Papago Golf Course has carved out an amazing
legacy since opening in 1963. Designed by famed
golf course architect William Francis “Billy” Bell,
who is best known for designing the legendary
Torrey Pines Golf Club in La Jolla, Calif., Papago
quickly became one of the finest municipal golf
courses in the country.
Papago’s biggest claim to fame was hosting the
1971 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship.
It also hosted a number of qualifying events for
the Phoenix Open, and was the place to play for
young up and coming local junior golfers like
Billy Mayfair and the Farr sisters, Heather and
Throughout the years, Papago hosted nearly
90,000 to 100,000 rounds of golf annually. It
became so popular that golfers began camping
out overnight in their cars just to secure tee
times for the following day.
Over time, though, the wear and tear on the
golf course began to take its toll, and the City of
Phoenix could not keep up financially with the
golf boom that Phoenix experienced during the early ‘90s. Once the pride and joy of Arizona golf, Papago soon fell out of favor with some locals and could not attract the
out-of-town golfer looking for that prime
Arizona golf experience.
That all changed last year, thanks to a
renewed interest from the City of Phoenix
to give Papago a much needed facelift. The
City of Phoenix partnered with the Arizona
Golf Association and the Arizona Golf
Foundation, a non-profit arm of the AGA, to
undergo a massive restoration project that
would elevate Papago Golf Course back to
the high standards of golf that it once held.
This aggressive restoration project was led
by renowned golf course designer and
former Augusta National Superintendent
William “Billy” Fuller, and included returfing
of all the greens, tees, fairways and
rough; the installation of a new irrigation
system; removal of trees to improve sight
lines and views; and the reshaping and
adding of bunkers. The course was
lengthened nearly 350 yards, and now will
play anywhere from 5,404 yards to 7,333
yards from four different tee boxes.
After visiting Papago for the first time,
Fuller immediately understood the rich
history and character of the layout and
stayed as close to Bell’s original design as
possible, while still addressing the much
needed improvements for the course. The
superb layout that people remember so
well stayed intact for the most part, only
now the fairways are much improved, the
greens are back to their original shape and
size, and the stunning views of the nearby
Papago Buttes, a signature of Papago Golf
Course, are prominent everywhere on the
Fuller and the restoration team did a
remarkable job restoring this once great
golf course in such a short time frame.
Papago officially re-opened to the public on
Dec. 6, 2008, just eight months after
shutting down for the restoration. There
are some additional upgrades scheduled in
the upcoming months, including the
addition of a cart barn, a new learning
center and a halfway house complete with
on-course restrooms. There also is some
additional landscaping and tree removal that
is ongoing, but the majority of the work to
the golf course itself is complete.
But the once-famed course is definitely a
player in the Arizona golf scene once again,
ranking right up there with some of the
best courses in the state. Add to that its extreme value, and Papago is a must play
for locals and visitors alike.
Winter rates for Phoenix City
Cardholder members are only $44 (plus
$15 for cart), while non-cardholders pay
only $109 (cart included), a fraction of
the cost that you will pay for the higherpriced
courses in nearby Scottsdale
during the high peak season.
See for yourself what everybody will be
talking about in 2009. For tee times or
more information on Papago Golf
Course, go to www.papagogolfcourse.net
or call (602) 275-8428.