Nicklaus Design to begin Desert Highlands renovation in April 2025

  • Desert Highlands
    CJ Gershon Photography

    Desert Highlands in Scottsdale, Arizona, has appointed Nicklaus Design to oversee a $10 million renovation of the Jack Nicklaus Signature golf course

  • Desert Highlands
    Evan Schiller

    Construction will begin in April 2025 and be complete by November 2025

Richard Humphreys
By Richard Humphreys

Desert Highlands in Scottsdale, Arizona, has appointed Nicklaus Design to oversee a $10 million renovation of the Jack Nicklaus Signature golf course, with construction to begin in April 2025.

The project will include design changes to some holes, the rebuild of greens, bunkers and tees, vegetation work and regrassing of playing surfaces.

“The plans Nicklaus Design have for Desert Highlands are nothing short of compelling,” said general manager Desi Speh. “This renovation project will not only further solidify Desert Highlands as one of the state’s most sought-after golf experiences, but also enhance the aesthetic appeal of our community.”

Nicklaus Design plans to rotate the eighth green to be more perpendicular to the line of play and slope more from back to front – this change aims to make the putting surface more visible from the landing area.

Another change will be the elimination of a high ridge on the thirteenth fairway to create a slightly longer carry and make the driveable par four a trickier hole. The design team are also weighing up relocating the forward tee or building a new one.

Plans for greens include excavating and replacing the cores, adjusting elevations and regrassing putting surfaces with a blend of 007 and 007XL creeping bentgrass from the Seed Research of Oregon.

Nicklaus Design is also planning to address bunker shapes and elevations, excavating them, replacing subsurface drainage, installing Flexxscape liner and introducing Caltega sand.

All tees will be levelled, lowered and expanded, with vegetation surrounding them removed and replanted in an appropriate area. Some new tees are planned, such as a forward one on the fifth and a one on the tenth, further away from the range.

“All of the work is in the spirit of the original layout and design intent,” said director of agronomy Curtis Tyrrell. “We will be looking to return many of the surface areas to the original sizes and dimensions while modernising and adapting the contours to the modern game and turf conditioning.

“The design enhancements are not major changes; rather, I would call them appropriate adaptations.”

The course’s vegetation will be a priority for Nicklaus Design. Overgrown obstacles that block sightlines will be removed, the density in corridors will be reduced, several trees will be relocated, new vegetation planted and a few saguaros will be moved to the eighteenth hole.

“Much of the golf course infrastructure was original dating back to 1982,” said Tyrrell. “With 40 years’ time the golf courses aged in many regards, creating poorly functioning, soils and drainage infrastructure. Modern golf course agronomy offers improved infrastructure, components, turf, species and varieties. With declining infrastructure, it would be difficult to maintain the high-level conditioning expected.

“This renovation is necessary to provide a new foundation for the next decades and generations of Desert Highlands members.”

The project, which will also include resurfacing the putting course, is expected to be complete by November 2025.