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GCU Golf Course Review – Parkland Layout in the Desert

Are you looking for a great public golf course in Phoenix that won’t break the bank? Then you’ll love this GCU Golf Course review. 

Grand Canyon University Golf Course (GCU) is located in Maryvale, AZ which is considered west of Phoenix. It was previously known as Maryvale Golf Club but renovated in recent years and is now home of the GCU golf team. 

Today I’ll take you through the best holes, how to play them, and what you need to know about this golf course. 

Sunrise at GCU golf course

GCU Golf Course Review  

  • Owned by City of Phoenix 
  • Opened in 1961 as Maryvale Golf Course 
  • Architected by John Long and William “Billy” Bell  

The GCU Golf Course features a par-71 layout that blends seamlessly with the surrounding desert landscape. After the redesign it’s more than 7,200 yards from the tips making it one of the longer golf courses in the valley. With multiple tees, it accommodates golfers of all skill levels, making it an excellent choice for beginners and experienced players alike.

Practice Facility

GCU has an okay practice facility but don’t consider it one of the better ones in the valley. In terms of public courses it’s better than Papago but not nearly as good as Aguila.

GCU has a driving range that has turf and grass hitting areas. Most of the time it’s hitting from the mats unless you’re playing on weekends or in a tournament like the Phoenix City Championship. 

They have a large putting green located next to the 10th tee but you can chip/pitch as well. There is a smaller green to the right of the driving range by the 9th green but it’s pretty small. There is no practice bunker but you can work on your game at GCU even if you aren’t playing golf. 

Putting green at GCU

Course Overview + Conditions 

Here’s my problem with GCU at times – course conditions. Obviously golf courses in the valley take a beating in the summer months but GCU is sometimes unplayable. Which is unfortunate because I really like the layout and think it’s one of the more fun golf courses.

The biggest problem is the area around the greens. Sometimes you’ll have such hard chip shots because they don’t have a ton of grass and more dirt like lies.

If you play in winter and fall the course is more lush and hopefully shouldn’t have too many bad lies. It’s also a very wide open golf course so you can spray it a lot off the tee and still have shots into greens. I’ve also seen several golfers get hit by errant balls so make sure to yell fore as well. 

Noteworthy Holes on GCU Golf Course 

As a par 71 there are only three par 5s on the golf course and if you play from the tips it’s a very long course. I always consider holes 7-9 the gauntlet as they’re the three most difficult holes in my opinion (even if the course handicap doesn’t reflect it). 

Here are some of the most noteworthy holes on the golf course and how to play them. 

Hole 3: Par 5 – 642 yards 

The first par 5 (and only one on the front nine) is one of the longer holes in Phoenix. At nearly 650 yards it’s most likely a three shot hole for 99% of golfers. Your drive needs to thread the needle between the fairway bunker left and the thick bark chips lining the right side.

If you do find the short grass you can hit a 3W to get as close as possible to the green. But you’ll have to navigate between the right fairway bunker and left fairway bunker which is about 40 yards short of the hole. The green slopes heavily from back to front and missing long leaves a nearly impossible up and down. 

Hole 7: Par 4 – 485 yards 

Regardless of the tee boxes you’re playing, this is a really long hole. It’s tempting to want to go down the left side and cut some distance off but those trees eat golf balls… sadly I’m saying this from experience.

If you hit a good drive you’ll have to navigate the green between two bunkers and a very long green. There’s also a ridge that runs in the middle of it so be aware. Needless to say, par is never a bad score to start the gauntlet. 

Hole 8: Par 3 – 210 yards 

The second hole in the gauntlet is the hardest par 3 on the golf course. It’s long with not much room to miss on either side of the hole – once again saying this from plenty of bogeys or doubles. 

The best place to miss is short of the green and anything that lands on the front will release to the middle. Left is a nearly impossible chip with the green running away while right has a deep bunker and water. Never attack a back pin and instead aim for the middle and let the slope of the green do the work for you.

GCU Hole 17

Hole 10: Par 5 – 551 yards 

Once you complete the gauntlet you have the easiest par 5 on the golf course. But the tee shot requires precision between the two fairway bunkers. The left one is easier to hit out of than the right one due to the lip.

You can run your second shot up to the green and the best spot to miss is right. Hopefully you can make a birdie and get one back. 

Hole 11: Par 3 – 224 yards 

This is the longest par 3 on the golf course and plays tricks on your eyes as the bunkers are actually about 40 yards short of the green. There’s a big ridge in the middle of the green as well. Overall if you can get anything on the front or middle part of the green it’s a great shot. 

Hole 18 : Par 5 – 550 yards 

The final hole is a great par 5 with a few options off the tee. You can go down the fairway and try to miss the bunker and trees (it’s only about 25 yards wide). Anything left goes into a bunker and way left might go into the pond. 

Or, you can take my preferred route and play down the first hole. Just make sure to yell fore if anyone is coming up that hole. The second shot is challenging with trees, a fairway bunker about 50 yards shot of the hole, and more sand near the green. 

Greens at GCU golf course


Do you have more questions about the GCU golf course? If so, keep reading through the most frequently asked questions and answers now.

Do GCU Students get a discount at GCU golf course?

Yes, there are discounts for students. They also have a monthly membership as well which includes unlimited golf for a flat fee.

Which is better GCU or Encanto golf course?

Both golf courses are pretty similar in terms of layout and course conditions. They’re both wide open, have some tricky holes, and overall a good test of golf. GCU is harder due to the length but I think you’ll enjoy playing golf at either track.

Can you practice at GCU?

Yes, GCU is owned by the City of Phoenix so you can practice even if you don’t have a tee time. They have a large putting/chipping green and driving range as well.

Overall Recommendation

GCU won’t win any awards for the best looking golf course in the valley but the layout is pretty solid. It’s also one of the more affordable golf courses which is great for Arizona residents.

It’s one of the best deals in the valley and typically in good shape (other than summer) for a city course. 

Where do you rank GCU with other city courses like Papago, Aguila, or Cave Creek?

Let me know in the comments below. 

Also, don’t forget to read our picks for the best golf courses in Phoenix now. 

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