SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- We'll start with a disclaimer: Picking the most scenic golf courses in Scottsdale, Arizona is an impossible task.
Not because there's so few courses to pick from. Because there's too many.
The explosion of high-end golf courses in Scottsdale over the past 20 years has turned the city into one of the best golfing meccas in the country. Visitors could take a two-week trip, play a different course every day and still not hit all the high spots.
But in the interest of public service -- and because the boss asked me to -- here's a selection of Scottsdale-area golf courses any self-respecting golfers should hit the next time they're in the Valley:
Troon North Golf Club
What is there to say other than Troon North is the best golfing experience in the Valley?
The Tom Weiskopf-designed Pinnacle and Monument Courses are superb layouts that are always in extraordinary condition. The Monument, annually ranked among the top 10 public courses in the United States, has British Open spin, from the names of the holes to the ability to play bump-and-run shots to the green.
Troon North's Pinnacle Course is a more traditional desert layout; it features elevated greens with multiple tiers that slope from back to front and are protected by long, deep bunkers.
Both courses are blindingly beautiful, located in the shadow of Pinnacle Peak and surrounded by pristine desert. Oh and take a gander at the granite boulders that are strewn throughout the landscape, including the par-5 third hole at Monument.
We-Ko-Pa Golf Club
If you're playing either the Cholla Course or the walking friendly Saguaro Course at We-Ko-Pa, do yourself a favor. Stop, do a 360 and marvel at the view, whether it's the McDowell Mountains, Red Mountain, Four Peaks or the Superstitions.
If Troon North is the Miss America of Scottsdale golf, We-Ko-Pa is the first runner-up. The courses themselves are brilliantly constructed, but the true beauty is in its solitude. There are no homes on the courses and no traffic nearby.
You'll feel like you have We-Ko-Pa all to yourself.
Boulders Golf Club
On the other hand, Boulders is one of the best places to play for that "Kodak moment." Boulders' North Course features spectacular views of the Black Mountains; don't be surprised to see a bobcat, coyote or javelina.
The South Course backs right up to some of the most exquisite boulder formations in the state; check out "Boulder Pile" or "Rosie's Rock," two of the resort's most recognizable rock formations.
Stadium Course at TPC Scottsdale
The attraction of the Stadium Course at TPC Scottsdale isn't the surrounding landscape but the course itself. The TPC hosts the Waste Management Phoenix Open, and golfers will get a kick out of walking in the footsteps of Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and others.
Don't be misled: The 7,216-yard, par-71 Stadium Course is gorgeous, sitting next to the Scottsdale Princess Resort and winding its way through the Sonoran Desert at the base of the McDowell Mountains. But the truly breathtaking sight is standing on the tee at the famed par-3 16th hole and imagining 20,000 fans ringing it, waiting to rain down boos if your tee shot fails to find the green.
When you get to the par-4 18th, move to the back tee box and imagine trying to hit it over the lake that borders the left side of the fairway. Then realize guys such as Mickelson bomb it 40 yards over the lake. You'll leave the course shaking your head in wonderment.
The Champions Course at TPC Scottsdale is also a worthwhile play.
Ak-Chin Southern Dunes Golf Club
The design team of Schmidt-Curley took a plot of rather flat, uninspiring land in Maricopa and crafted Ak-Chin Southern Dunes Golf Club, a rippling layout that resembles the style of Australian Sandbelt courses. Known as one of the purest tests of golf in the area, the course recently re-opened following renovations and a few minor design alterations aimed at making the course a little more player friendly.
SunRidge Canyon Golf Club
Okay, SunRidge Canyon Golf Club is technically in Fountain Hills rather than Scottsdale. But it's just a short drive east on Shea Boulevard, and golfers will be rewarded with a trip around arguably the most underrated course in the area.
SunRidge Canyon, which checks in at 6,823 yards, isn't the super model that turns heads the moment she steps into a room. It's the woman who gets prettier and prettier every time you see her. SunRidge's beauty is in its subtlety; it weaves its way through the desert with gentle doglegs and elevation changes.
The front nine descends into the canyon, and the back nine rises out, providing terrific views of the Valley below.
Grayhawk Golf Club's Raptor Course
Designed by Tom Fazio, the Raptor Course at Grayhawk Golf Club weaves its way through the Sonoran Desert. In the background are the majestic saguaros, Ironwood and mesquite trees and the McDowell Mountains. It was the host site of the Frys.com Open on the PGA Tour from 2007-09. The fairways are generous, but in typical Fazio fashion the course is strewn with bunkers both in the fairways and around the greens.