A Scottsdale golf weekend to remember: Westin Kierland, Troon North, Talking Stick
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- It's no secret that Scottsdale is one of the best golf vacation destinations in the world. With more than 200 courses in the area, the choices are endless, it seems; and with the majority of the offerings, it's hard to go wrong.
But if you were looking for the dream golf weekend -- a long weekend, that is -- what would you choose as your courses? Where would you stay?
There are a lot of combinations, but here's an itinerary worth considering: Arrive on a Friday and check into the Westin Kierland Resort and Spa. If you get there early enough, say around 10 a.m., you've got plenty of time to play all 27 holes.
The next day, get up early and head over to Troon North Golf Club, where there are 36 holes. (The Four Seasons at Troon North wouldn't be a bad option for a hotel either.) Then on Sunday, you could finish out the weekend with Talking Stick Golf Club. Here's a look at all three:
Westin Kierland Resort and Spa
With 27 holes, there's plenty of golf at the Westin Kierland Resort and Spa, but the resort experience goes way beyond that. Besides outstanding dining and a full-service spa, the resort also has a couple of unique touches that set it apart.
First, as the name would imply, the resort is a tribute to golf's Scottish Heritage. Each evening, there's the playing of the bagpipes by expert veteran bagpipe player Michael McClanathan around the firepit at the resort's Dreamweaver's Canyon. It is no doubt enhanced by a single-malt Scotch and/or a fine cigar as the sun sets in the horizon.
The Westin Kierland is also one of the first golf facilities in the country to offer air conditioning on the golf carts. If this sounds like a luxury, it is, but the A/C units -- which blow cool air on the back of your neck during a scorching Arizona day -- really do make a difference.
And if you're really adventurous, try Kierland's golf Segways. Once you get the hang of it, it's a pretty cool way to get around the course, and it tends to speed up play since you can go to some places golf carts can't.
The three nines of the golf course are pretty wide open and forgiving, for the most part, and it's always in excellent condition. Designed by Scott Miller, it's no pushover, especially the Acacia Nine, which ends with a terrific risk-reward par 5.
The resort is also home to the LaBauve Golf Academy, featuring top teachers Mike and Sandy LaBauve. The instruction at Kierland is rounded out with top-notch clubfitting, as well as the ForeMax golf-conditioning program.
Troon North Golf Club
It's no stretch to say that Troon North tops the wish list for most visitors traveling to Scottsdale for a golf vacation. The name alone has appeal, but it's backed up by 36 holes of wonderfully designed classic desert golf by Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish. And it's always in impeccable shape.
In fact, the courses got even better in 2007 after Weiskopf and Morrish returned to reroute the two courses, switching some holes on the back. Now, both of them flow better.
Troon North's Pinnacle Course, set against the base of Pinnacle Peak, is classic desert target golf. The fairways are pretty generous, but the approach shots get your attention. Precision is a must, and when you get to the perfect undulating greens, you really have to start paying attention.
Generally considered the better of the two, however, Troon North's Monument Course is named for the monument boulder on the third hole.
With tees perched high above fairways, it has a few forced carries and a lot of great vistas from the tees. Both courses feature great views of the valleys, and you'll even enjoy checking out some of the spectacular homes that are set well off the course.
Practice facilities are also outstanding (music even plays on the driving range), and there's also a short course if 36 holes isn't enough or you want a great warm up before tackling either course.
Dubbed "Monument Express," Troon North's executive-style course is a little more than 1,500 yards and has two different par options depending on the skill of the play. For the advanced player, it's a par 29; for the progressive player (as they like to call high handicappers), it's a par 36.
Talking Stick Golf Club
Named for the traditional wooden stick used on Pima Indian calendars, Talking Stick G.C. is a tale of two entirely different golf courses, even though they were both designed by the team of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw.
In truth, it's hard to find a bad Coore-Crenshaw design, given their passion for the history of the game and meticulous approach. Such was the case at Talking Stick, where Troon Golf and the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian community asked them to design two completely different courses. They also asked them to make the courses user-friendly, which means neither one are traditional desert target golf.
Talking Stick's North Course is more wide open with views of Camelback Mountain and a windswept look that encourages a lot of different shots. At 7,133 yards, this par 70 can play pretty tough from the tips, but the designers accomplished the user-friendly aspect by allowing plenty of openings on the greens and generous landing areas.
The South Course is 6,833 yards at par 71. It has a little more elevation change and some tree-lined fairways. A bit shorter, it's also more straightforward than the North Course. And both courses are usually in excellent shape.