The Most Popular Places to Play in Phoenix

By Rebecca Larsen, Contributor

Camelback InnPHOENIX, AZ - When out-of-town golfers come to Phoenix, what are the courses they most want to play? Where do they most yearn to hit the fairways?

We asked the concierge staff at nine major resorts and hotels in the Valley of the Sun to answer those questions: staffers from the Boulders, Phoenician Hotel, Camelback Inn, the Arizona Biltmore, the Scottsdale Princess, Resort Suites of Scottsdale, the Four Seasons Resort, the Doubletree at Paradise Valley and the Scottsdale Plaza.

Whenever a resort has a golf course associated with it - as at the Camelback Inn, the Boulders, the Phoenician and the Biltmore - guests usually ask to play a round or two at those courses.

But according to those concierges, most often at the top of guests' lists are what we will call The Big Scottsdale Three: Troon North, Grayhawk Golf Club and the Stadium Course at the Tournament Players Club - probably the three most expensive tickets to play in the Valley of the Sun. In other words, many golfers who aim to travel to the Phoenix area this coming fall and winter want to play at one of these multi-million-dollar monuments of golf.

Why these three? "Often they've heard about them from another guest," says Hyalyn Schwichtenberg, concierge at the five-star Phoenician in Phoenix. "Or they've been here before and played one of the courses at Troon or Grayhawk and they want to go back and play the other one."

According to Amy Ferrin, concierge at the five-star Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, located next-door to the TPC Course, visitors have often read about the three courses in golfing magazines. "They're interested in the Stadium Course because they're staying here or they stay here because they want to play the TPC," she also says.

GrayhawkProbably many of these avid golfers have also seen Grayhawk and the TPC Stadium course on television as the venues for tournaments. But what turns them on to Troon? Mark Richeson, head golf professional at Troon North, says that the rankings that his golf club gets in top magazines have a lot to do with Troon's popularity. "The piece of land that Troon is built on, with its boulders and spectacular views, is hard to match," he says.

The quality of service and maintenance are also a draw. "We're the highest priced daily fee course in Arizona ($240 a round during the peak winter season) - even above Grayhawk and the TPC. At that level, you have to be able to provide conditions that are superior to anyone else," he says.

Although these three courses are located in the same city and are fairly new properties on the Scottsdale scene, they have very separate personalities.

Troon North Golf Club

Troon North Golf ClubTroon North Golf Club is located at the north end of Scottsdale and has two courses: the Monument Course designed by Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish, and the Pinnacle Course, by Weiskopf alone. The Pinnacle is the most challenging of the two. The golf club is at a higher elevation than the other courses in the fabulous rocky Pinnacle Peak area and has more holes that crawl up higher above the city, providing spectacular scenery. Yardage on the Pinnacle Course: 7,044 from the back tees (73.4/147); 4,980 from the forward tees (69.7/131). Yardage on the Monument Course: 7,028 from the back tees (73.3/147); 5,050 from the forward tees (69.8/129). As mentioned above, green fees are high, ranging from a low of $75 in summer to a high of $240 in winter. Address: 10320 Dynamite Blvd., Scottsdale. Phone number: 800-767-3574.

Grayhawk Golf Club

Grayhawk Golf ClubGrayhawk Golf Club has less of a mountain feeling, but has two great courses that combine desert-style target play and traditional golf. You'll be hitting across box canyons, over trickling creeks and into fairways that roll up and down like waves of green. Tom Fazio designed the Raptor; Gary Panks and David Green did the Talon. For a long time, Grayhawk was Phil Mickelson's home course and one of the restaurants in the clubhouse was named after him. Talon yardage: 6,973 from the back tees (73.6/143); 5,143 from the forward tees (70.0/121). Yardage on the Raptor: 7,135 from the back tees (74.1/143); 5,309 from the forward tees (71.3/127). Green fees range from $50 in summer to about $200 in winter. Address: 8620 E. Thompson Peak Parkway, Scottsdale. Phone number: 800-767-3574.

The Tournament Players Club Stadium Course

Tournament Players Club Stadium CourseThe Tournament Players Club Stadium Course, also by Weiskopf and Morrish, is exactly what it's called: a stadium, designed to test long-distance hitters. This is your chance to measure up against the pros who play this course for the Phoenix Open. The most interesting holes are on the closing stretch, the 15th through 18th, where some serious water hazards come into play. Can you drive the green on the par 4 17th hole the way they did last January during the Open? Yardage: 7,089 from the back tees (74.5/135); 5,567 from the forward tees (71.6/122). Green fees range from $60 in summer to $215 in winter. Address: 17020 Hayden Road, Scottsdale. Phone number: 800-767-3574.

Of course, if you visit Scottsdale next winter and don't find that any of The Big Three fits your tastes or your budget, you don't have to feel as if you've gone to Paris and missed the Eiffel Tower. The Phoenix area is loaded with fantastic courses that will be quite a contrast with anywhere you've ever teed up before.

At Resort Suites of Scottsdale, the director of guest services, Dennis Farrell, says that many visitors to his resort do ask to play at The Big Three, but those who book tee times for guests try to help them pick courses that they might not have thought about before as well. "We ask what kind of player they are, where do they normally play," he says. "We don't throw them out on places because we like them. We try to match up golfers with courses that suit them personally."

