Ritz-Carlton adds resort and spa to WGC-caliber golf course

By Mike BaileyFebruary 16, 2010, 2:16 am
ritz carlton dove mountain
The par-4 ninth hole at Ritz-Carlton Golf Club's Tortolita nine. (Russell Kirk/Ritz-Carlton)

MARANA, Ariz. – There's a new bonus to ranking as one of the top 64 players in the world. Not only does it secure you a spot in the WGC Accenture Match Play, but the pros can stay near the golf course in luxurious surroundings.

And now you can too.

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Just in time for its second Match Play Championship, Ritz-Carlton has added a world-class resort and spa to the Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course.

Opened in December 2009, the Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain resort nestles into the foothills of the Tortolita Mountains north of Tucson. Giant saguaros grace the Sonoran Desert landscape as great care preserved several of the majestic plants next to the hotel.

The resort features a large spa, meeting rooms, fantastic restaurants and 250 ultra-comfortable and functional guest rooms. Guests can also enjoy an array of outdoor activities, including trail riding, biking, a jeep tour and 27 holes of Nicklaus-signature golf.

This marks the 72nd Ritz-Carlton property worldwide, and it's one of the Marriott-owned company's most exceptional.

'You can see that this is going to morph into something very, very special,' said Stephen Deucker, director of sales and marketing of the Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain.

Golf at the Ritz-Carlton

No matter the high quality of the spa and restaurants at the Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain, it all starts with the golf course. The Accenture Match Play, contested nearby at the Gallery Golf Club's South Course before moving to the Ritz-Carlton last year, utilizes the Tortolita and Saguaro nines.

Other golf options at the resort include the Tortolita/Wild Burro combination and the Wild Burro/Saguaro.

After the inaugural event drew criticism from players, Nicklaus' team made modifications – mostly on the severely undulating greens. Most of the holes changed, ranging from minor adjustments to more drastic measures that included the addition and relocation of bunkers.

The changes don't make the course any easier, especially for the resort golfer, but they do allow for more pin placements and higher green speeds, notably in tournament play. Nicklaus believes the course will develop into a favorite among the world's top players and resort guests. For now, though, it's in tip-top shape with plenty of interesting holes.

And lest we forget the Wild Burro nine, absent from the tournament rotation. Nicklaus describes it as his favorite layout among the three nines. At the very least, it's a great complement to the Tortolita and Saguaro. With its use of lakes and other design characteristics, it has a different look than the others, too.

An easy recovery at the Ritz-Carlton spa

The resort is about a five-minute shuttle ride from the golf course. And while walking back and forth is unreasonable, it is within the 850-acre property, which also includes residential units for sale.

Upon arrival, notice how the hotel lobby opens to a large deck, pool, and the great outdoors behind the resort. To your left sits the resort's 17,000-square foot spa, which, according to promotional material, 'embraces the enchanting habitat' of the surrounding mountain desert landscape.

With one of the finest setups in the Southwest, the spa offers 14 private treatment rooms, two esthetic rooms, a hydrotherapy room, Vichy shower and two oversized suites ideal for couples therapy. You can get a massage, facial, body treatments and a number of other services, including manicures, pedicures and hair salon treatments.

The layout includes separate facilities for men and women with secluded jacuzzis, saunas and steam rooms. Outside, you'll find an outstanding co-ed area with a pool situated in front of petroglyphs that date thousands of years. You can even schedule a lunar massage near the outdoor fire pits that illuminate a terrace.

Dining at a higher level at the Ritz-Carlton

Rarely do you see a chef who enjoys his work as much as Joel Harrington, who was lured from the renowned Fearing's Restaurant in Dallas.

Easy to spot with his mohawk hairdo as he walks through the Core Kitchen and Wine Bar – the Ritz's signature restaurant – Harrington often visits with guests, getting their feedback and telling his story.

This is unlike most dining experiences. Harrington's talent involes his imagination and ability to combine unusual ingredients. Have you ever tried avocado fries? How about Vermont syrup as a base ingredient for the lacquer in a chili-lacquered New York steak?

