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The Phoenician in Scottsdale may be short, but it's long on fun and perfect resort course conditions

Mike BaileyBy Mike Bailey,
Senior Staff Writer
The Phoenician's Canyon Golf Course - Hole 7
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There's water and bunkers galore on the 201-yard, par-3 seventh hole on the Canyon course at The Phoenician resort in Scottsdale. (Mike Bailey/WorldGolf.com)

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - The golf courses at The Phoenician are just like the resort where they are located. There's a grandiose, elegant clubhouse and perfectly manicured turf as far as the eye can see, all set against the magnificent backdrop of Camelback Mountain.

So a first glance at the scorecard revealing that the golf course is less than 6,100 yards could take a little wind out of the sails. But once you get out there, the lack of distance is a memory that is soon replaced by a nice variety of holes, perfect conditions and terrific scenery.

There are actually 27 holes at The Phoenician, considered one of the top Arizona golf resorts, but nine of the holes - the Oasis - were closed in early 2009 as the resort constructed a new ballroom (the Oasis is expected to re-open later this year).

That leaves the Desert and Canyon nines, a par 70 that tips out at 6,068 yards. The Desert is actually part of the original 18 (along with the Oasis) that was designed by Homer Flint. Ted Robinson Sr. designed the first seven holes of the Canyon nine and redesigned the Desert nine in the course's current configuration.

The Phoenician: Not your typical desert golf course

What you quickly find out when you play this course is it's difficult to find a bad lie. First of all, The Phoenician really isn't typical of desert golf. It's more like tropical golf that just happens to be in the desert, ala Bali Hai Golf Club in Las Vegas. Here you'll find countless palm trees, colorful flowers in perfect bloom and not a blade of grass out of place, especially the ryegrass overseed used in the winter.

And if you hit a shot off line, you'll either wind up in some light rough or another fairway with a perfect lie and possibly a clear shot to the green.

The fact that you might be playing out of another fairway might lead you to believe the course is cramped, but it really doesn't feel that way, even though the entire 27 holes cover just 150 acres. It would be a problem if it was like that on every hole, but it's not. Plus, a number of classic courses across the country - before developers started winding courses through vast expanses of real estate - share the same attribute.

Some short but sweet holes

The Desert Course features dramatic elevation changes and great views, while the Canyon, which is located on the southern slope of Camelback Mountain, offers sweeping views of the valley.

What The Phoenician's Desert-Canyon Course lacks in length, it makes up for in creativity. A hole doesn't have to be long to be fun and challenging, and there are several examples.

The par-4 third hole on the Desert is just 303 yards, but you can forget driving this mostly island green unless your first name is "Tiger" and last name is "Woods." Even Woods, I think, would hit a mid-iron off the tee and use his superior short game to get it up and down over the water for birdie.

The Desert eighth is just 120 yards, but because the tee is some 70 or 80 feet above the putting surface, it plays more like 80 - a really difficult 80 yards. Hitting the green here is no cinch. Distance control is the key.

The fifth on Desert is the No. 1 handicap hole. At 443 yards, it plays uphill, and the fairway slopes severely from left to right. A good drive could still leave a mid-iron or longer into this well-protected green, which provides a great view of the valley below.

The Canyon nine features three really nice par 3s, and they all have different lengths and looks. The seventh and eighth are back-to-back, and both play over water. The 201-yard seventh calls for a well struck mid- to long-iron over water to a well-bunkered green. The eighth, at 132 yards, may be short, but with water in front and running left of a bunker on the left side of the green, it can present its own problems.

The Phoenician's practice range, lessons and golf school

The practice range is located a ways from the clubhouse, beyond the first green, and like the course, it, too, is pretty much immaculate. There are plenty of targets to aim at from this medium-sized practice area as well as a chipping green and over-sized practice green located right behind the clubhouse.

For those who need a little help with their game, there's also The Phoenician Golf Academy and private instruction from the professional staff. The Academy offers video and computer analysis. Students are given a DVD of their swing at the end of the course, complete with a written game plan for success.

The Phoenician: The verdict

The Phoenician Golf Club, at least the Desert-Canyon Course, isn't long, but it is good golf. More importantly, it's enjoyable and course conditions are flawless.

This is a golf facility with a variety of memorable holes, which is what you look for in all good courses - short or lengthy - which proves once again that a course doesn't have to be 7,600 yards to be challenging.

Top players, of course, might be able to break 60 here, especially considering the course's short par 5s. Resort players, however, could get an ego boost here, but breaking 80 for the low handicapper is no cinch. Shooting a high number, however, is somewhat unlikely if you're in reasonable control of your game. And there's nothing wrong with that.

Green fees approach $200 during peak season, and the courses here can be played for half that or less during the summer.

Stay and play at The Phoenician

The best experience, of course, would be to stay at The Phoenician Resort, which opened in 1998 and set a new standard for luxury in the Sonoran Desert.

This AAA Five Diamond Resort has it all - luxurious accommodations (including casitas near the course), casual and elegant dining, tennis and pools, a $75 million art collection and the 22,000-square-foot Centre for Well-Being spa.

For golfers, there are a number of packages available, including the unlimited golf "Master's Getaway," or the "The Well-Being Retreat," which includes a spa component to entice a non-golfer traveling companion.

More photos

The Phoenician's Desert Golf Course - Hole 3The Phoenician's Canyon Golf Course - Hole 5The Phoenician's Desert Golf Course - Fairway

Mike Bailey is a senior staff writer based in the Houston area. Focusing primarily on golf in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America, he contributes course reviews, travel stories and features as well as the occasional equipment review. An award-winning writer and past president of Texas Golf Writers Association, he has more than 20 years in the golf industry. Before accepting his current position in 2008, he was on staff at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Follow Mike on Twitter at @Accidentlgolfer.

Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • Phoenician

    jf wrote on: May 14, 2011

    Played yesterday. Nice resort course. short but lots of elevation changes. Great views. Play at least one round here if you are staying at the resort.


  • Phoenician Recently

    Marie wrote on: Oct 14, 2010

    The Phoenician is one of my favorite courses in town. I actually just played it this week and they have done some pretty amazing things with it recently. Pretty sure I was on a brand new hole, since the ballroom construction, at one point. I think I was playing on midiron sod which is my favorite. I even had a local sod farm, Evergreen Turf, come to my house and lay my backyard with it. You need to come back into town and play The Phoenician again!


  • Phoenician

    Vic Williams wrote on: Mar 17, 2009

    Hey Mike,
    The Phoenician's even better when I'm handing over my skins losses! Good work once again.