Review: Kierland Golf Course, AZ

The Best Golf Experience in the Valley
Golf is sometimes more than just the course itself, but rather an experience from the time you drive in until the time you drive out.  Of the 150+ courses I have played, Kierland is by far the best golf experience I have ever had.

Kierland is right on the edge of Scottsdale and Phoenix, AZ.  The resort is sprawling with multiple lodging options and every amenity imaginable. The course, designed by Scott Miller who used to work with the Jack Nicklaus design team, has three unique 9s named after indigenous plants found along the holes. The story is rather interesting with its connection to MN.  The name of the resort was the last name of a young lady from MN, Katherine Kierland, who wooed young Bob Herberger at a golf tournament in the 1930’s.  During their married life, they traveled back and forth between AZ and MN over the years.  In the early 1990’s the family’s children teamed up with a development company to create the Kierland Golf Club.
Upon arrival we were cordially welcomed to the resort at the bag drop.  The attendant helped with the clubs and gave us clear instructions on where to go and what to do next.  After that we were greeted in the pro shop with smiles, we were introduced to the various employees in the shop.  Upon checking in we headed outside for a demonstration and training on Segway golf carts.  Jaron, (our teacher) was very helpful, friendly and patient with us as we got the hang of using a Segway.  After some shaky mounts and dismounts, it was time to learn how to use them on the course.  Off we went to learn some little tricks while out on the grass.  These machines are sometimes smarter than we are.  Their job is to keep us vertical at all times, so getting them to go on a side hill or in a certain direction doesn’t always work.  These 20-25 minutes we spent on training were vital to our safety and enjoyment for the rest of the round.  If Segways are not your fancy, Kierland has some of the best 4-wheel carts of any resort in the US.  In the cool winter mornings there are small heaters for warmth or for the scorching summer heat, there are A/C units attached to the canopy for cool, fresh air for the golfers head and neck.

After training, we still had a few minutes to warm up on their expansive driving range with a movable shade apparatus, sand bunker, chipping area and putting green.  One nice feature of this whole area was a large, tall four-sided clock so that everyone can see when their tee-time is up. 

After we warmed up the starter welcomed us with a smile to the Ironwood 9 of Kierland.  He explained the cart path rules, the layout of the course, the suggested tees and left the tee area to catch the next group.   Off we went on our Segways.  They commented that typically golfers are slower on Segways than with regular carts, but I find that hard to believe.  We moved faster than those around us, and because we each had our own, we could drive right up to our own golf balls, without waiting for the other person because there were on the other side of the fairway.  I was thoroughly impressed by the conditions.  Tee-boxes were flat, smooth and clean, while fairways were lush and tight, and greens were smooth and true.  It may not be the typical target, desert golf course in Phoenix, but had more of a desert/parkland feel to it.  The mix of short and longer par 4s gave a nice variety to the course, while the par 3s were challenging, but not impossible.  The two par 5s were very different, one was reachable in two, while the other had greater risk involved, not encouraging too many to try it in two.  There was a rest stop in the middle just in case one needed a drink or restroom break.  My only complaint was that hole number 9 was cart path only and had a stream between the path and the fairway with only 3 bridges some 100 yards apart.  So if you do like I did and stay away from the water, you have a hike to get to your ball and then you have to hope you carried the right clubs, then another hike back to the cart, up to your second shot and then a hike again with any number of clubs for your 3 shot into the green.  Things really backed up on this hole.

Again the starter greeted us kindly and he had us switch our next scheduled 9 holes to Mesquite because it would be a faster 9 for us.  We were more than happy to switch to keep play moving.  This 9 takes you in a new direction away from the clubhouse and across the street.  The holes on this 9 were kept just as well maintained as the Ironwood 9.  It felt a little more rustic and had a few more hills and elevation changes.  With a drivable par 4, a long par 3 and dogleg par 5, the variety on this 9 was just as enjoyable.  Mesquite is also a desert/parkland style 9 holes with challenging desert washes and dried-out rough on many of the holes, yet still remained very playable for a wide range of golfers.

At the end of this 9 we found a couple of course attendants welcoming us back from our 18 holes with kindness and helpfulness.  But we still had 9 more holes to go.  So after talking with the starter, we decided lunch was next on our agenda since there were 3 groups that had to get through the turn before us, so we headed up to the restaurant for a delicious ½ pound burger.  We sat outside and enjoyed the view of the 9th hole on Ironwood.  We had just the right amount of time to relax and enjoy our burger by the outdoor fire pit.

Even later in the day we found happy workers greeting us for our final 9 on Acacia.  This was my favorite of the 9 holes.  There was greater variety, more difficulty, abundant elevation changes and the most picturesque holes on the course.  The conditions again were excellent on every hole.  This 9 had the best collection of par 3s and par 5s.  It also had a drivable par 4 always making for an exciting attempt.  The signature hole, number 9 was also cart path only.  This time at least there was no water between the path and the fairway, but still made for a little slowdown on hole 9.

After our round, the bag boys greeted us with smiles and cleaned off our clubs getting them ready for the next day.  They asked about our clubs and seemed genuinely friendly and interested in us.

Before leaving Kierland we learned about all the other experiences available to the guests at the golf resort.  It was more than just a course, they also had a fitting center that was large and looked to have a great variety of clubs, proFit offers everything from instruction to club fitting and building. From what I could gather they offered the entire assortment of club repairs; new shafts, new grips, bending, adjusting, weighting, etc.  It was kind of like a mini permanent tour van on the course.  I thought the location was nice, right between the putting green and driving range for maximum visibility.

Not only can you get every part of your game ready, they also have FORE-MAX fitness center specifically designed for golf fitness and strength training.  This is part of their Agave spa facility.

While I golfed my wife was able to enjoy a day at the Agave Spa.  With her hot stone massage, it included access to all the facilities amenities, the pool, the fitness center and the sauna.  There too, we found warm, friendly staff, to help and assist in making our time at Kierland a wonderful experience. 

So if you are looking for the best golf experience in Phoenix, you might just have the time of your life at Kierland.  All such options come at a price, but the resort offer packages and discounts throughout the year so that you can experience 27 holes of impeccable conditions, optional Segway carts or standard A/C carts and the friendliest staff in town.  Kierland is a must visit golf resort.

For more information: