The Phoenician: Twenty-seven working-class holes at a world-class golf resort in Scottsdale
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Here's the thing about The Phoenician: If golfers expect the three nine-hole golf courses to be as splendorous as the resort itself, they'll be disappointed.
But if they don't mind a few extra par 3s, spectacular views and a few chance meetings with the group in the next fairway, they'll be happy they left the comforts of the resort behind to chase the little white ball around for a few hours.
"There are so many golfers [who] don't like losing 12 golf balls and having forced carries on every single hole," Director of Golf Kevin Betts said. "On this golf course you can roll the ball from the tee box to the green on almost every hole other than the par 3s."
See, while The Phoenician is a world-class resort that has won dozens of national and international awards, the golf course -- if you can call three separate nines a course -- is strictly working class.
That's because the 27 holes, which sit at the base of Camelback Mountain, are squeezed onto 120 acres, only 110 of which are irrigated. By comparison, a typical 18-hole championship course stretches more than 150 acres, and Southern Dunes in Maricopa sits on 320 acres.
The dearth of land requires some compromise. For example, there are three par 3s on both the Desert and Canyon Courses, which each play just more than 3,000 yards. None of the five par 5s are more than 525 yards. And because many of the holes abut one another, it's not unusual for a group to hit a wayward drive into another fairway.
Fortunately, The Phoenician has two important attributes in its favor. First, it's a Troon-managed property, so it's almost always in pristine shape. Second, designers Ted Robinson Sr. and Homer Flint did a remarkable job with the scant land they had.
While the Desert and Canyon Courses are the most requested by out-of-town visitors -- primarily because of the incredible views of the Valley -- it's the Oasis Course that stands out. Six of the nine holes are dotted with water, and the 321-yard, par-4 ninth hole is a hoot. Its green is surrounded by a moat of sand.
That's right, a moat of sand.
The fourth hole on the Oasis is Betts' favorite and perhaps the most difficult hole on the grounds, a 419-yard par 4 with water all the way down the left side and a narrow landing area for the tee shot. Lay up, and golfers face a mid-iron shot to a double-tiered green.
The Desert nine is a treat, with dramatic elevation changes and far more variety than 3,060 yards should offer. Two of the par 3s -- the 180-yard sixth and 120-yard eighth – have huge drops from tee to green. The holes play at least a club shorter, and the drive up to the sixth tee provides a breathtaking view of the northeast Valley.
The par-3 fourth hole is the one that can trip up a scorecard. It's 220 yards from the championship tees, and the green features a huge swale on the right side.
The Canyon nine, at 3,008 yards, isn't quite as fun as the Desert nine, but it ends with a bang: The seventh hole is a 201-yard par 3, the eighth is a 132-yard par 3 over water, and the ninth is a 525-yard par 5 with water that juts deep into the fairway at about 250 yards -- the available landing space is about 20 yards wide -- and runs in front and right of the green.
"It's an awesome hole," Betts said.
Would the Phoenician be better off with more land and one true championship-level course? Probably. But given its constraints, it's about as good as it can be.
The Phoenician: The verdict
Some folks won't like the fact that The Phoenician has three separate nines rather than one spectacular 18-hole course, and an argument can be made that the resort should make that switch. But The Phoenician serves its purpose: It's a resort layout that takes it easy on golfers. Enjoy the views and the elevation changes. Forget about what The Phoenician could be and enjoy it for what it is.
June 17, 2011