Marriott Golf Corners Scottsdale Market with Championship Golf Courses

By Shane Sharp, Contributor

SCOTTSDALE, AZ - The purveyors of the largest conference hotel west of the Mississippi and outside of Las Vegas could be worried about filling their 950 rooms in the wake of the recent travel industry backlash.

But with two world-class golf courses, a 28,000 square foot spa, the two largest ballrooms in the state, nine separate dining facilities, and four acres of interconnecting waterways, the Marriott Desert Ridge Resort and Spa hasn't even broken a sweat.

"We didn't build this hotel for 2003 and 2004," says Marriott's area director of golf Kevin Stockford. "We built it for 2020. Sure, we are concerned about the travel industry, but the bookings have been solid, and we are even sold out for next January."

Yes, the golf and travel industry is reawakening in Scottsdale, and Marriott Golf feels that it has positioned itself to become the industry leader with its three, first class resort facilities. The behemoth hotel chain's Camelback Inn and Golf Club has spent the last 25 years establishing itself as one of the Valley of the Sun's premier golf resorts. Mountain Shadows Resort and Golf Club has quietly cemented itself as one of Scottsdale's hidden stay and play gems.

And with the opening of the Desert Ridge Resort and Spa and the Nick Faldo Course at Wildfire, the company's vision of an all inclusive golf dynasty is coming to fruition.

"It is a nice variety for us to have all these different types of facilities," Stockford says. "You've got Mountain Shadows, which is one of the best executive courses in the country, and you've got Camelback, which is a traditional parkland style resort. And with Wildfire, we've got the desert styles courses, and the new Faldo Course is like nothing else in this region."

The Faldo course opened to rave reviews in late 2001, and is quickly making a name for itself among the Scottsdale golf scene. The PGA Tour vet worked with the local design firm of Brian Curley and Lee Schmidt to craft a layout modeled after the Sandbelt of Australia.

Think Royal Melbourne meets Prestwick - 106 traditional flared lip bunkers flash up anywhere from five to 25 feet, protecting the 6,850-yard layout from long knockers. The 18th hole will quickly become the stuff of 19th hole legend, as if sports no less 10 bunkers, and provides a heart pounding view of the Resort Hotel.

"The Faldo Course is a great complement to the existing Palmer Course," says Stockford. "Now, with 36 holes, we are ready to move forward with completing the hotel and offering guest a true stay and play alternative."

The Resort is scheduled to open in November, and group reservations are being taken for January 2003. When the first guest turns down the sheets at Desert Ridge this fall, Marriott Golf will be the proud owners of four championship courses, an award winning executive course, three resorts and nearly 2000 rooms.

Stockford says that Marriott Golf is also trying to bolster its golf packaging service, and plans are in the works for a golf vacation center that will enable visitors to plan golf itineraries that include Camelback, Mountain Shadows, Wildfire, and other area courses.

"We are doing a lot more packages, and when our resort opens, we'll have more stay and play packages," Stockford says. "The new resort is suitable to vacationers and business travelers, and we plan to cater to both markets with all that we have to offer."

Those offerings, when taken collectively, are overwhelming. Consider:

• Camelback (pictured) is home to thirty-six holes of championship golf, eight tennis courts, three pools and a 27,000 square-foot comprehensive European health spa. The Camelback Golf Club recently re-opened after a $16 million renovation, and includes a new 18-hole Resort Course, designed by Arthur Hills, that is marked deep bunkers, numerous water hazards, tree lined fairways, and panoramic views.

• The 7014-yard Club Course, designed by Jack Snyder, opened in 1978 and anchors the Camelback golf experience. The Club Course sports a linksy feel juxtaposed against stately date palms and sweeping sand traps. Camelback Golf Club is also host to John Jacobs Practical Golf Schools, a world-class teaching facility.

• Mountain Shadows' critically-acclaimed 18-hole, par 56 executive golf course is an excellent warm up track, and a challenging test of golf for those without time for a five hour round. Playing to 3,082 yards, the course winds through 70 acres of killer scenery at the base of Camelback Mountain. The course houses a solid group of challenging par 3s and sports over 60 sand and grass bunkers. Water is the modus operandi on the back nine, as a meandering creek and a small lake are continually in play.

Desert Ridge (at right) is likely to be all the rage in the years to come, with its setting on the edge of the Sonoran desert in north Scottsdale, and its banquet and conference facilities.

But Stockford says that the other Marriott golf properties will more than hold their own.

"Camelback is a five star, four diamond facility, and we are shooting for the same level of service and hospitality at Desert Ridge," he says. "Camelback can go toe to toe with any resort, and it is firmly entrenched. People come out here three or four days but they don't always want to play three or four desert courses. Camelback has the intimate feel, with its casitas, and it caters to a different golf traveler."

Marriott Golf Goes High Tech with Pro Link System

The new $16 million course and club at Marriott's Camelback Golf Club offers the latest in high-tech golf course amenities, from state-of-the-art satellite positioning data and professional tips to yardage to the pin and weather updates.

Via a high resolution, flat, color screen mounted on the golf cart, ProLink provides golfers with a variety of information tools. These include graphic displays of the course and greens layouts, yardage to the daily pin placements, real-time tournament scoring features, professional tips, two-way messaging between the carts and the clubhouse and food and beverage ordering services.

Golf course managers can monitor the pace of play, pinpoint the location of carts on the course, deliver advertising messages and issue weather updates, among other management features.

"ProLink has an excellent, proven track record in golf course information management and services, and we're excited to have them on board," says Camelback Golf Club's Director of Golf, Brian Creps. "With the addition of ProLink, we will be able to improve the pace of play, produce lower scores and enhance the overall experience for our golfers."

Shane SharpShane Sharp, Contributor

Shane Sharp is vice president of Buffalo Communications, a golf and lifestyle media agency. He was a writer, senior writer and managing editor of from 1997 to 2003.

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