Here are some other courses in the Phoenix area that Farrell and resort concierge staffers say are also popular with guests:

The Camelback Golf Resort

The Camelback Golf Resort has a quiet location in midtown Scottsdale at the foot of the Camelback and Mummy mountains. There are two courses here, both with a traditional, wide-open feeling to them. The Marriott Corp. poured $16 million into renovating the Resort Course a few years ago and building a new pueblo-style clubhouse. The heavily bunkered course has a parkland setting of rolling fairways, heavily shaded by huge trees. The Club Course has more of a links style, with fewer bunkers and water hazards than the Resort Course. Yardage on the Resort Course: 6,903 from the back tees (72.8/132); 5,132 from the forward (68.6/114). Yardage on the Club Course: 7,014 from the back tees (72.6); 5,917 from the forward (72.0). Green fees range from $40 in summer to $145 in winter. Address: 7847 N. Mockingbird Lane, Scottsdale. Phone number: 800-767-3574.

Wildfire Golf Club

Wildfire Golf Club has a desert-style layout designed by Arnold Palmer. There is also a newly opened second course that has wider fairways than the Palmer but is loaded with 106 bunkers; Nick Faldo designed this course. Both courses will get you and your ball intimately acquainted with the desert. This is a Marriott property and lies in the shadow of Desert Ridge, a giant Marriott resort now under construction. Yardage on the Palmer Course: 7,145 from the back tees (73.3/135); 4,915 from the forward tees (67.2/112). Yardage on the Faldo Course: 6,846 from the back tees; 5,245 from the forward tees. Green fees range from $50 in summer to $130 in winter. Address: 5225 E. Pathfinder Drive, Phoenix. Phone number: 800-767-3574.

The Golf Club at Eagle Mountain

The Golf Club at Eagle Mountain, designed by Scott Miller, may be one of the most unusual courses on this list. This desert-style target course is located on a mountaintop and its holes are a series of real ups and downs as you fire your way across brushy arroyos and up to elevated greens. Green fees range from $50 in summer to $175 in winter. Yardage: 6,763 from the back tees (71.7/139); 5,065 yards from the forward tees (68.2/118). Address: 14915 E. Eagle Mountain Parkway, right off Shea Boulevard in Fountain Hills. Phone number: 800-767-3574.

SunRidge Canyon

SunRidge Canyon lies just a few miles from Eagle Mountain and has a similar rugged mountain layout, designed by Keith Foster. SunRidge is not strictly a target course although there is desert lining the sides of the fairways and there are some targets to hit. But the landing areas are not little pads of grass. Distance: 6,823 from the back tees (73.4/14); 5,122 yards from the forward tees (70.1/123). Green fees range from $40 in summer to $170 in winter. Address: 13100 N. SunRidge Drive in Fountain Hills. Phone number: 800-767-3574.

We-Ko-Pa

We-Ko-Pa, the work of Scott Miller, also the designer of Eagle Mountain, has a lush desert feeling amid a setting of mesquite, palo verde and saguaros. The course, newly opened in late 2001, is surrounded by spectacular mountain views, enhanced by the fact that the golf club is on the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation and will never be surrounded by subdivisions and tract housing. Green fees range from about $50 in summer to $165 in winter. Yardage: 7,225 from the back tees (72.5/130); 5,337 from the forward tees. Address: 18200 E. Toh Vee Circle, Fountain Hills. Phone number: 800-767-3574.

Talking Stick Golf Club

Talking Stick Golf Club is a 36-hole facility designed by Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore. The North Course is more of a desert-style playing field while the South Course has some 4,500 trees. The Salt River Pima-Maricopa Nation owns Talking Stick. Yardage for North Course: 7,133 from the back tees (73.80/129); 5,532 from the forward tees (70.10/116). Yardage for the South Course: 6,833 from the back tees (72.70/129); 5,428 from the forward tees (69.10/118). Green fees range from $35 in summer to $165 in winter. Address: 9998 E. Indian Bend Road, Scottsdale. Phone number: 800-767-3574.

Legend Trail

Legend Trail at the northern end of Scottsdale was designed by Rees Jones to combine the best of traditional and desert golfing. There are wide, open fairways but with prickly cactuses and mesquites all around you. Green fees range from $45 in summer to $175 in winter. Yardage: 6,845 from the back tees (72.5/135); 5,000 yards from the forward tees (68.2/122). Address: 9462 E. Legendary Lane, Scottsdale. Phone number: 800-767-3574.

Here is information on the resorts mentioned above:

The Boulders, 34631 N. Tom Darlington Drive, Carefree;
The Phoenician Hotel, 6000 E. Camelback Road, Scottsdale;
The Camelback Marriott Inn, 5402 E. Lincoln Drive, Scottsdale;
The Arizona Biltmore, 24th Street and Missouri Avenue, Phoenix;
The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, 7575 E. Princess Drive, Scottsdale;
The Resort Suites of Scottsdale, 7677 E. Princess Blvd., Scottsdale;
The Four Seasons Resort, 10600 E. Crescent Moon Drive, Scottsdale;
Doubletree at Paradise Valley, 5401 Scottsdale Road, Paradise Valley;
The Scottsdale Plaza Resort, 7200 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale.

Rebecca LarsenRebecca Larsen, Contributor

Rebecca Larsen is a former features and assistant features editor for the Marin Independent Journal, a medium-sized daily paper located north of San Francisco. She has also worked for the Milwaukee Journal and for a Chicago public relations firm. She has a bachelor's in journalism from Northwestern University and a master's from the University of California at Berkeley.


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