The Phoenician: One Course, Three Different Worlds
Great golf courses abound in the Valley of the Sun. Some take advantage of the desert and provide stern tests of target golf. Others try to contrast the stark terrain with oases of plush fairways, palm trees, and rolling springs. Still others wind their way through mountain canyons and provide breathtaking views of the valley below.
Only one course provides all of this in one neatly wrapped package, however. The golf course at The Phoenician Resort has 27 holes divided equally among Arizona's natural beauties. Three different nines - three different worlds. The Oasis, Desert, and Canyon courses at The Phoenician each play to a par 35.
They are all relatively short, the longest (Oasis) playing to 3,250 yards from the Championship tees, 2,995 yards from the Phoenician tees and 2,559 yards from the Forward tees. But each is challenging in its own unique way, and together with the courtesy and amenities you might expect from one of the Valley's most regal resorts, they provide a golf outing you won't soon forget.
Designed by Jack Snyder and Ted Robinson and reworked by Homer Flint, the beauty comes at a hefty price of more than $150 per round in peak season and about half that in the summer months. The course can be played in any combination of the three nines. The Oasis/Desert combo is the toughest and carries ratings ranging from 70.3 to 65.2 and slopes ranging from 130 to 109.
Taken as a whole, The Phoenician is impressive. The grass is as green as you will find in the winter months. The landscaping is impeccable. The winding cobblestone cart paths are without blemish.
It's also worth noting that some of the holes can stand on their own. The par 4 eighth hole on the Oasis course may be one of the all-around best in the Valley. The par 5 seventh hole on the Desert course may be one of the most difficult. The par 5 finishing hole on the Canyon course takes your breath away from the road, as an impressive assortment of flowers, bushes, and trees drape the lagoon that travels the length of the dogleg right and protects the front edge of the peninsula green.
Throw in a climb straight up Camelback Mountain followed by a drop straight off it and you've got yourself an extraordinary collection of holes.
The Oasis course is aptly named, with water coming into play on all but two holes. Cut in the traditional mold, it is fairly wide open where it is dry. On the firm fairways, the summer Bermuda is generously overseeded with Rye, and everything is kept very moist. The greens are soft but cut low and fast, which pretty much goes for the other two nines as well. Palm trees line the fairways and bunkers are few in number but strategically placed.
Teeing off the desert course, you might be tricked by the first two holes. These circle the Oasis course before taking a left turn directly into the face of the mountain. Once you reach the fourth hole, the landscape begins to change as rapidly as the elevations. Stop and admire the view from the beautifully constructed tee boxes on No. 6 and observe as the flora turns from palm to cactus and from bush to brush.
The Canyon course begins where the Desert leaves off. Tee shots require carryover desert terrain but the fairways open up to lush, wide boulevards. The ride is a bit more bumpy through the canyon, leaving plenty of interesting lies. Water makes an encore appearance on four of the holes.
The challenge at The Phoenician comes from recognizing what you're up against at any given moment and playing the safest shot accordingly. It does not have much to do with the distance.
All three nines can be reasonably played from the Championship tees. Except for a few par-3s with drastic drops, The Phoenician doesn't skimp on the shorter distances. That translates into manageable par 4s throughout the course, especially from the Phoenician and Forward tees.
The course is no more challenging for the average woman or senior than it is for the longest of hitters. In fact, a premium should be put on shorter, straighter shots unless you'd like to get up-close and personal with a rattler. Desert or water hazards and a few nasty doglegs encourage golfers to lay up on several holes as well.
If there is a down side to The Phoenician's layout, it is probably the cramping effect of putting 27 holes smack dab in the middle of a resort. The practice facilities, while first-rate, could get a little crowded at peak times and golfers out on the intertwined course should always keep an alert ear out for calls of "fore."
Golf purists will notice that there are a few blind or obscured shots and will be frustrated by the drastic elevation changes and lack of rough, but weekend warriors will surely find the uniqueness of The Phoenician refreshing.
Yardage posts are planted along the course and distances are printed on sprinkler heads as well, but you may find yourself estimating yardage a lot as the sprinkler heads are tough to spot, especially inside 100 yards.
If you have the means or are treating yourself to a day of luxury, be sure to take advantage of some of the resorts other amenities. Choose from eleven restaurants and lounges for your dining pleasure, or relax at the full-service spa. Bring your bathing suit and check out The Phoenician's 165-foot water slide and nine heated pools.
Even an amateur art critic would likely be pleased by the resort's $8 million art collection, and the grand scale of The Phoenician's architecture is equally impressive. If you venture out of the resort's confines, Roxsand and Vincent's offer fine dining and are conveniently located on Camelback Road and downtown Phoenix attractions are less than a 15-minute drive away.
So come to The Phoenician for three unique tests of golf that have something for everyone. And if at all possible, make sure you try all three. But be careful, one of them just might become your favorite nine, and that could get really expensive.
How to get there: The Phoenician is situated at the southern base of Camelback Mountain. Turn north off Camelback Road at Jokake Road (60th street). Follow the main road back and to the right. The clubhouse and parking will be on your right.
The Phoenician Resort
6000 E. Camelback Rd.
Scottsdale, AZ 85251