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Scramble in Scottsdale

The Boulders Club
34831 N. Tom Darlington Drive, Carefree; 480-488-9028 (wyndham.com). North course yardage: 6,811. Par: 72. Slope: 137. South course yardage: 6,726. Par: 71. Slope: 140. Architects: Arthur Jack Snyder and Robert Lawrence (North course original design); Jay Morrish (North course redesign and South course). Green fees: $75-$240. Walking: Yes.

T&L GOLF Rating: ****1/2

Fifteen miles north of downtown Scottsdale is The Boulders, the triumphant affirmation of distinctive target golf that bobs and weaves through natural chutes created by space shuttle-size granite boulders. Locals prefer the South course, which smites players right off the blocks with a feisty 447-yard first hole, a rolling, saguaro-lined par four that culminates with soaring granite stacked mere inches beyond the putting surface. The risk-reward North course's thirteenth is one of the facility's more malicious round busters, a 405-yard par four that demands a mid-iron approach across a wide arroyo chasm.

Talking Stick Golf Club
9998 E. Indian Bend Road, Scottsdale; 480-860-2221 (www.talkingstickgolfclub.com). North course yardage: 7,133. Par: 70. Slope: 125. South course yardage: 6,833. Par: 71. Slope: 129. Architects: Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw. Green fees: $35-$140. Walking: Yes.

T&L GOLF Rating: ****1/2

Famous linkster Teddy Roosevelt once suggested that every golfer should talk softly and carry a Biggest Big Bertha. Okay, we shanked the quote, but it's a good bet that the Rough Rider would have been smitten with this thirty-six-hole stunner. Sited on a flat desert parcel, the North course is a minimalistic inland links creation with wickedly effective risk-reward stratagems, complemented grandly by the South course's lush parkland routing. Purists favor the North's distinct heathland flavorings, generous no-rough fairways, knee-high native grasses, swept-up finger bunkers and dunesy hillocks. The South is more Americanized with bodacious bunkering, elevated green sites and more than 4,000 sycamores, cottonwoods and eucalyptus.

Grayhawk Golf Club
8620 E. Thompson Peak Parkway, Scottsdale; 480-502-1800 (www.grayhawk.com). Raptor course yardage: 7,135; Talon course yardage:6,973. Par: 72 (both). Slope: 143 (both). Architects: Tom Fazio (Raptor); Gary Panks and David Graham (Talon). Green fees: $75-$225. Walking: Yes.

T&L GOLF Rating: ****

Grayhawk's thirty-six holes are a superlative enticement of visual shot-making drama, tournament-quality turf conditioning and a level of service usually experienced only by ex-presidents. Its reputation is first class, having hosted the 2000 Williams World Challenge—Tiger Woods's televised charity tournament—and the 1995, '96 and '98 Andersen Consulting World Championship of Golf. The Talon course edges the Raptor for playable eye candy, boasting a forty-foot-deep box canyon, an island green and a five-level waterfall.

Legend Trail Golf Club
9462 E. Legendary Lane, Scottsdale; 480-488-7434 (www.legendtrailgc.com). Yardage: 6,845. Par: 72. Slope: 135. Architect: Rees Jones. Green fees: $35-$185. Walking: Yes.

T&L GOLF Rating: ****

Paced by a routing dictated by a rumbling desert terrain, Legend Trail quickly gained must-play status when it opened in 1995. No gimmicks here: Wide fairways and generous grass-to-grass transitions encourage bold, heroic bids to hefty greens. The layout is peppered with old-fashioned bunkering, rocky washes, firm and fast turf and open approaches to greens set at fairway grade. Beware the dogleg seventh, a 490-yard par five that demands a no-nonsense approach past a double pond. Rusty swings are oiled at the Resort Golf School.

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