TPC Scottsdale's Stadium Course gets all the pub, but Champions Course is real deal
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- TPC Scottsdale gets recognized on par with other top TPC facilities across the country -- TPC Sawgrass, the TPC Blue Monster at Doral, the TPC Old White at The Greenbrier -- for its Stadium Course, home to the Phoenix Waste Management Open.
But it's the 7,115-yard TPC Scottsdale Champions Course that just might be right for your foursome. The Champions will always play second fiddle to the Stadium in stature, but here's why this layout might be a better choice: price, playability and walkability.
The Champions, the old Desert Course renovated by Randy Heckenkemper in 2007, operates out of a separate clubhouse than TPC Scottsdale's Stadium Course. It's still a great clubhouse home for a municipal-owned course, just on a smaller scale.
The setting for the par-71 play is no different than the Stadium Course. The Sonoran Desert remains in play throughout and the majestic McDowell Mountain still dominate the horizon. Both tracks are relatively flat, although the routing makes Champions more walkable. Walking instead of riding in a cart cuts down on the cost even further.
Even though the greens don't reach the speeds of the Stadium, the conditions on the Champions are just as pristine and well maintained. The major difference is Heckenkemper built friendlier green complexes. Heckenkemper, who worked with original designer Tom Weiskopf at the site in 1987, kept the challenge there. He just dialed down the penalties.
Water plays a big part on three holes of the Champions Course. It greets players along the left side of the fairway at no. 1 and again guards the left side of the green of the par-5 ninth. The 18th finishes it off with a harrowing approach over a lake that runs up the left side before swooping in front of the green.
The fairways tend to feel ribbon-thin. Many are hemmed in by desert or in the case of the par-4 third, a scrub-covered hillside that gobbles more balls than it gives back.
The most strategic hole might be the fifth, a par 5 with a split fairway. Those who challenge a big carry to reach the fairway up the left side can go for the green in two. The par-4 seventh also has some character with desert dissecting the fairway.
The back nine doesn't up the ante in the same way the Stadium Course does, but it's still solid. The 215-yard 16th might be the best par 3 on the course, playing uphill to a huge green. There’s no grand party every year to celebrate its artistry -- ala the 16th at the Stadium Course. Still, like the rest of the Champions, it's memorable in its own special way.
March 6, 2012