Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort is the blessed quiet in Scottsdale's resort party storm
CHANDLER, Ariz. - The New York Giants had a secret weapon in their Super Bowl win last February.
This has nothing to do with David Tyree's improbable against-the-helmet catch on the game-winning drive or even Giants receiver Plaxico Burress' overblown guarantee. Instead, it's where the team stayed in a Phoenix-Scottsdale area with more resorts than some cities have McDonald's.
Coach Tom Coughlin and his team hid away at the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort & Spa, a place that brings you luxury, golf and a casino among the horses. It's hardly like hiding away in a barn somewhere - not with the plush beds, the waterfall pools and the setting along a faux Gila River. But Wild Horse Pass still marks a dramatic departure from many of the resorts in what long ago grew into a hip, desert, party region.
For one thing, it's quiet.
You can definitely hear yourself think at Wild Horse Pass. On a recent week night, walking around the grounds, one could have been excused for thinking they'd been transported to a secluded resort in some remote outpost. Get away from the main lobby and restaurants area, and the silence is deafening.
It's hard to imagine that Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport is less than 15 minutes away, a very easy shot straight down the freeway. It's more difficult to come to grips with the fact that there's a Wild Horse Pass Casino that's right down the street. This looks and feels like anything but a casino resort, after all.
Wild Horse Pass Resort is about as needlessly flashy as Warren Buffet, a refined businessman that you'd never mistake for one of the flashy "Entourage" crew.
You might see a group of guys hanging around their room's backyard patio (most rooms have patios or balconies) knocking back a few cold ones. But these aren't rowdy remembrances from guys who yearn to relive their college days as much as satisfied reflections on the underrated joys of being middle-aged and successful.
Like having the time and means to enjoy a $300-per-night resort with two golf courses (both managed by Troon) a quick shuttle or boat ride from your room.
"This is one of my favorite golf resorts in Phoenix, because it can just be about the golf and hanging out with the guys," vacationer Scott Hoyt said. "You're not out in Scottsdale, where you feel pressure to go to the clubs or do more at night.
"Here you can get a great meal, have a few pops, maybe play some cards and wake up actually able to enjoy the golf. It's just relaxing."
Whether you're a group of buddies on vacation, a businessman attending a conference or even an NFL player preparing for the biggest game of his life, who doesn't need that?
More golf than casino paradise at Wild Horse
There's not a single bit of memorabilia, let alone a plaque, signaling that the New York Giants stayed at Sheraton Wild Horse Pass during Super Bowl week. No one's telling you what Eli Manning ordered from room service. This isn't that kind of place.
Wild Horse Pass Resort is on Gila River Indian Reservation land, and it's as dignified as the people of the two tribes that call this stretch of Sonoran desert home. The circular towering lobby features intricate American Indian paintings overhead, the scenes coming right after another in the circle.
It has one of the more distinct and yet unflashy lobbies you'll find anywhere. Even Wild Horse Pass' gift shop stays away from the usual hotel kitsch - no cheesy toy teepees here. The boldest break from cookie-cutter hotel convention, though, is Kai, the fine dining restaurant that features an American Indian-inspired menu.
So much for that typical steakhouse or Italian restaurant.
Unlike many resorts in the Valley of the Sun, Wild Horse Pass isn't all about hanging out at the pool either (though there are four of them, if that's what you want to do). There's also the Koli Equestrian Center, where you can take horse riding lessons and truly get out into the desert on trails that no golf cart has ever rode.
Whirlwind Golf Club is a road a little more traveled - but it's one without houses nuzzling the fairways or many of the other drags on the modern game. Both the Cattail and Devil's Claw courses present very green fairways in a desert setting (you can see horses, too). Because of the Gilda River location that seems to be much farther away than it actually is, the courses are seldom jammed, letting you dodge Scottsdale's tee time traffic.
You'll probably check out the casino at least one night during your stay. Just don't expect a carryover of the hotel's refined luxury vibe. The Wild Horse Pass Casino would never be mistaken for one of Las Vegas' cutting edge fun palaces. This is the spot where you will find some cheesy signed memorabilia in the entranceway alcove - like an autographed Leandro Barbosa picture (he's the speedy Brazilian guard on the Phoenix Suns that only hardcore NBA fans know).
Sometimes this casino looks like it's a senior center. This won't stop you and your buddies from having a good time for a short while. You just don't want to spend all your time at this casino. This isn't the trip where you do your poker shark impression and wear those sunglasses indoors at 10 a.m.
There's too much better outdoor stuff waiting back at Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort.
October 1, 2008