenty as they marry an appreciation of strategic golf to aesthetics. Kahn’s favorite architect is Mike Strantz who took chances and didn’t pander to everyone’s sensibilities. Kahn points out that all great holes from the Road Hole to eight at Pebble Beach feature unconventional elements and that architects need to take chances. Kahn notes, ‘While we are very appreciative of what has gone before us, our goal isn’t to replicate what has already been done. We strive to put our own stamp on things and if we are successful, perhaps others will ultimately want to borrow from our work.’ That kind of creative mindset has the author keen to see what follows.

Hats off to Parsons for giving Jackson Kahn such a grandiose opportunity. Few people would have had the guts to trust a young firm with such a massive undertaking. Just like PXG makes ‘clubs unlike any other’, Jackson Kahn created courses unlike any other – and golf wins.

GolfClubAtlas again thanks Gary Kellner with Dimpled Rock Photography for the use of his photographs throughout this profile. 

The End