The menu blends the best of American flavors at the Core, though it's anything but ordinary. Unless you're a vegetarian, don't pass on the filet of buffalo. You won't need a knife or any sauce.

The wine room is fully stocked and then some. Or you can check out the Ignite lobby lounge, which offers a wide array of single-malt scotch, whiskey and brews from around the world.

Ritz Carlton Golf Club at Dove Mountain: The verdict

If you're looking for an upscale golf and spa experience, you won't be disappointed. Being new, it may need to work out a few kinks. But largely, it's a very serene experience – important if you have a little trouble with the Nicklaus greens or fail to reach the par-4 holes in regulation. It's an 8,000-yard golf course, so make sure you play the right tees.

I've been fortunate to enjoy a few spa experiences in the past few years, and this ranked right up there with the best. First, the massage treatment was first rate. My therapist hit all the right spots without causing undue pain. Additionally, the jacuzzi was very therapeutic. Relaxing under the stars – in both men's and co-ed areas – just added to the ambiance.

The rooms are also spot-on. Most impressive was the giant tub, big enough to accommodate a small swim meet. The tub allows full immersion in front of a small, flat-screen TV perched near the faucet. A separate shower, plus two his and her basins make the bathroom the envy of most luxury venues.

The room itself is state of the art. You can connect your computer to the large, high-definition LCD television to preview PowerPoint presentations or simply to watch HD programming. (Yes, hotels are finally marrying the high-def TV with an HD signal.) A very comfortable bed, dimmers on every light switch, turn-down service, an honor bar, a functional work area, high-speed Internet and great views of the desert complete the picture.

Ritz Carlton golf packages

The best way to enjoy the Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain? Book a golf-and-spa package. As of early 2010, the resort offered packages that started as low as $529 a night for accommodations, two rounds of golf, two spa treatments, valet parking and breakfast. For more information, visit www.ritzcarlton.com/dovemountain.

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Sergio can now 'relax and trust it' after Masters win

By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 4:52 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Sergio Garcia says he didn’t let down his guard after winning the Masters and coast through the rest of the PGA Tour season.

If anything, he says, he burned more to win after claiming his first major championship title last spring.

“I was hungry or hungrier than I was before,” Garcia said while preparing for his first PGA Tour start of 2018 at the Honda Classic. “It doesn't change ... After the Masters, from The Players until probably the middle of the FedEx Cup Playoffs, I wanted to do well so badly.”

Garcia said his push to build on that Masters win probably caused him to be more erratic, trying to make things happen.

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos

“That's why my game would be very good a couple of rounds, and then a couple of rounds not quite as good, for putting that extra pressure,” Garcia said. “And then when I started to kind of relax and say, ‘You know, just keep doing what you're doing, you're playing well, you're playing great, just trust it and keep at it.’ That's when things started coming along a little bit easier.”

That “relax and trust it” attitude helped Garcia win the Andalucia Valderrama Masters in the fall and the Singapore Open last month.

After 15 years with TaylorMade, Garcia agreed late last year to a new multi-year equipment deal with Callaway, to play their balls and equipment.

Garcia on making the transition: “It was very easy, I think, for a couple of reasons. One of them, I moved to a great company that makes great equipment, and second of all, usually, I get used to new equipment quite easily, even in my old brand. I used to be one of the first ones to change the new equipment.”

Garcia played the Chrome Soft X when he won in Singapore.

“It hasn't been a stressful move or anything like that,” Garcia said. “I really love the golf ball. I think the golf ball, for me, it's been a step forward from the past years.”

Win or not, this will be a big spring for Garcia. His wife, Angela, is expecting their first child in March.

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For better or worse, golf attracting the mainstream crowd

By Rex HoggardFebruary 21, 2018, 4:26 pm

A split second after Bubba Watson launched his tee shot at the par-4 10th hole on Sunday at Riviera Country Club the relative calm was shattered by one overly enthusiastic, and probably over-served, fan.

