Recently Golf Magazine unveiled their ranking of the Best Courses Near You (in essence their “Best in State Ranking”). This 2014 ranking of the best courses in Arizona vaulted Ak-Chin Southern Dunes in Maricopa up to #5. After what has been completed there this summer, this Troon Golf-managed facility will make its case to keep climbing up these prestigious rankings.
Earlier this year Ak-Chin Indian Community gave the green light this summer on a multi-million dollar enhancement project at Ak-Chin Southern Dunes. Under the direction of Scottsdale-based Troon Golf and the watchful eye of the golf courses original architects, the club recently completed this significant renovation project aimed at improving the course’s playability for leisure players while maintaining the challenges and shot-values enjoyed by experienced golfers. The enhancements included a complete bunker renovation, additional tee boxes, expanded landing areas, and other design improvements on several holes.
To ensure the integrity of the award-winning design at Ak-Chin Southern Dunes, original course architects of Schmidt-Curley Design and Fred Couples were brought in to lead the project that involved a complete bunker renovation. In all, 83,000-square-feet of bunkers were removed from the course’s original total of 480,000-square-feet. Major improvements also include significant turf expansion between many of the forward tees to eliminate unnecessary forced carries for those choosing to “tee it forward” or are still learning how to consistently hit shots in the air.
Additional enhancements included re-vegetation of native grasses and many transitions between bunker edges and native desert. A new back tee was added on No. 1 (a change made with the experienced golfer in mind) while new forward tees were added on holes 5, 8, 12, 15 and 17. Improvements on No. 17 also include a nearly full-redesign with an expansion of the green, reshaping of a large dune to open sightlines to the hole, and changes to the bunker complex around the green.
The net result of the course enhancements? Well the AGA recently re-rated the golf course the rating/slope from the “Tips” received a more difficult rating and slope, the “Black tees” have stayed the same and “Gold, Blue and White tees” received a lower course rating/slope. “These new ratings confirmed what we set out to do at the onset of the project: to make the golf course more playable for the average player, while maintaining and increasing our championship pedigree,” stated Brady Wilson, general manager at Ak-Chin Southern Dunes.
What might make even more waves are the new enhancements made to the clubs practice facility that will be certain to grow the game. The driving range was completely renovated and within the “floor” of the practice area, now sits six tees and six target greens built to USGA specifications. Thus creating what is virtually a “convertible” driving range, whereby the facility can serve as a traditional driving range during the day, but once the twilight hours hit, the range will convert into a six-hole par three short course. The club named the course #miniDunes and in a keeping with the theme to appeal to a younger audience, might just be the first golf course in the country to incorporate a hashtag in its name. “#miniDunes offers up a great way for golfers to settle bets and extend their day at Ak-Chin Southern Dunes,” stated Wilson. “Plus it will be our laboratory to grow the game. We are going to be using this facility to introduce new golfers to the game young and old.”
“This facility enhancement project is a game-changer for Ak-Chin Southern Dunes on a local, regional and national level. We addressed every spoke of the wheel with regards to improved playing conditions, better playability for core golfers, more challenge for accomplished players and growth of the game options,” added Wilson.
Troon Golf and the Ak-Chin community didn’t stop at just the golf, they took advantage of the opportunity to spruce up the entryway to the club and even refresh and rebrand the popular dining establishment. Formerly Grille 109, the club rebranded and re-launched their restaurant as the new Arroyo Grille. The name was inspired from the Ak-Chin translation meaning, “where the water loses itself in the sand,” or, “the mouth of the arroyo.” Arroyo Grille’s new logo was designed to connect further into Ak-Chin incorporating common Ak-Chin symbols for water, arrows and the sun.
“Part of our commitment here is to perpetuate the legacy of the Ak-Chin community and honor their history and traditions,” stated Wilson. “The naming and rebranding of Arroyo Grille is just one of the many ways we are helping to tell the story of Ak-Chin and honor the legacy the community.”
Other enhancements to Arroyo Grille included the addition of eight high-definition television sets, a new beer tap and new menu items, including modern twists on Ak-Chin’s traditional fare.
The Ak-Chin Indian Community, which owns the nearby Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino and the UltraStar Multi-tainment Center at Ak-Chin Circle, has brought together championship-style golf and world-class gaming and entertainment. Gaming and golf packages are now available through Ak-Chin Southern Dunes and Troon Golf Vacations creating a truly exciting and multi-faceted destination, pleasing to a wide range of visitors. The course sits on 320 acres of land that was once a part of the Ak-Chin’s original May 1912 reservation before it was removed by Presidential Executive Order in late 1912. Nearly 100 years later in 2010, the Community recovered its sacred land when they purchased Ak-Chin Southern Dunes after it was originally developed as a private club. The course currently boasts several coveted accolades that include Golfweek’s list of the “Top 100 Resort Courses,” “Best Courses You Can Play,” and “Top Casino Courses,” as well as Golf Magazine’s list of “Top 100 Courses You Can Play.”
Not matter whether you are first time visitor to Ak-Chin Southern Dunes, or one of their raving fans, you’ll be sure to concur with Golf Magazine’s recently lofty rankings and will see firsthand why Ak-Chin Southern Dunes is dynamically changing the nature of the dunes, and the experiences created as a result.