How good is golf in Scottsdale? According to golf publications, golf pros, course architects and golf instructors, Scottsdale golf is as good as the game can get. The area offers golfers more than 174 public and private courses to choose from and ideal weather with sunshine more than 329 days a year. But, numbers alone don't begin to tell the story.
"Scottsdale provides a setting where the conditions for learning the game are as superb as the golf courses," observes Jim Flick, co-founder of Nicklaus/Flick Game Improvement. Voted one of the 10 best golf instructors of the 20th century by Golf World, Flick has run his nationally acclaimed golf school for 11 years and founded it in Scottsdale. "Not only are the courses well designed, but Scottsdale courses are in excellent condition," he adds.
Golf great Tom Weiskopf agrees. "With our weather, courses and mindset, Scottsdale has no rival in the world when it comes to golf," he emphasizes.
Both Weiskopf and Flick point out that, besides quantity and quality, Scotsdale also offers golf variety.
"Scottsdale courses give people something different than what they have at home," continues Jim Flick. "They see the Tournament Players Club course on TV and become aware of what can be done with natural topography. Every part of the country has its natural beauty; Scottsdale has its own distinctive look."
At its most distinct extreme, the Scottsdale look is found in target or desert golf courses. This special type of golf was pioneered in Scottsdale. Two of the most well-known desert courses in Scottsdale are found at Desert Highlands and The Boulders.
"Desert golf was developed to be responsive to the environment, so a true desert course is limited as to the amount of land that can be used," Flick says. "A desert golf course design cannot change the natural water flow and it must use the natural habitat as a target area for golfers to play into."
This strict design criteria requires that players hit around massive Sonoran Desert boulders, past chubby barrel cacti and towering saguaros, and through sandy washes, often on more narrow fairways, to reach the nirvana of greens. Natural obstructions are accounted for by special desert golf rules.
Although desert courses are associated with conservation, Flick emphasizes that all Scottsdale golf courses, whether desert or traditional, exhibit environmental sensitivity by watering the course as much as possible with reclaimed water.
Unique golf course architecture clearly has contributed to Scottsdale's stellar reputation as a dream golf destination. Golf architect Tom Weiskopf designed courses at DC Ranch, Troon North Golf Club and the Tournament Players Club (TPC). Other well-known golf architects, including Robert Trent Jones Sr. and Jr., Tom Fazio, Jack Nicklaus, Jay Morrish, Robert Cupp, Arnold Palmer-Ed Seay, Billy Casper, Ben Crenshaw and Bill Grove, have also left their distinctive imprints on Scottsdale's golf scene.
This abundance of outstanding design has created plenty of "must play" holes as well as a number of "don't miss" golf courses. The most written about hole is number 14, a 604-yard, par 5, at Troon's Monument course. It was voted one of "The Best 18 Holes You Can Play" by Golf Digest. But the entire Monument Course was ranked number one in the state by GOLFWEEK magazine, and the number one "Best Public Course" in Arizona by Golf Digest. Its sister, the Pinnacle Course, was named one of the best upscale courses in the state, as well as one of the top 10 courses in Arizona. Other favorites are Grayhawk's Raptor and Talon courses, which were ranked by Golf Magazine as among the "Top 10 Courses You Can Play in the U.S."
In addition to superb courses, Scottsdale also offers golfers a choice of top level golf instruction. In fact, eleven Scottsdale golf instructors were included in Golf Magazine's prestigious list of "Top 100 Teachers in America 2001." Slices and hooks can be worked on, and putting sharpened at a number of locations, including the Golf Digest Learning Centers, which operate from Talking Stick Golf Club on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, Troon North and Kierland; the John Jacobs Golf School which operates at several locations in the Scottsdale area; the Nicklaus/Flick Game Improvement Center at Desert Mountain; and the Lyford School of Golf at McCormick Ranch. Additionally, golf clubs throughout the Scottsdale area offer private and group instruction from resident teaching pros.
Flick explains why instruction is so popular with golfers. "Just as we do in life, golf is a never-ending challenge of learning about the game and about ourselves. Everybody struggles." He adds that he personally coaches golf greats including Jack Nicklaus, Tom Lehman and Philip Francis. Philip Francis?
"This Scottsdale youth is arguably the best 12-year-old player in the world," Flick emphasizes. "Philip has had six holes in one, has a +1 handicap and has won 101 tournaments. His record is comparable to Tiger Woods at that age."
Scottsdale is known for having a tremendous number of outstanding junior players. It also attracts many adult pros. But the pros don't just play Scottsdale, they call it home. Tom Lehman and Tom Weiskopf have permanent Scottsdale addresses as do a number of PGA and LPGA contenders including Andrew Magee, Hale Irwin, Jim Carter, Brandel Chamblee, Kirk Triplett, Billy Mayfair, Jonathon Kaye, Tom Purtzer, Curt Byrum, Gary McCord, Mike Nicolette, Dan Pohl, Jerry Smith, Grace Park, Carin Koch, and Danielle and Dina Ammaccapane.
Like visitors, pros prefer Scottsdale for its ideal climate, quality and quantity of golf courses, and opportunity for top instruction. Each is available nearly every day of the year. Come January, the city adds another star to its firmament when it hosts the Phoenix Open at the TPC of Scottsdale. The stadium course, built for this event, adjoins The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess resort and attracts the largest gallery of any tournament on the PGA Tour. A major happening, the Phoenix Open is followed in March by the Ping LPGA Tournament, also held in Scottsdale.
All year around, sunrise to sunset, Scottsdale boasts some of the best weather in the country. During the winter months, the mild, sunny days lure golfers from snowbound states to focus on their games and get out in the sunshine. The golfing climate is also ideal during the spring and fall. In summer, golfers respond to the nearly unlimited sunshine and dry desert temperatures by hitting the links very early in the morning and finishing before the sun is high in the sky. Early birds are rewarded with cooler temperatures and greatly reduced summer rates at the area's fine resorts and public courses.
Superbly groomed and challenging courses, top instruction, an ideal climate and a standard of service second to none have sealed Scottsdale's reputation as one of the world's best places to golf. Golfers and golf writers agree that, in Scottsdale, golf really is as good as it gets. To get any better, they'd have to invent a whole new game.
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management. The information in this story was accurate at the time of publication. All contact information, directions and prices should be confirmed directly with the golf course or resort before making reservations and/or travel plans.