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37207 N Mule Train Rd
Carefree, AZ  85377-4046
United States
P: (480) 488-4589
F: (480) 488-5977
Desert Forest Course

18 hole regulation length course

Private golf course

72 par | 7,011 yards | 149 slope

73.8 rating | Bermuda grass

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Desert Forest Golf Course

The 18-hole "Desert Forest" course at the Desert Forest Golf Club facility in Carefree, Arizona features 7,011 yards of golf from the longest tees for a par of 72. The course rating is 73.8 and it has a slope rating of 149 on Bermuda grass. Designed by Red Lawrence, ASGCA, the Desert Forest golf course opened in 1962. Troon Golf, LLC (HQ) manages this facility, with Scott Szymoniak as the General Manager.


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Reviewed May 16, 2012

OK, maybe things have changed quite a bit in two years, or maybe I just disagree with the previous reviewers...
I recently played the course three times (it's a private course, so playing opportunities are limited). It's a fabulous minimalist design. Original contours are used extensively and it's hard to tell if earth moving equipment was used at all outside greens and bunkers (and there are no fairway bunkers). To play the holes properly you really do need both a fade and a draw, and it also helps to be able to control trajectory. Greens are fast and hard and not all that receptive (a few reminded me of Pinehurst #2), and have the old style hand-shaping where a difference in location of a couple feet can significantly affect a putt's break. The genius of the course appears to be in the routing; all natural, generally following natural valleys (or in some cases hilltops), with a variety of shapes. Not a course for a stock fade or draw, but a real ballstrikers course. One of the members told me he thought it was a second shot course. I agree to the extent that it can be almost impossible to two putt if you put your approach shot in a bad spot...but you first have to put a drive in the proper place.
It's currently ranked in the top 50 modern courses in Golf Week (which for for my money has the most accurate ratings) and the top 100 in Golf Digest. It has been on both lists for many years. Don't know about the previous comment about Golf Digest's Board member, but GD has 650 raters and a quantitative system so it's hard to believe one member could skew the ratings much. In any case, in my opinion Desert Forest is clearly a better course than Estancia, Forest Highlands Canyons and Quintero, other Arizona courses I've played that are sometimes in top 100 lists, but to some extent this is a matter of taste (I favor minimalism and value a course that's easy to walk and has no real estate development).
On the day I played there were two foursomes of twenty-somethings behind us, and I was told both groups were made up of members. The club has been around for 50 years, so for sure there were plenty of older members too - and I agree that the ones I met were proud of their course - but they were all very friendly with each other and to me.
The short game practice area mentioned by the previous reviewer has been installed now, and consists of two green/bunker complexes separated by about 80 yards. I only had a quick look but was impressed.
The tips were only a bit over 7000 yards, so perhaps a minor update is required to accommodate the modern game, but I was told several touring professionals have memberships there so I guess they see the value in the course's attributes even if they don't hit driver as often as they're used to.
Overall, a fabulous course and a wonderful place with a sense of history and respect for the game.

Reviewed May 15, 2010

I'm still smiling from sdarcy's review ... his first sentence was so apt! I'll get back to that.
I've played here 6 or 7 times over the years... and have always enjoyed it. It's a flattish, eminently walkable course, with a mix of routine/boring holes and a few good ones. The conditions are passable- the greens are always smooth, healthy and fast. The rough and fairways are not always in the best shape- more brown than green at times. Perhaps there are money issues involved? The practice area is very small and unimpressive, though I heard they are working on improving it. The clubhouse is tiny but very refreshing- nothing here but a bar, eating area, pro shop, and locker rooms. This club is all about golf, nothing else. No pool or tennis! The membership is small and VERY old- the average age has to be mid 70s. This is in some ways a good thing- my bet is the course is never busy. Though it makes one wonder about their financial stability at a time when younger members can't afford clubs and the older members continue to have a high rate of attrition...
To circle back to my appreciation for sdarcy's review, I think
"haughty" truly does define the attitude here. Not unfriendly, mind you... just a little arrogant about what they think they have. And they have something decent- a solid little course in a pretty area. Championship caliber? No way. I've always laughed that Golf Digest ranks DF in its top 100, over many superior Arizona courses (I can think of 5 within 10 miles of this course that blow it away). Word has it a Golf Digest board member is a DF member- makes one wonder about the rating system's legitemacy.
Over the years I've thought about what it would take for Desert Forest to achieve the standard that Golf Digest mistakenly thinks it has. The course has been around a while (1962) and is starting to get a little long in the tooth. The situation reminds me a little bit of Pinnacle Peak CC, another course that would be well advised to spend a million or two in consultation with a top architect to add length, bunkers and fairway contouring and otherwise tweak the holes. Despite the limitations of the land (not very dramatic) they have good fundamentals here... it just needs a lot of work to take it up a couple of levels. They probably don't have the cash or the self-awareness to realize they fall so far short... and it's a shame.


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  • Latest Scores
  • Overall
Rank Golfer Name Handicap Gross Net Date
1 john F. N/A 76 76 08/21/07
2 Sean D. 14 96 82 07/31/07
3 Mark P. 20 102 82 03/18/13
Data not available.

Golf Course Information

About Desert Forest

Desert Forest Golf Club

Golf Only facility

Managed by Troon Golf, LLC (HQ)

6 tees driving range

18 regulation holes

Awards at Desert Forest

No recent major awards have been noted.

Tournaments of Desert Forest

No local tournaments listed for this course. Add a tournament .

Course Staff

Scott Szymoniak, General Manager
Jeff Newell, PGA, Head Golf Professional
Todd Storm, Director of Agronomy

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