Old school tee boxes set stage at Arizona Biltmore Adobe golf course in Phoenix

By Chris Baldwin, Contributor

Old-school elegance and ease of play rule the day at Arizona Biltmore Country Club's Adobe golf course in Phoenix.

Arizona Biltmore Country Club - The Adobe Course
The tee boxes on Arizona Biltmore Country Club's Adobe Course put the whole game in your hands.
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Arizona Biltmore Country Club - Adobe Course

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The Adobe Course is one of two championship courses at the Arizona Biltmore Country Club. Opened in 1928, the course has a traditional design that is both challenging and scenic with wide fairways, tranquil ponds and views of Squaw Peak.

18 Holes | Resort golf course | Par: 72 | 6430 yards | Book online | ... details »
 

PHOENIX -- How many times do you think about tee boxes on a golf course? Unless they're outrageously high, hanging over the ocean or in just putrid shape with more divot marks than a teenager losing a battle with acne, tee boxes are like the side mirrors on a car.

Crucial but barely noticed.

At Arizona Biltmore Country Club's Adobe Course, the tee boxes register in your brain -- and not just to a semi-anal golf writer taking notes and looking for story angles, either. The guy playing with me pointed out Biltmore Adobe's tee boxes first.

Tim Thorn isn't some dandy bloke who gets regular pedicures, sets his schedule around Project Runway airings and sips drinks pinker than Paris Hilton's poodle collar, either. Thorn's a former college football star at San Diego State (from the late '60s when San Diego State was actually good), a tight end skilled enough to taste life in the pros, the kind of man's man who knows ones score is improved by two beers down the closing stretch.

Heck, Thorn has surgery scars from rebuilt knees that he just laughs at.

So, no, you don't expect him to note tee boxes. Only, on the Adobe Course you almost can't help it. They're huge for one thing. Many resort courses these days give golfers tee boxes skinnier than Kate Moss on a cocaine bender. You have about as much room to move around as an out-of-work Manhattan musician in his studio apartment.

You're pretty much limited to hitting out of the same line that dozens of other golfers have hit out of that day.

Not at Biltmore Adobe, the second-oldest golf course in all of greater Phoenix. At Adobe, the tee boxes are like your own mammoth personal abode.

They're wider than one of those old Chevys with wing fins and longer than Wilt Chamberlain. You can hit your drive from virtually any angle you wish. You'll find a sea of unspoiled, nice tee box grass to choose from.

The tee is yours gentleman! Just let us know if you're considering moving in.

"These are some nice tee boxes," Thorn said mid-round, almost disbelievingly, like he couldn't imagine he was talking tees. "They really give you an idea of what golf was like in the past. It's so different from what you usually see today."

You could say that about almost everything with the Adobe course.

Even right across a small street from the five-star Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa, a hotel that draws architecture buffs that just want to stare at its distinct Frank Lloyd Wright-influenced buildings and history buffs who want to be told they're staying in the same room that Clark Gable lounged in, Adobe Course takes recreating a time long gone to the extreme.

It's as old school as Frank Sinatra in a fedora smoking a pack of Camels.

Adobe is a course in Arizona that doesn't use any desert. It's greener than a field in Wisconsin in the heart of the spring. It's also a course in the middle of the fifth largest city in the country (part of Biltmore Resort's great appeal, that's had every U.S. president for the last 40 years stay at it, is its proximity to Phoenix's business centers) that often makes you feel like you're removed from the bustle.

You get more room for error off those plush giant tee boxes than a guy hunting with a shotgun. Spray the ball all you want, you're only going to find more nice green grass.

Then you head toward greens that are smaller than McLovin's chances with the ladies. Tom Fazio would take one look at Adobe's greens and wonder if they were just an annex to the real greens.

This is how golf used to be played when chewing gum tycoon William Wrigley Jr. commissioned the course back in 1928 and how original course architect William P. "Billy" Bell wanted the course to be. A $4 million renovation led by restoration architect Forrest Richardson in 2004 assured that.

Landing on the green isn't a given. You have to do a little work, hone in with the short game, when you're close.

"People think Adobe's easy," Dick Bates, the club general manager, said, noting the numbers on the scorecard (6,430 yards and a 123 slope rating). "But you still have to hit some good golf shots."

You can almost attempt those shots while whistling, though. That's Biltmore Adobe. It makes you think people were a whole let less stressed back in the day. Golfers too.

Arizona Biltmore's Adobe Course: The verdict

You're probably going to be surprised by how much you like Arizona Biltmore Adobe.

It's the antithesis of all the new, modern monster golf courses that are geared to bring average golfers to their knees. Instead, it lets you enjoy a leisurely round. This is a golf day where you'll actually breathe easy.

There are still holes you'll remember though. Like No. 14 -- a 512-yard par 4 -- with one of the biggest bushes you'll ever see and trees all around that cut off the usual wideness of the fairways. Or No. 16, a short 141-yard par 3 with a big bunker right in front of the green that seems to attract golf balls like a white dimple magnet.

Or if you're into ducks and geese, No. 18 -- a 494-yard par 5 with a slow running creek along almost the entire right side of the hole.

There are no holes over 512 yards, which means there are plenty of chances to go for those very green, small greens. Adobe's prices aren't historic - with greens fees ranging from $85 to $175 in the fall and winter seasons when vacationers want to be playing Arizona golf.

The near-assured tee box gossip is included.

Chris BaldwinChris Baldwin, Contributor

Chris Baldwin keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.


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