TPC Scottsdale's Champions course steps out of the Stadium's shadow
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- There are two golf courses at the TPC Sottsdale.
One you might be familiar with: The Stadium course at TPC Scottsdale, host of the Waste Management Open, formerly known as the Phoenix Open. It features the most rowdy hole in golf, the par-3 16th. Every day during the tournament, up to 20,000 spectators turn the "stadium seating" into their own private party, booing shots that don't hit the green, serenading the golfers and cheering wildly for birdies.
TPC Scottsdale's Champions course, which sits across the street, doesn't get any TV time. And golfers who venture onto the grounds want to follow in the footsteps of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.
But make no mistake: The Champions course can stand on its own. The par-71, 7,115-yard layout is a challenging but enjoyable track and a great alternative if tee times are booked at the Stadium course.
"This is not your typical resort course," said course designer Randy Heckenkemper.
Ten years ago, the course wasn't worth mentioning. Then known as the Desert Course, it was a benign, par 70 only 6,423 yards long. But in 2007 Heckenkemper redesigned every hole and added nearly 700 yards.
Now, you better pack a lunch pail because you're in for a hard day's work.
That doesn't mean the Champions course at TPC Scottsdale is unfair or impossible for the average golfer to navigate. But any par 71 stretching more than 7,100 yards from the tips will get your attention in a hurry. Even the blue tees, at 6,653 yards, have a slope rating of 133.
"It's a great course and a good layout but it's long," said Phoenix resident Tom Morales. "You have to hit it off the tee well."
How long is it? Well, five of the par 4s measure at least 446 yards long. There are five par 3s but the shortest is 164 yards and three of them are more than 200 yards. And the shortest par 5 is 542 yards.
Fortunately, Heckenkemper didn't skimp on the fairways, which are more generous than your typical desert layout. Still, golfers who play a set of tees too difficult for their game will face a lot of long second shots.
I should know: I played the blue tees and wound up using my 3-wood on far too many approach shots.
Two holes stand out:
No. 5 is a 556-yard dogleg left with a wash splitting the fairway. The bold golfer can try to carry the wash at about 215 yards but the fairway tightens considerably and the desert looms on each side.
No. 15 is a short, 359-yard, par 4 that bends left but again there's a risk-reward in play. A 230-yard drive is required to carry the wash to the left side. Safety-conscious golfers will go right and face a longer approach shot.
The final three holes on the Champions course at TPC Scottsdale are an adventure ride. No. 16 is a 215-yard par 3, No. 17 a 605-yard par 5, and No. 18 a 460-yard par 4 with water down the left side. Never has a cold beverage in the clubhouse tasted so good.
"I like the course because it's fairly straightforward but you need to bring a lot of golf balls," Morales said. "And it's long."
Yeah, we noticed.
The Champions course at TPC Scottsdale: The verdict
TPC Scottsdale's Champions course always will play second fiddle to its famous sister. But the more you play it, the more you'll appreciate its own attributes. Heckenkemper did a tremendous job with the redesign, turning a boring layout into one of the more challenging tracks in the Valley.
Stay and play at TPC Scottsdale
There are several luxury resorts and hotels within a few miles but for convenience sake stay at the Scottsdale Princess Resort, which sits adjacent to the TPC of Scottsdale. It's not cheap, but you'll be a pampered guest, enjoy the four award-winning restaurants on site and, if the Champions course does beat you up, rub out the aches and pains with a massage at the Willow Stream Spa.
August 9, 2010