Address: 37207 N. Mule Train Road
Carefree, AZ 85377
General Manager: Roger Bacon
Head Golf Professional: Brandon Rogers
Director of Agronomy: Todd Storm
Membership Director: Vito Berlingeri
Course Architects: Red Lawrence/David Zinkand
About this Course:
Par 72 – 7203 yards from the tips
Men’s – 75.5/149; 74.5/142; 72.2/133; 70.4/129; 68.0/124
Ladies’ – 76.4/139; 74.0/131; 71.1/128; 69.0/123
By By Alice & Danny Scott
Built in 1962, Desert Forest Golf Club is arguably Arizona’s first true desert course. The name might seem a misnomer to outsiders for there are no traditional woods but as we locals know, in desert terms, saguaros and brush comprise a forest. The name of the town is spot on for all – Carefree. The serenity is almost surreal making carefree a lifestyle on and off the course.
In the beginning, Desert Forest was quite remote from the city of Phoenix accessed by a dirt road. Before environmental constraints and regulations became a hindrance to most layouts, the biggest challenge for the venerable designer Red Lawrence was to manage the buildout below a $300,000 budget which seems comical compared to today’s costs. The minimalist approach allowed the artist to paint a classic within the confines of the rugged desert canvas. In 2013 Coore & Crenshaw team member, David Zinkand was charged with a redesign of the course in four months’ time and under a $3 million budget. Having masterfully constructed and successfully completed other high visibility projects including Bandon Preserve and Bandon Trails in Bandon, Oregon and the Saguaro course at We-Ko-Pa in Fountain Hills, he managed quite well, staying true to Red’s original design premise and took into account water flow in heavy rains so that the course is always playable.
Commemorating their 50th anniversary with the redesign, Desert Forest has stood the test of time and is now set for the next 50 years. The road is paved and widened and the valley of the sun’s sprawl has approached but not encroached upon the beauty of this private setting. Simplicity begins with the unassuming single story brown clubhouse where Rae Fred stylishly fills the little pro shop and fulfills members’ special requests. In the clubhouse bar, fireside or on the patio members gather to watch participants on the practice green and driving range. They duck in and out for an assortment of treats in wide mouth bulk jars reminiscent of soda fountain days and of course, everybody knows their name. At this exclusive private golf club 38% of their membership walk the golf course and the health benefits show.
Hole #1, par 4, 404 yards – The opener sets the stage as a desert doozey dogleg right. An errant ball can put you in a pickle or at least a prickle of a bush. Focus on hitting the fairways on all holes or desert ball searches will be a major part of the game.
Hole #3, par 3, 171 yards – This is an oasis hole on the desert course with a pond on the left. Bunkers are absent from fairways but abound by the greens and this is no exception. Greens are generally sizeable and a bit ambiguous but in perfect shape having matured from the redesign. Black Mountain and the Sonoran range affect the breaks except when they don’t.
Hole #16, par 5, 535 yards – Drive uphill to the crest where a real “tree of life” is left center in the fairway. Mismanaging course strategy here can be a killer though, so steer right to avoid it. Complete this dogleg left with a par and call it a real accomplishment.
Hole #17, par 3, 169 yards – The signature hole pictured has an elevated green looking forward to the clubhouse and Black Mountain, summing up the entire course before the finishing hole.
Desert Forest is an exceptional layout with extraordinary views and everyone is friendly, members and staff. Why not? It’s Carefree. While social activities are organized, this is a golf club, not a country club. There are no tennis courts or swimming pool, just premium golf.
Desert Forest Golf Club provides a stern test of golf that all levels of skill can enjoy with seven sets of tees, the forward of which never have to carry the desert expanse. Balls are ready on the range for the target practice necessary to tackle this challenging course where there are no out of bounds and no water hazards. Membership has its privileges as they say and here the privilege is repeat play.