Golf Destination - Scottsdale, Arizona

Destination - Scottsdale, Arizona, By Scott Kramer

Scottsdale, Arizona has long been one of my favorite golf destinations. There are so many great courses around this upscale Phoenix suburb that are fun to play. Some of the newer layouts introduced 10 or 15 years ago were more difficult to play. I recently had a chance to revisit Scottsdale to try out some newly renovated courses. I was able to play three of my favorite courses that have all undergone varying degrees of renovation.

The Phoenician Golf Club—a daily-fee and resort course—underwent a 10-month redesign and renovation. The former 27-hole course is now an 18-hole layout. Local course architect Phil Smith made the transformation, making sure there was “a natural rhythm and flow” to the new routing. “Our goal was to give each player the opportunity to make an informed decision before every shot by employing fundamental design strategies to create a great golf experience,” says Smith. “Everything is now right there in front of the golfer, as there are no blind shots or blind hazards. We’re thrilled with how the course looks and plays.” In essence, he made it very player-friendly and enhanced the chances of scoring better. It was also in immaculate condition. I’ve always enjoyed playing here mainly because of its views and location.

It’s right in the heart of Scottsdale, so there’s plenty to look at. Yet on most of the course, you feel like you’re out yonder somewhere, away from the bustle. There aren’t many flat lies -- particularly on the back nine. And one reward along the way is the panoramic vista of the entire Phoenix area on the 12th tee. Bring a camera.

There are lots of bunkers that can come into play, but the fairways are predominantly ample for stray tee shots and a gorgeous shade of green. Smith eliminated most of the original desert 9, and the best of the 18 remain standing, while others were rerouted and re-contoured to create brand-new holes. The greens were redone and resurfaced, the fairways reseeded and the bunkers modified. The entire course is a lot nicer than the mundane conditions of years past.

I also played both courses at the ever-popular Troon North Golf Club. Last year, the Monument Course restored its greens and bunkers to their original larger size, shape, and contours. The way grass tends to grow around greens, and sand traps -- plus the way it’s mowed -- can make the actual green surfaces and bunkers smaller over time. And traps just generally get worn down over time. Its sister course, Pinnacle, just recently opened after a similar four-month enhancement. New grass was put in, and bunkers received updated drainage, as well as new liners and sand. Now both courses look fantastic. The fairways are bright green, especially when the contrast is all the barren desert around them. Absolutely beautiful views grace the course from various points. Both layouts are playable for most golfers.

Speaking of renovation, I stayed at Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North which just unveiled fresh casitas, suites and public spaces -- completing a $13 million renovation. All of the new decor and artwork give you the feeling that the hotel perfectly blends in with the surrounding desert landscape. I stayed here a few years ago and was impressed. This week, I was wowed. Everything seems refreshed. And the resort’s new restaurant, a Spanish steakhouse named Talavera, is a must for dinner -- as is its separate Gin Bar up front.

These renovations can collectively add a new dimension to your next Scottsdale golf trip.