Grayhawk Golf Club: Talon Course at GrayhawkBy Bailey Mosier • Nov 15th, 2010
Most snowbirds and tourists who frequent the Sonoran desert in the winter know Grayhawk Golf Club as a Scottsdale golf staple. With two 18-hole championship courses, the Raptor and the Talon, it may be difficult for movers and shakers to decide which of these two courses’ fairways to waltz down.
Some think of the Talon course as the redheaded stepchild to the more widely known Raptor course that hosted the PGA Tour fall series, the Frys.com Open, in 2008 and 2009. But what most people don’t realize is that the Talon course actually hosted a PGA Tour-sanctioned event in the 90s—long before Raptor ever sniffed at hosting a Tour stop.
“Both are fantastic golf courses,” said Grayhawk Tournament Director Travis McCutchan. “People sometimes forget how good of a golf course Talon is.”
The Talon course hosted the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship’s predecessor—what was then known as the Andersen Consulting World Championship of Golf.
The 32-man match play event was the first tournament to pay a $1 million dollar prize and England’s Barry Lane was the first man to bring home that big bacon. Lane won the event in 1995 and Greg Norman was named champion at Talon the following year.
While we understand how players such as Barry Lane and Greg Norman are able to navigate their way around Talon well enough to win a championship, McCuthchan says there’s still hope for the rest of us amateur players.
“The fairways are generally wide and forgiving. So long as you pick your spot and keep it in the grass, you can score,” said McCutchan.
“Once you’re in play it’s about finding the right level. There are two and three tiers per green and you’ve got to hit the right level once you find the grass; find the right tier.”
Seemingly simple enough, it’s a wonder why every player can’t come out and shoot lights out.
Phil Mickelson did just that when he set the course record in 1999. His 61 remains the low round on the Talon course today.
McCutchan says there isn’t one hole on the Talon course that is their signature hole. Rather, many of them offer challenge, mystique and intrigue. Many of the holes offer the design features characteristic to David Graham and Gary Panks layouts.
The third hole is a 505-yard dogleg left par-5 named “Three Sisters.” This risk/reward hole is typical Graham and Panks design—tempting you to go for the green in two but punishing you if you mishit your first or second shots. Find the fairway off the tee and a precise second shot will be a must. The approach is guarded by the hole’s namesake – three deep bunkers located short right. I have a feeling Mickelson avoided these bunkers when he shot 61—they’d be difficult to get out of even for him. This large, rolling, two-tiered green won’t make for an easy two-putt, so make sure you pay attention to pin placement.
Number 5 is a great chance at birdie on this Arizona Golf Course. This 153-yard par-3 is a short hole with little trouble but requires a smooth swing and an accurate attempt. This green is the hole’s only defense—it is large and angulated—but with a wedge in your hand you should be able to stick it close.
The eighth hole is a 206-yard par-3 named “Desert Burn.” A bit more lengthy than the fifth hole, this par-3 will require men hit a mid to long iron and women a hybrid or wood. You must carry the desert wash between the tee boxes and the back to front sloping green. With a long iron or wood in your hand, it may be difficult to stop balls on this green and an up-and-down par save is no guarantee. Birdie early in case you make a mistake here.
One of the toughest holes is the 12th named “Double Cross.” This par-4 totals 449 yards and requires you carry two desert washes—one off the tee and a second spread across the front of the green. Even with a good drive here, you’ll likely have a long iron or hybrid left into the two-tiered green. The second shot over the desert wash is intimidating but try not to let it cloud your head. Pay attention to the carry yardage you need to fly the ball to clear the wash and trust it. A good drive here is a must to set you up with a manageable approach shot. If need be, I recommend laying up on your second shot to avoid disaster in the desert either short of the green or immediately left of the green.
Survive the 12th unscathed and have a decent shot at birdie the next hole. No. 13 is a short par-4 that stretches a mere 303 yards from the tips. This drivable par-4 will either land you on the green in one or close enough for a great shot at an up-and-down birdie. There’s no real trouble if you mishit your shot on this hole, so the best option is to go for it instead of laying up.
No. 18 is one of McCuthan’s favorite holes and he says it truly is reflective of the Panks/Graham design features. This long par-5 stretches 588 from the tips and offers its challengers with risk-reward options into the green guarded by water on the left. Play it as a three shot hole, stay dry and finish your round off on a positive note.
Make no mistake; the Talon course at Grayhawk can hold its own against its stepsibling Raptor course. While Talon wasn’t chosen to host the Frys.com Open, it is in no way unworthy of PGA Tour players or prestige. If you’re still doubtful, come see for yourself if you can master the challenges the Talon provides.