“Boom goes the dynamite!” the fan yelled.

Watson ignored the attention seeker, adhering to the notion it’s best not to make eye contact. But it’s becoming increasingly difficult to turn a deaf ear.

The last few weeks on the PGA Tour have been particularly raucous, first with the circuit’s annual stop at the “world’s largest outdoor cocktail party,” which is also known as the Waste Management Phoenix Open, and then last week in Los Angeles, where Tiger Woods was making his first start since 2006 and just his second of this season.

Fans crowded in five and six people deep along fairways and around greens to get a glimpse at the 14-time major champion, to cheer and, with increasing regularity, to push the boundaries of acceptable behavior at a golf tournament.

“I guess it's a part of it now, unfortunately. I wish it wasn't, I wish people didn't think it was so amusing to yell and all that stuff while we're trying to hit shots and play,” said Justin Thomas, who was grouped with Woods for the first two rounds at Riviera.

Although overzealous fans are becoming the norm, there’s a particularly rowdy element that has been drawn to the course by Woods’ return from injury. Even last month at Torrey Pines, which isn’t known as one of the Tour’s more boisterous stops, galleries were heard with increasing regularity.

But then Tiger has been dealing with chaotic crowds since he began rewriting the record books in the late-1990s, and it’s easy to dismiss the chorus of distractions. But it turns out that is as inaccurate as it is inconsiderate.

“It might have been like this the whole Tiger-mania and these dudes, but I swear, playing in front of all that, [Woods] gives up half a shot a day on the field,” reasoned Rory McIlroy, who was also grouped with Tiger for Rounds 1 and 2 last week. “It's two shots a tournament he has to give to the field because of all that goes on around him. ...  I need a couple Advil, I've got a headache after all that.”

There’s always been a price to pay for all of the attention that’s followed Woods’ every step, but McIlroy’s take offered new context. How many more events could Tiger have won if he had played in front of galleries that didn’t feel the need to scream the first thing that crossed their mind?

“It's cost me a lot of shots over the years. It's cost me a few tournaments here and there,” allowed Woods after missing the cut at Riviera. “I've dealt with it for a very long time.”

For Woods, the ubiquitous, “Get in the hole,” shriek has simply been an occupational hazard, the burden that he endured. What’s changed in recent years is that behavior has expanded beyond Tiger’s gallery.

While officials two weeks ago at the Waste Management Phoenix Open happily announced attendance records – 719,179 made their way to TPC Scottsdale for the week – players quietly lamented the atmosphere, specifically around the 16th hole that has become particularly harsh in recent years.

“I was a little disappointed in some of the stuff that was said and I don't want much negativity – the normal boos for missing a green, that's fine, but leave the heckling to a minimum and make it fun, support the guys out playing,” Rickie Fowler said following his second round at TPC Scottsdale.

What used to be an entertaining one-off in Phoenix is becoming standard fare, with players bracing for a similar atmosphere this week at PGA National’s 17th hole, and that’s not sitting well with the rank and file.

“I guess they just think it's funny. It might be funny to them, and obviously people think of it differently and I could just be overreacting, but when people are now starting to time it wrong and get in people's swings is just completely unacceptable really,” Thomas said in Los Angeles. “We're out here playing for a lot of money, a lot of points, and a lot of things can happen, and you would just hate to see in the future something happen down the line because of something like that.”

This issue reared its rowdy head at the 2012 Ryder Cup at Medinah, and again two years ago at Hazeltine National. Combine thousands of patriotic fans with a cash bar and what you end up with is an atmosphere closer to Yankee Stadium in October than Augusta National in April.

It’s called mainstream sports, which golf has always aspired to until the raucous underbelly runs through the decorum stop signs that golf clings to.

This is not an endorsement or a justification for the “Mashed Potatoes” guy – Seriously, dude, what does that even mean? – and it seems just a matter of time before someone yells something at the wrong moment and costs a player a title.

