The new Golf Magazine course rankings are out, so I’ve gotta update my map. Included are state-by-state rankings, from AK to WY, including AZ. I’ve been here in the stifling heat of Scottsdale for almost five years now and have played rounds at around 30 courses in the Phoenix area, so why not provide all you snowbirds and Spring Training visitors with a quick and easy guide on where to play. I’ve only played one private course here for one of those Golf Channel tournaments. The rest, such as Whisper Rock and Estancia, are above my paygrade and celebrity status. So unless you’re coming into town with some well-connected friends, stick to this list.
Best Course: Troon North – Monument, Scottsdale ($59-$295)
Ten years ago, I went on a road trip to every baseball stadium in the Major Leagues. I lived in the Bay Area then, so we started by going south to Los Angeles and all around the country before getting through Denver and back home. And after visiting all those stadiums, I found out that the San Francisco Giants’ AT&T Park is still the nicest ballpark on the planet. That’s a lot like Troon North’s Monument course is. It’s the first course I ever played in Arizona, and all these rounds later, it’s still the best. Beautiful scenery, fun holes and world-class service make it tough to top.
Runners up: We-Ko-Pa – Saguaro, Fort McDowell; Wickenburg Ranch, Wickenburg
A couple months ago I saw an ad for the Golf Channel Amateur Tour. I did some research and thought it would be something fun to try. Beating my regular playing partners gets old, you know? The price isn’t too bad considering all the work that goes into these events, and I will definitely sign up for more in the future. I’ve had fun in all three events so far.
I started with a T6 at the Corta Bella Invitational, where I lost to, among others, former Malcolm in the Middle star Frankie Muniz. That was interesting, but he’s a cool guy and it’ll be fun to get another round in with him. The I finished third at the Trilogy Power Ranch tournament, despite playing in a wrist brace. It wasn’t even my wrist’s fault. One four-putt and one bad chip were all that kept me out of first. Golf gets a lot tougher, but so much more rewarding, in a tournament setting where every shot must be holed out (so long, gimmies) and the rules followed to the letter. Out of bounds gets a lot scarier knowing you could be hitting 3, or even 5, off the tee.
Then last week, May 31, was the Grayhawk Open, on the Raptor Course. I had never played either course there. Luckily, the tour secured discount rates for the week to anyone who wanted a practice round beforehand. I took them up on the offer and headed up the day before at 3pm. It was a disaster. The temperature when I teed off was 107 degrees. This was the first extreme heat of the year, and that mild May that Arizona was blessed with did not have me ready for triple digits. I couldn’t keep a ball in play, hooking, slicing and topping drives. I don’t think I’ve topped a drive in like 5 years. I started the day with 10 golf balls in the bag and was flying around the empty course until the 8th hole. I skipped some foursomes until I found another opening, but kept losing balls and ran out after the par-3 16th. Continue reading I Won Something!→
The Stadium Course at TPC Scottsdale in Arizona is famous namely for one hole. You may have seen it before. It’s like the rodent on Groundhog Day. It comes out every February to a huge celebration, signaling the coming of spring. Only instead of hundreds of townspeople decked out in mittens and windbreakers gathering around a stage at Gobbler’s Knob to watch for Punxsutawney Phil to see his shadow, there are 20,000 sunbathing partygoers donning Rickie Fowler outfits and sun dresses, cheering for Phil Mickelson and booing Boo Weekley. It’s the 16th at the Stadium Course, and for four days each year during the Waste Management Open, this 162-yard chip shot is the most exciting shot in golf. A temporary arena with 172 skyboxes is erected for the crowd to pack in and boo every missed green, cheer for colors during the caddy races and down pints of beer during downtime. There is no other hole like it in all of golf. By mid-June things change dramatically. Patches of brown matted grass mark where the supports for the grandstands once stood and the stoic McDowell Mountains replace the shouting frat boys as the backdrop of the green. Stepping up to the tee and seeing no resemblance to this glamorous rockstar hole is striking, like seeing a porn star without makeup. Continue reading TPC Scottsdale→
Scottsdale Silverado Golf Club has the benefit of being the nicest golf course in the immediate vicinity of Old Town. That being said, it isn’t on par with the other tracks that make Scottsdale a prime golf destination. There is enough here to make it memorable, however. An excellent back nine saves the place from mediocrity and challenging greens make even the most straightforward holes just a bit tougher. Unfortunately, this course skews more toward the executive style of play rather than the fantastic resort style of Talking Stick, its closest neighbor.
Tee Time: December 9, 2012, 9:55, 68 F, Light Wind
Designer: Scott Miller (1996)
Playing Partners: Steve Walker, Rick and Ingrid (Calgary couple)
Tees: Ironwood/Acacia Gold, Par 72 (69.3 rating/122 slope/6,337 yards)
Course Handicap: 14 (12.7 index)
Stats: 90 (48-42)
Well I originally had no plans to write a review of Kierland Golf Club at the Westin in Scottsdale. Nothing against them, I’ve just logged a lot of rounds and written many words already in 2012. I figured I’d go enjoy a nice round of golf at a course I’d heard good things about and relax after a month of moving, sickness and puppy chaos. I didn’t even bother bringing a camera (these are cell phone shots, I apologize for the poor quality). Around the fifth hole of the round, beginning on the Acacia nine, it hit me that this golf course stands up there as one of the prettiest in the state. A resort course that winds through homes and office buildings near Frank Lloyd Wright Boulevard, the scenery is nothing stunning like that of Troon or Eagle Mountain, but from inside the ropes it rivals any I’ve played lately. It’s a team effort, too. This eye candy is partially thanks to the smooth layout, partially the large resort building that dominates landscape and partially the always-excellent Troon greenskeeping. This is the 10th Troon managed golf course I’ve played and I have yet to find even one blade of grass out of place. Even overseeding can’t put a damper on things. Whether it’s 110-degrees of Arizona summer or a frigid Utah morning in Heber, the one constant I’ve noticed throughout all this traveling is that Troon always offers pristine conditions and friendly staff. If you can’t have fun playing golf at their facilities, then maybe golf isn’t for you.