Arguably, the most fan friendly tour event is the Waste Management Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale. Nothing compares to the arena-style 16th hole, which gives the local inebriates the opportunity to cheer (and boo) the shots into this par three hole. Risk/Reward shots abound on the back side, making for an interesting finish to the desert venue. The rowdy fans, including many local college students, prep for their Super Bowl parties by heading out to the course to taunt the pros. The Saturday crowd is usually the largest, as many stay home on Sunday to prepare for the football game. This event is more about partying than it is about golf. No doubt many pros avoid this tournament, but others embrace the excitement.
You will regularly see professionals interacting with the spectators, especially on 16, where they routinely send swag into the stands. Some pros will even try to rile up the fans to increase the noise level. Regardless, it is always good fun, and provides a more human feel to the game. Although this is not a major or Ryder Cup event, it ranks high in “must see” viewing. Unfortunately, they no longer have the caddie races, but overall there are worse ways to spend a weekend than watching this event from your home; especially those of you living in climate challenged areas.
My poor performance predicting winners last week at the Farmers Insurance Open, has placed me on the sideline this week. Clearly, the most disappointing featured group ever (Woods, Day, D. Johnson) played there last week. It was no surprise that Tiger missed the cut, but both the world Numbers 1 and 3 as well?
If you cannot get to Phoenix/Scottsdale to watch the event, it is still a worthwhile place to visit to play golf. With generally good winter conditions, a trek to the Valley of the Sun every other year makes sense. I like the golf, although it is not great. Golf Magazine has rated as many as seven of the local courses in the top-100 you can play, although Golf Digest does not have any. When planning your trip, I would use one of the local golf tour companies to set up the schedule. They can get very good deals on accommodations, and can usually book the courses you want. In order, I would recommend you play rounds at the following:
Boulders South has the most dramatic holes in the area. The facility is a bit out the way, but worth the extra half hour. The North course is okay, but, given a choice is a distant second.
TPC Scottsdale Stadium Course is the home to the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Most people I know do not like this venue as much, but you need to play it to appreciate the tournament. The finishing holes are especially interesting. Do not get confused and play the Championship Course
Troon North (Pinnacle) is regarded by many as the premium public facility in the area. There are some spectacular views, however, I have never played a round there in under five hours, which is a problem for type-A individuals such as myself. The Monument course is worth the effort. If you have enough light make these courses a 36 hole day.
We-Ko-Pa also offers two courses (Saguaro and Cholla) with an excellent 36 hole special. Both are nice desert courses with some challenging holes.
Grayhawk also offers two venues. Although the ranking has been dropping, I still like the Talon course. You can play Raptor as well for another solid 36 hole day.
Although the rates are much higher in the prime winter season, I would not make the mistake (again) of trying to beat the heat in summer. I am no longer young enough to brave 110+ degree days. The fall is swing season, but the courses are closed and over seeded, making September to November less attractive. If you want to save, go in late spring and hope for reasonable temperatures.
Weekly Observation: With Woods withdrawing in Dubai, it is looking increasingly unlikely he will be completing a full season on tour. After a shaky first round, he would have missed the cut for a second consecutive week. Several good shots, but too many “loose” ones is likely to be a recurring theme; assuming he can even play. I hope Taylor-Made did not invest too heavily in him.
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 has recently released Confessions of a Golfaholic: A Guide to Playing America’s Top 100 Public Golf Courses; now available in hardcover edition. Please visit tophundredgolf.com regularly for more (im)practical information.