Set high within the mountains of Northern Arizona, the Forest Highlands Golf Club was opened in 1988 and is part of a larger 1,100-acre housing development located a short drive south of the popular town of Flagstaff. The club has two golf courses; its first, the Canyon Course, was designed by Tom Weiskopf and his partner Jay Morrish, who appear to have been given first pick of the best available land for their layout.
Occupying a series of spectacular mountainside valleys and canyons, the fairways here are carved through forests of ponderosa pines and, in places, lined by copses of mature oak and aspen. The steep nature of the gradients, as well as the need to incorporate housing into the site, made routing the course quite tricky, but the designers did an excellent job ensuring the spacious layout was both user-friendly and playable. The most noticeable feature of their routing is the unusual makeup of par. Every even numbered hole between the 4th and 14th is a par three and there are also five par fives, including a couple that are definitely within reach in two shots. That leaves just seven par fours, but this irregular arrangement helped the designers combat the fact that golf balls travel as much as 10 percent farther at this elevation by forcing players to hit a range of different clubs into the greens.
Without question the two holes likely to live longest in your memory are par fours at the 9th and 17th. The 9th is a magnificent looking hole that drops steeply off a hillside tee into a tight valley where trees, sand and a stream guard your drive and a pond and shallow green complicate the approach. The 17th is a classic drivable par four but on a more daring scale. Again the tee is placed high up on a ledge, the hole falling and bending around a hill with the fairway cut by a ditch that forces players to either drive aggressively across the shoulder of the hill or lay-up down the safer right side and try to pitch into a target now angled across you.
There are a number of other standouts as well, including cross-pond one-shotters at the 4th and 14th, the drive and pitch 16th and the long, left bending par four 7th, which turns around large pines that interfere with the uphill second shot if too far left off the tee. The par fives are also intriguing, particularly the reachable 5th, the rising 15th and the split fairway 18th with a creek cutting the hole and creating a very narrow entry passage for the really long hitters.
Throughout the round the variety and quality of the design work is very high, Weiskopf and Morrish using the elevation changes and a mix of hole lengths, green shapes and hazard positioning to create an interesting array of approach shot situations. The Meadow Course, which was also designed by Tom Weiskopf, opened in 1999 and is a longer, more manufactured layout that features larger bodies of water and holes arranged across a more open landscape. The course is also very good, however, and has enough quality to ensure that Forest Highlands is a 36-hole destination for most visiting golfers.