The Bad Little Nine
Do you know the difference between a hallucination and a mirage? Technically, it has to do with refracted light rays and complicated ocular science. In the case of The Bad Little Nine at Scottsdale National Golf Club, however, both terms apply equally. Pictures make it look like a mirage in the desert, while seeing it in person can lead you to believe it’s the hallucination of a crazed course architect. Perhaps it’s a bit of both.
Bob Parsons wanted something very different for the shortest of three layouts at his private club. What Jackson Kahn Design delivered was the hardest par-3 course in Scottsdale and possibly in the world. The Bad Little Nine will leave you shaking your head at the improbability of its singular design. We’re not talking about a simple pitch and putt course – far from it. Every hole demands the highest level of precision mixed with more than a little luck for the right bounces. And even then, par is no guarantee. With holes ranging from just 86 yards to 153 yards, distance isn’t what wreaks havoc on scorecards. It’s the greens, which feature slopes that appear to match the nearby Mazatzal Mountains in terms of steepness. Those angles naturally impact speed, which means the very deftest touch is required if dreams of one-putting are to come true.
Then there are the numerous visual challenges. Like the irregular-shaped mounds of earth that dot the fifth hole and appear on the green itself. Or the deep trenches – where birdie dreams often meet their demise – that guard the sixth green. The round is capped off by the impossibly small ninth green, measuring just 999 square feet in total and encircled by deep bunkers, naturally. How tiny is it? 21 copies of that green could fit onto the entire fifth green on The Other Course at Scottsdale National.
Yet despite its wildly difficult nature, The Bad Little Nine is an absolute thrill ride. Frustrating, yes, but a blast to play. You think you can get the best of it? Then tee it up on a Challenge Friday, when holes are cut in the most diabolical location on each green. Fair? Hell no. Navigating it skillfully and breaking par (few ever have) will earn you serious bragging rights, not to mention a $1,000 bar credit at PXG House courtesy of Scottsdale National owners Renee and Bob Parsons.
The soundtrack to the course is usually the laughter coming from groups, often with cocktails in hand, settling (and creating) some wagers out there. And when your turn comes someday to play The Bad Little Nine, you’re likely to experience the same feeling as those whose footsteps you will be walking in have already had: more fun than you thought could be possible on the toughest par-3 course in Scottsdale and beyond.