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Low-handicappers light in the wallet will love the TPC Scottsdale Champions golf course

Brandon TuckerBy Brandon Tucker,
Managing Editor
TPC Scottsdale - Champions golf course - hole 18
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The TPC Scottsdale Champions golf course boasts a tour-quality challenge. (Brandon Tucker/TravelGolf)

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rarely do Tournament Players Club properties call themselves bargain plays -- or even align with municipal golf courses. But the Champions course at TPC Scottsdale serves everyone: the aspiring tour pro, the local golfer, and the Valley of the Sun golf traveler.

The course features conditions and challenges suitable to any low-handicapper while offering a little bit of value in an area of Arizona that's otherwise dominated by high green fees.

The Champions is a brand new golf course designed by Randy Heckenkemper, built on the former site of the TPC Desert Course. The Champions opened in 2007 after receiving $10 million from the city of Scottsdale to remake it.

Operating as its own separate facility to the TPC Scottsdale Stadium course on the other side of N. Hayden Rd., virtually nothing about the Champions feels "muni." The clubhouse, while not as grand as the Stadium, is sparkling and features a locker room, pro shop bar and grill. Practice facilities are private-club worthy and course conditions will rival many of the upper-tier Phoenix-Scottsdale layouts.

The property sits on fewer acres than the Stadium and is wedged between Highway 101 and Frank Lloyd Wright Blvd. The Scottsdale Municipal Airport is across the street, which on a busy day can see a steady stream of private aircraft coming and going.

The scenery isn't going to dazzle anyone like the Boulders Resort to the north or We-Ko-Pa to the east, but for low handicappers who want all they can handle from the back tees on a tour-ready course, the Champions takes a back seat to few in Scottsdale. You're going to have to play all the shots here and make some risky choices thanks to greens that can feature tough pin positions, some narrow fairways and plenty of length.

The Champions plays 7,115 yards, just about 100 yards shorter than the Stadium Course (both are also par 71s). In fact, from the blue tees, the Champions is longer by over 100 yards and has a slightly higher slope/rating. That means the mid-handicapper could feasibly say the Stadium is a warm-up to the Champions.

There are no big Stadium-style grandstands on TPC Scottsdale's Champions course, and no island green, like the Stadium's par-5 15th hole. But it does require plenty of decision making. The first big one comes on the fifth hole. It's a long, par 4 dogleg left that gets significantly shorter if you take the fairway left of a cluster of sand traps that is a little smaller than the larger fairway to the right. The difference between the two fairways could be three or four clubs on the approach shot.

Every good TPC design needs a drivable par 4, and you'll get it on the Champions' back nine. The 15th hole is drivable off the tee for longer hitters willing to swing away and risk finding desert to the left or a deep bunker.

Similar to the 18th at the Stadium course, the Champions' closer isn't so much a birdie opportunity as a last chance for spectacular failure. It's a straightaway, 460-yard par 4 with water guarding a well tucked green.

TPC Scottsdale Champions course: The verdict

The Champions ranks among the most affordable and accessible of the TPC network's many properties nationwide. You can expect a PGA Tour-quality challenge from the back tees and conditions that are good enough for area pros to practice on (though in the winter, the rough is not overseeded like at the Stadium course).

The layout, somewhat sandwiched between freeways and business parks, isn't as awe strikingly beautiful, but low-handicappers may find the tour-quality challenge here among the best in the area.

Golfweek's 2009-2010 ranking calls the Champions the United States' 25th best municipal course, while the Stadium checks in a No. 6.

For traditionalists, you can arrange for caddies or forecaddies for your round at both the Champions and Stadium course.

Stay and play: Fairmont Scottsdale Princess

Part of the TPC complex, located just behind Stadium's fourth green and fifth fairway is the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess resort which is also home to a large Willow Stream Spa that offers a full menu of treatments. This luxury resort is spread out on beautiful outdoor walkways and features many casita-style rooms as well as standard guest rooms in the main building. The resort's drinking and dining options are especially varied, both indoor to more casual, outdoor settings around roaring fires at night.

Beyond the two TPC golf courses, The Fairmont has some preferred course partners they book golf packages with, as well as assist with transportation. They include Grayhawk Golf Club, Troon North Golf Club and We-Ko-Pa.

Or to keep things more affordable and functional, check out the XONA Resort Suites across the street from the Fairmont, which has many multi-bedroom units that cater to golf groups.

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TPC Scottsdale - Champions golf course - hole 5Fairmont Scottsdale Princess resort

Brandon Tucker is the Managing Editor for Golf Advisor. To date, his golf travels have taken him to over two dozen countries and over 500 golf courses worldwide. While he's played some of the most prestigious courses in the world, Tucker's favorite way to play the game is on a great muni in under three hours. Follow Brandon on Twitter at @BrandonTucker and on Instagram at BrandonTuckerGC.

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

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