Roll where the PGA Tour plays: TPC Scottsdale's Stadium Course
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- It's 162 yards from tee to green on the 16th hole at the TPC Scottsdale Stadium Course.
But you're not thinking about club selection, the pin placement or the gentle breeze blowing from the left.
You're seeing and hearing things.
You're picturing a skinny Tiger Woods making an ace at the 1997 Phoenix Open and then pumping his fist in exultation as the tee box is bombarded with beer cans, plastic cups and whatever else the gallery could get its hands on.
You're listening to 20,000 fans boo golfers who miss the green with their tee shot and serenade pros by signing Happy Birthday or the fight song of their alma maters.
Your forecaddie, Steve, sees you lost in your thoughts and smiles. He knows.
Playing the Stadium Course at TPC Scottsdale is much more than a round of golf. The 7,216-yard, par-71 layout has been the home of the Phoenix Open and its successor names – FBR Open, Waste Management Open – since 1987. You can't walk 18 holes there without recalling some of the tournament's greatest moments.
First, however, a few words about the golf course. It is, as you might expect of a layout hosting a PGA Tour event, a terrific track. The Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish design can be long and arduous if you play from the tips, and the rough can be penal, particularly if you play in the weeks leading up to the late-January Tour stop.
But the white tees play at just 6,049 yards with a 68.7 rating, so even the weekend hackers can enjoy themselves.
The TPC also employs forecaddies during the winter months, and they're worth every dollar they earn in tips. On the day we played, Steve read greens, wiped off our clubs, cleaned our golf balls and chased down our errant shots.
On greens that usually roll extremely fast and can break hard off the McDowell Mountains and toward the Valley, his advice was invaluable.
Let's face it, though: You're not putting $200 or so on your credit card because you think you can shoot a 63. It's an opportunity to play the same golf course as Woods, Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson and recall their shots as you embark on your adventure.
To that end, TPC Scottsdale does a magnificent job of highlighting its most memorable events.
There, on the 18th hole fairway, is the plaque commemorating the drive J.B. Holmes hit in the final round of the 2006 tournament. The distance: 354 yards – over water.
A piece of advice: Don't try that at home.
A plaque on the 17th hole recognizes the hole-in-one Andrew Magee hit in 2001. What made Magee's ace so special is that it came on the 332-yard, par-4 and caromed off the putter of Tom Byrum, who was in the group ahead of him.
There's another plaque near a boulder on the par-5, 595-yard 13th hole. Woods' drive in the 1999 tournament landed right behind the rock and tournament officials deemed it to be a "loose impediment." It took about a dozen members of the gallery to move the rock, err, loose impediment.
When you've finished, do yourself a favor and eat at The Grill, which overlooks the 18th green and has some of the best food you'll find at any 19th hole.
In the end, TPC Scottsdale's Stadium Course is a two-for-one treat: You can play one of the top golf courses in Scottsdale and envision how the world's best golfers turn such a difficult layout into a pitch-and-putt.
Final thoughts about TPC Scottsdale's Stadium Course: Is the Stadium Course the single best layout in north Scottsdale? Maybe not. But it will stir your imagination and, if you're lucky enough to make birdie on No. 16, let you envision what it would be like to have 20,000 fans screaming your name.
March 7, 2011