Appeared in Winter 2013 LINKS
AT THIS TIME OF YEAR, only one golf destination truly has it all—dozens of top-notch courses, relentlessly idyllic weather, and a dazzling variety of dining options and non-golf things to do—Scottsdale, Arizona. Best of all, it’s easily accessible, less than half an hour from Phoenix’s Sky Harbor Airport, which is reachable by direct flight from more than 100 cities.
The smart move is to install yourself in the heart of the action, and there are two good choices. If you want to go first class (especially if it’s a couples trip), opt for the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, where the many amenities include the luxurious Willow Stream Spa, modeled after a Grand Canyon oasis. If it’s a buddy trip, go for a golf package at the Zona Hotel & Suites, where most of the two- to four-bedroom accommodations come equipped with kitchens, dining and living areas, and the daily rate will be significantly less.
Here’s how to fill your days, whether you’re golf-hungry or seek a few diversions beyond the fairways.
Morning: TPC Scottsdale Stadium Course. Less than a mile from either hotel is the course that has hosted the Phoenix Open since 1987. See if you can hit the island green of the par-five 15th, drive the par-four 17th, or match Tiger Woods’s hole-in-one at the Coliseum-like 16th (albeit without the accompaniment of 50,000 screaming fans).
Afternoon: TPC Scottsdale Champions Course. After lunch on the clubhouse terrace overlooking 18, take on the Stadium’s little sister, set on similarly well-maintained terrain but slightly shorter and more open.
Off-Course Option: Clubfitting. Two choices here. Cool Clubs, one of the nation’s leading independent clubfitters, is based in Scottsdale and will determine your driver specs for $125 or do a full-set for $525. If you’re willing to travel a few minutes further afield, to the headquarters of PING, you can walk in off the street and get a free indoor fitting for their clubs (the company does not sell directly to consumers). PING also offers a factory tour for which you need to reserve ahead.
Evening: Stick close to home your first night at one of the Princess’s two superb restaurants, La Hacienda or Bourbon Steak. This is one instance where the adage “never eat where you sleep” emphatically does not apply.
Morning: We-Ko-Pa Resort Saguaro Course. Built on an Indian reservation, with no houses in sight, this Coore/Crenshaw course with wide fairways and open-fronted, dramatically sloped greens is among the best in state.
Afternoon: Play the second, somewhat tighter Cholla Course at We-Ko-Pa, or for a change of venue, ease on down the road to SunRidge Canyon, a fast-rising star with a crescendo finish known as The Wicked Six and a very hospitable 19th hole.
Off-Course Option: Shopping. Check out the Scottsdale Fashion Square. With more than 250 shops, it’s the largest shopping destination in the Southwest.
Evening: El Chorro. Indoor/outdoor dining with stunning views of Camelback and Mummy Mountains. Don’t miss the honey buns.
Morning:Grayhawk Raptor Course. Tune up on the range to a background of piped-in rock music, then take on a classic assignment in target golf from Tom Fazio, on the course that hosted the first three Frys.com Opens.
Afternoon: Grayhawk Talon Course. Tighter but shorter than the Raptor, with the most famous hole on either layout, the 126-yard water-girded 17th known as Devil’s Drink. See if you can come within a stroke or two (per hole) of Phil Mickelson’s course-record 61.
Off-Course Option: The Musical Instrument Museum. Too dull, you say? Try again. With more than 300 interactive exhibits, this place is as exhilarating as the 1812 Overture.
Evening: Phil’s Grill at Grayhawk is a great place to have a beer, sometimes in the company of locals Brandel Chamblee, Peter Kostis, Gary McCord, or even Mickelson himself, while vine-covered Isabella’s Kitchen, also on site, serves up rustic, peasant-style Italian cuisine.
Morning: Troon North Monument or Pinnacle. It was with the opening of Troon North back in 1991 that golf in Scottsdale made its mark, and today Tom Weiskopf’s two courses remain the gold standard, their lush green fairways snaking artfully amid boulders, canyons, and cacti.
Afternoon: Troon North Pinnacle or Monument. Or for a change of pace, head north a few miles to one of the country’s top resorts, The Boulders, and play its ruggedly beautiful North course, set amid 12-million-year-old rock formations.
Off-Course Option: Ballooning. Take a magic carpet ride, complete with champagne and hors d’oeuvres.The famed Arizona sunsets are even more spectacular when viewed from 400 feet.
Evening: Mastro’s Ocean Club. Return to terra firma in style at the area’s best seafood restaurant.
Morning: ASU Karsten Golf Course. If you have time for a morning round before departure, this is the place—a Pete Dye course just 10 minutes from the airport. When you get to the 18th, a par four with water down the left side, you may feel you’re at the TPC Sawgrass. It’s a spectacular finish to the perfect winter getaway.