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Papago Golf Course Review – Worth the Hype?

Is Papago golf course worth the money? Is it one of the best golf courses in Arizona?

We’ll dive in and answer all your questions in this Papago golf course review. 

The course is a staple to the valley and is the new home of ASU Golf (after ASU Karsten Golf course closed). They recently completed some big renovations at the end of 2022 which included completely changing the 9th and 18th green. 

Papago Golf Course Review

Papago golf course is a par 72 at 7,419 yards – making it one of the longest golf courses in Arizona. One of the few longer courses in Arizona is Southern Dunes

Papago is an absolute beast from the tips and I don’t recommend it for the everyday golfer. Luckily there are five tee boxes (black, blue, white, green, and gold) for all types of golfers. 

Overview 

  • Opened in 1963 
  • Phoenix, Arizona 
  • Architect: William “Billy” Bell  
  • Home of ASU Men’s and Women’s team
  • Operated by OB Golf Sports Management 

As mentioned on their website, “Set in the heart of Papago Park, surrounded by native desert landscape, the picturesque Papago Buttes and conveniently located less than two miles from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, Papago is a golf gem located right in the heart of Phoenix where the borders of Phoenix, Tempe and Scottsdale meet. Papago’s rich history starts with its creator and architect of the famed Torrey Pines in San Diego, William Francis (Billy) Bell.”

The location of Papago is perfect and great for golfers in Phoenix, Scottsdale, Tempe, and Mesa.

 

Papago golf course view

Practice Facility 

The practice facility at Papago is sadly nothing special. I live five minutes from the course and wish it was anything like the ASU facility that’s also there. Or, even something like Legacy or Aguila – another city golf course. 

The driving range is hitting uphill and usually into the wind. There is a grass tee (Thursday – Sunday) and mats (Monday – Wednesday) which alternate based on time of year. The buckets aren’t cheap at $7, $14, and $20 for a large bucket of balls – not the best deal at a city golf course. 

Papago recently added a second putting green that is both by the 1st and 10th tee. One of them is almost always closed but the original green is very large and can accommodate a lot of golfers. The chipping green (if you want to call it that) is next to the driving range and nothing like a real green on the actual golf course.

Overall I’d say the practice facility is maybe a 6/10. I’d always call ahead before driving out to practice as it seems they always have some sort of event or tournament that might close the facilities.

Course Overview + Conditions 

Here’s why I don’t get the good vibes of Papago that so many people in Phoenix do. 

Is it iconic? Yes, but it’s also ugly in my opinion and far from picturesque like so many golf courses in Arizona. 

I wouldn’t even call this desert golf – it’s just dirt and what my friends call “mars rocks” if you miss the grass. It literally feels like you’re Matt Damon in the Martian more than playing desert golf. Not to mention no cart paths so you’ll get plenty of dust too. 

 If you miss the fairways your clubs will take an absolute beating. While most of the desert is playable there are some parts of the course that are very dense (like the third hole). 

Unfortunately, the conditions are all over the place. We play the final day of the Phoenix City Championship there each year in April and sometimes conditions are nearly unplayable.

Papago Golf Course - Hole 11

Noteworthy Holes on Papago Golf Course 

Here are some of the most notable holes at Papago golf course. While there aren’t any tricky holes there aren’t a ton of signature holes either. 

Hole 3: Par 4 – 467 yards

This is one of the harder holes on the golf course due to the tough tee shot. Desert runs along the entire left and right side of the hole but the length requires a driver off the tee in most cases. The second shot isn’t easy with several bunkers and a big green. 

Hole 8: Par 3 – 253 yards

Playing this hole from the tips is not easy but usually only reserved for college players and tournaments. The green is pretty straightforward but the right bunker is deep and not an easy up/down. Miss short and left to give yourself the best chance to leave with a par. 

Hole 9: Par 5  – 542 yards

This is a good time to try and get one back after the difficult 8th hole. A good drive is required between the two fairway bunkers to give yourself a chance to go for the newly renovated 9th green. Anything right and short on your second might end up in the penalty area so miss left. 

Hole 11: Par 3 – 187 yards   

The first par 3 on the back nine is a great test of golf at nearly 190 yards from the back tees. The hole requires a great shot over water and anything short is almost guaranteed to find the drink. Take more club as it usually plays slightly uphill, into the wind, and short is awful. 

Hole 12: Par 4 – 322 yards

This hole was upgraded at the end of 2022 by removing fairway bunkers and adding a few bunkers closer to the green. It’s a risk-reward hole that doesn’t have a ton of reward for hitting the driver as it’s very narrow by the green. Anything left is likely a lost golf ball so most players should hit a good layup and wedge on the green. 

Hole 17: Par 3 – 243 yards 

The last par 3 of the day is a real test of golf at nearly 250 yards from the back tees. Luckily there isn’t anything short of the hole so you can run something up. But the green is huge and far from an easy closing hole.

FAQs About Papago 

Is Papago a public golf course? 

Yes, Papago is a public golf course that is owned by the city of Phoenix. But it’s usually the most expensive city course and sometimes more than $200 in winter months. 

Can you bring dogs to Papago golf course?

Yes, you can bring your four legged friends to Papago. Not only is the restaurant dog friendly but the golf course itself is too. That’s right, you can bring your dog on the golf course with you! 

Does Papago have skins games?

Yes, the Monday Skins Game at Papago is a highly competitive event that is held most of the year. It’s not uncommon for the field to include PGA Tour players, Korn Ferry players, and high level amateur golfers. The course is tipped out at nearly 7,333 yards making the course extremely long – especially when it gets windy. 

After winning the 2022 Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines (with a Saturday finish) Max Homa won the Monday skins less than 48 hours later. 

Is Papago golf course good for kids?

Yes, it’s one of the most kid friendly golf courses in the area. They have junior rates and a good-sized practice facility to help new golfers learn how to play this great game. 

Does Papago have a men’s or women’s club? 

Yes, Papago does offer competitive events through the Papago Men’s Golf Association and Papago Women’s Golf Association. I played it in 2021 and they have a ton of events each month and even some travel in summer months. 

Overall Recommendation

The course is a staple to the valley but I don’t necessarily see the appeal – at least visually. It’s a good test of golf with some good views but it’s not the most consistent shape most of the year. 

It’s hard to pay $150 (or more) in season when the conditions are far from consistent. Not to mention the moon rocks can wear down a new set of golf clubs quickly. 

If you do want to play Papago and other city golf courses make sure to get the Phoenix Golf Premium Card (or the Phoenix Golf Premium Senior Card if you’re over 62 years old). These cards are $50 plus tax for the first year and $30 for renewal. 

Also, don’t forget to enjoy food and drinks at Lou’s Bar Grill after the round. They have great food/drink and a huge outdoor patio that is great even if you aren’t a golfer.

Next, make sure to read the Best Golf Courses in Scottsdale now. Also, here are a few other city courses to consider in the Phoenix area:

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