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Bring your A game to the brash Pinnacle Course at Troon North Golf Club in Scottsdale, Arizona

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Most golf courses -- even those reputed to be the toughest in the world -- start off slowly. They allow golfers to get a feel for their game, the greens and the surroundings. Then, as the round moves along, the degree of difficulty increases.

Then there's the Pinnacle Course at Troon North Golf Club. The first hole is a 392-yard par 4, which doesn't seem too daunting -- until you have to hit your approach shot to a huge, multi-tiered green that slopes severely from back to front.

Come up just a little bit short -- a common mistake early in a golfer's round -- and your ball can roll 30 yards down the hill and back into the fairway.

The hole is a greeting of sort. What is says is: Welcome to Pinnacle. Hope you're on your game or your scorecard will have more sevens than a craps table in Las Vegas.

Now, that's not meant in any way to insult the par-71, 7,025-yard layout. Like most Troon properties in the Valley, Pinnacle is in immaculate shape. And the golf club itself, which includes a 32,500-square-foot clubhouse, is spectacular. My only quibble: For greens fees that can top out at more than $250, the carts should be equipped with GPS. Golfers shouldn't have to trudge all over fairways looking for yardage markers as if they're at the local municipal.

What makes Pinnacle worth the money, though, is the challenge. I've played almost every well known course in the Valley, and Pinnacle has to rank among the five toughest. It's clearly harder to play than its sister course, the Monument at Troon North.

While the Monument has as many downhill holes as uphill, the Pinnacle seems to be going uphill on all 18 holes. Sure, there's a hole here and there where you can get a nice long roll, but much of the course is a long, green stairway.

But what truly makes Pinnacle such a beast are its greens. Most of them are elevated from the fairways, sloped from the back and protected in front by long, deep bunkers, so it's exceedingly difficult to get your approach shots close to the hole. It's not unusual to be left with 60-foot putts.

Oh, and did we mention the greens are ridiculously fast? Take a few putts on the sidewalk outside your house to warm up.

Also, the greens all have significant tiers, adding to their difficulty. I can't think of another course that places such a premium on well-hit second shots. Pinnacle's fairways are wide enough, but hitting them won't ensure a good score because the holes don't truly begin until the approach shot is hit.

That's not to say Pinnacle is too severe. Good scores can be had, but precise iron play is a must.

The best holes?

The sixth hole is a terrific par 3 -- 209 yards from the tips to a narrow green that is protected by cavernous bunkers to the front and left. The 16th hole, another par 3, is only 140 yards, but there's water and bunkers in front. And when the pin is placed on the narrow right side of the green, it's virtually inaccessible.

Big hitters will enjoy No. 11, a par 5 that plays 539 yards but can be reached in two for those who have the courage -- and the skill -- to cut the corner.

The course, by the way, is surrounded by multimillion-dollar homes. They are so big and so decadent that you'll find yourself staring at them and losing your focus.


Pinnacle demands your best.

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