Where to Play on Your Scottsdale Golf Trip

By Shane Sharp, Contributor

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz - Tis the season. Well, almost at least. If you could wish for one gonga golf Christmas present, what would it be? A new set of Ping irons? A Titleist 975D Driver? The Odyssey White Hot putter?

Troon North's Pinnacle Golf Course - Bunkers
Watch out for the bunkers while playing Troon North on your next Scottsdale golf trip.
Troon North's Pinnacle Golf Course - Bunkers
If you go

Come on. Leave the equipment to a lesser occasion. This is Christmas, the biggest, best holiday of the year. Think big - really big. How about a golf trip to Scottsdale? Not some penny pinching, Motel Six staying, muni golf course playing three day weekend.

We are talking a full-on resort accommodations, top shelf daily fee and resort golf, cigars, scotch, golf trip that will leave your credit card smoking like Britney Spears at the MTV music awards (did we say that out loud?)

We want you on that course. We need you on that course. We use words like Troon, TPC, and Grayhawk when we talk about golf. You want the truth? You can't handle the truth! Well, at least not without consulting our where to stay and play guide to a money-be-dammed vacation in the Valley of the Sun's premier golfing destination.

Where to Play

Troon Golf North Golf Club (480.585.5300) - Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish formed one of the greatest dynamic design duo's in the modern era of golf course architecture. And then, like Sonny and Cher, Tommy Lee and Pamela Anderson, Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston (damn, they are still together), they split up.

But fortunately, Arizona is a community property state - as in the community still has access to one of Weiskopf and Morrish's greatest Grand Canyon state accomplishments: Troon North's Monument Course.

The course opened back in 1990, and was heralded by a number of publications as the most lavish, high priced, daily-fee golf course this side of the Pecos. Sitting alongside the Monument Course is the Pinnacle Course - produced a few years later by a single, yet capable Weiskopf.

Either course will run you about $240 this time of year. And if you can somehow fit in 36 holes in one shortened winter day, you can actually brag about having spent half a grand on greens fees in less than nine hours.

Among locals and experts, the front nine of the Pinnacle course is considered to be the crem de la crem. But as a whole, the Monument Course offers up a more negotiable round of golf with some incredible views of the valley.

Grayhawk Golf Club (480.502.1800) - Phil Mickelson loves Grayhawk - so much he represents the course on the PGA Tour - and there is no reason you shouldn't fall in love with both of the facility's fabulous layouts.

The Talon Course was designed by Gary Panks and David Graham, and never met an earthmover it didn't like. In terms of natural, and unnatural beauty, there are few courses in the southwest that can match it. Ribbons of bulkhead run along fairways and greens that are lined with arroyos and small canyons.

The par 3 11th hole features the famous swinging bridge, which in turn features an opportune moment to focus on the road, and not your freshly opened beer.

Some players who actually consider negotiating island greens, prickly plans, and rock filled chasms player-friendly, feel that the Talon Course is the easier of the two tracks. Play the 7,135-yard Raptor Course, and you might agree with them.

If you are a Tom Fazio fan, or if you don't know the preeminent course designer of the last 20 years from the Fonz, you will still drool over the Raptor course (never thought you would drool over anything named after a flesh eating dinosaur, did you?)

Fazio's only "public access" course in the state, Raptor is all that and a bag of Triceratops horns. The course plays to a redoubtable 136 slope from the tips, where it weighs in at 7,135 yards. Golf Digest rated the Talon the 12th-best and Raptor the 18th best courses in the state in 1997 (4th and 9th place among their public access competition.)

Best of the Rest

To say that the Boulders, the Phoenician and the TPC of Scottsdale are the best of the rest is akin to saying that Cameron Diaz and Drew Barrymore are the way to go, but if you have the time check out Neve Campbell, Liv Tyler and Gillian Anderson (okay, the last one was a personal preference.)

The Boulders (480.488.9026) is a GOLF Magazine Golf Medal resort that hardly needs an introduction when speaking of price-be-dammed golf facilities. Golf at this posh digs can run you over $200, and with room and board, the tab can approach $500.

The Boulders - named so because it is tucked among some prehistoric rocks of Sysiphisian proportions -- consists of two top shelf layouts that took nearly 25 years to fully congeal. The South Course was primarily designed by Morrish, and features the most holes with Boulder-esque views. The North Course is slightly more traditional and tight, and actually features some of the more memorable holes.

If it is variety you crave, the venerable Phoenician (480.423.2449) may be your bag. Located on the southside of Camelback Mountain, this indulgent creation of one Charles Keating offers up 27 holes divided into the Desert, Oasis, and Canyon and nines.

Finally, the TPC of Scottsdale (480.585.3939) beckons. Not necessarily because it is the best track of the group. But because it is fun to say that you played were the pros played. The Phoenix Open has been held at this Weiskopf/Morrish designed course since moving over from the Scottsdale Princess.

Obligatory Disclaimer: We admit it. We left a bunch of great courses off this list - courses like Talking Stick, Wildfire, the Sanctuary, Legend Trail, Kierland, McCormick Ranch and Dove Valley. But are you kidding me?

Scottsdale may have the greatest assembly of top shelf daily fee golf courses in the country. Transfer the old balance off you credit card onto a new one, and check back in with us next season for a price-be-damned golf trip.

Where to Stay

If you haven't caught on by now, most of these high priced courses have high priced lodging available. And that is just what you are after.

Troon North recently added a Four Seasons resort that pampers guests like Martha Stewart pampers gardens. A number of visitors to the Boulders have had to be pried from the resorts' southwestern casitas with the Jaws of Life just to get them out of there.

And driving through the gates of the Phoenician, you'll find out how the Clampets must have felt upon arriving at their new digs in Beverly Hills.

Scottsdale is there for the taking this winter. We're looking for a few good men.

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 TravelGolf.com from 1997 to 2003.

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