Returning to the Valley of the Sun
My daughter Christy, who abandoned her family to relocate in the Boston area, was recently digging her Honda Civic out of the snow…for the tenth time and called to see if she could get a little sympathy. Her mother, being the charitable sort, ultimately prevailed upon me to schedule a family vacation in a sunny climate, where our Christy could soak up some much needed Vitamin D. Never one to pass on an opportunity to play some desert golf I went to the Golf Zoo web site to plan a few days in the Phoenix area.
When completing my top 100 journey, there were seven ranked courses in the greater metropolitan area, six of whom are still on the list. (Golf Digest had none.) My two favorite courses in the area are Boulders South ranked 100 and, ironically, TPC Scottsdale Stadium Course, which is not included on any list. I also elected to book a return visit to the We-Ko-Pa Cholla course as I remembered (incorrectly) that it was wide open and I had no idea if my daughter would be able to find a fairway (she did). Lastly, I was talked into Eagle Mountain to round out the four days.
Boulders South did not disappoint. This terrific desert track has some of the most dramatic views in the region. We-Ko-Pa was much more challenging than I had remembered, but was certainly worth the trek. Eagle Mountain had some great views and an interesting design, but the condition gave it the feel of an overplayed Muni course.
TPC Scottsdale Stadium course is not included in the top 100, and therefore, was not reviewed in my book Confessions of a Golfaholic. However, it is definitely in my top 100. Aside from Augusta National for the Masters, the Waste Management Open in Phoenix would have to rate as the top spectator venue. Played at TPC Scottsdale, this event draws the largest crowds on tour and is noted for the enclosed par 3 16th hole, where mildly to overly inebriated fans cheer and boo the players. The antithesis of the Masters, this still looks like a great place to watch a tournament. It is not a bad place to play either.
TPC Scottsdale is a classic desert venue with plenty of assorted cacti and desert flora ready to influence those uninspired shots which miss the fairway. There are also plenty of water hazards to snatch the errant ball. The front side may be a bit pedestrian, but the finish is terrific, including the aforementioned 16th, the drivable par 4 17th and the challenging 18th. You will be assigned a forecaddie who will certainly add to the experience. TPC Scottsdale is well situated for those golfers locating in North Scottsdale and should be part of any Phoenix golf extravaganza. The green fees are a bit steep, but you will be walking in the same fairways as the pros, and the condition is excellent.
Absolutely Must Play? I would have to say yes, since every golf addict must make the trek to Phoenix to play desert golf. I would prioritize Boulders South first, but definitely put TPC Scottsdale Stadium Course on the schedule.
My Rating: 8.5 for the excellent condition, easy access, great experience (including the forecaddies), the use as a PGA site and the great finishing holes.
Weekly Observation: Not to state the obvious, but, after the Masters, golf looks to be on the rebound. The prospect of a long term rivalry between the Gunslinger (Rory) and the Surgeon (Jordan) is just what the sport needs. Even my father, a committed non-golfer, was engrossed in the event.
Paul Laubach is completely unqualified to provide expertise with respect to golf course rankings and design, however, he is a highly opinionated golf addict who believes everyone should be entitled to his thoughts. He is in the process of completing the story of his journey to play America’s top 100 courses. Please visit this website regularly for more (im)practical information.