But this is mainstream sports. It’s not pretty, it’s certainly not quiet and maybe it’s not for golf. But this is where the game now finds itself.

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Nicklaus eager to help USGA rein in golf ball distance

By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 3:16 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Jack Nicklaus heard words that warmed his heart over dinner Sunday with USGA executive director Mike Davis.

He said Davis pledged to address the distance the golf ball is flying and the problems Nicklaus believes the distance explosion is creating in the game.

“I'm happy to help you,” Nicklaus told Davis. “I've only been yelling at you for 40 years.”

Nicklaus said he first confronted the USGA in 1977 over ball and distance issues.

In a meeting with reporters at the Honda Classic Tuesday, Nicklaus basically blamed the ball for the troubles the game faces today, from slow play and sagging participation to soaring costs to play the game.

Nicklaus brought up the ball when asked about slow play.

“The golf ball is the biggest culprit of that,” Nicklaus said.

Nicklaus said the great distance gains players enjoy today is stretching courses, and that’s slowing play. He singled out one company when asked about push back from manufacturers over proposals to roll back the distance balls can fly.

“You can start with Titleist,” Nicklaus said.

Nicklaus would like to see the USGA and R&A roll back the distance today’s ball flies by 20 percent. He said that would put driving distances back to what they were in the mid-‘90s, but he believes Titleist is the manufacturer most opposed to any roll back.

“Titleist controls the game,” Nicklaus said. “And I don't understand why Titleist would be against it. I know they are, but I don't understand why you would be against it. They make probably the best product. If they make the best product, whether it's 20 percent shorter ... What difference would it make? Their market share isn't going to change a bit. They are still going to dominate the game."

A Titleist representative declined to comment when reached by Golf Channel.

“For the good of the game, we need to play this game in about three-and-a-half hours on a daily basis," Nicklaus said. "All other sports on television and all other sports are played in three hours, usually three hours or less – except for a five-set tennis match – but all the other games are played in that.

“It's not about [Titleist]. It's about the people watching the game and the people that are paying the tab. The people paying the tab are the people that are buying that television time and buying all the things that happen out there. Those are the people that you've got to start to look out for.

“And the growth of the game of golf, it's not going to grow with the young kids. Young kids don't have five hours to play golf. Young kids want instant gratification.”

Davis said last month that increased distance is not "necessarily good for the game." R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers added earlier this month in relation to the same topic, "We have probably crossed that line."

Nicklaus said he would like to see golf courses and golf balls rated, so that different courses could be played with different rated balls. For example, a ball rolled back “70 percent” would fit courses rated for that ball. He said players could still play those courses with a 100 percent ball, but handicapping could be factored into the game so players could compete using differently rated balls.

“And so then if a guy wants to play with a 90 or 100 percent golf ball, it makes it shorter and faster for him to play,” Nicklaus said.

Nicklaus believes rating balls like that would make shorter courses more playable again. He believes creating differently rated balls would also make more money for ball manufacturers.

“Then you don't have any obsolete golf courses.” Nicklaus said. “Right now we only have one golf course that's not obsolete, as I said earlier [Augusta National], in my opinion.”

Nicklaus said Davis seemed to like the rated ball idea.

“The USGA was all over that, incidentally,” Nicklaus said.

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Sponsored: Callaway's Chrome Soft, from creation to the course

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 21, 2018, 2:38 pm

Those boxes of Callaway Chrome Soft and Chrome Soft X golf balls that you see on the shelf orignated somewhere. But where? The answer is Chicopee, Mass., a former Spalding golf ball plant that Callaway Golf purchased 15 years ago.

The plant was built in 1915 for manufacturing automobiles, and was converted to make ballistics during WWII. Currently, it makes some of the finest golf balls in the industry.

Eventually, those balls will be put into play by both professionals and amateurs. But the journey, from creation to the course, is an intriguing one.

In this Flow Motion video, Callaway Golf shows you in creative fashion what it's like for these balls to be made and played. Check it out!