Scottsdale golf in December: Bargains, sunshine abound before the peak season storm

By Brandon TuckerDecember 17, 2012, 3:59 pm

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- As my trip last week confirmed, mid-December is a fabulous time for golf in Scottsdale if you can find room on your travel calendar between holiday family trips during. Despite temperatures and course conditions that are nearly perfect, green fees are a bargain; many are 30-50 percent off their spring peak-season rates.

My aim for the week was great under-the-radar courses that fly below Scottsdale's top shelf (like Troon North, TPC Scottsdale, Boulders and Grayhawk). The undisputed champ among my course rotation for the week was the Raven Golf Club - Phoenix (pictured above). The Raven is a facility that delivers an elite round of golf without commanding two or three benjis for the privilege (midweek prime time slots in December can be had for $75-99). The Raven's location just south of Sky Harbor International Airport means the property doesn't boast the million-year-old boulder piles like Troon North and Boulders Resort. Instead, the course's beauty is man-made. More than 6,000 Georgia Pines were imported. Designers Gary Panks and David Graham sculpted rolling mounds and giant bunkers to create a grassy, free-swinging layout more akin to the Carolina Sandhills.

Despite much fanfare when it originally opened, the Raven lacked its 'A-game' in recent years. But OB Sports assumed management in 2010 and performed some major housekeeping. The Raven should reap the rewards this spring, when happy golfers begin to spread the word.

Another facility that demands a second look is the McDowell Mountain Golf Club (formerly Sanctuary Golf Club). Phil Mickelson led an ownership group that took over the Sanctuary in 2010. Mickelson's team, along with architect Randy Heckenkemper, revamped the facility to suit both tourist swings and low-handicappers. Playing corridors were widened and some bunkers were filled in, though the back tee yardage was extended to more than 7,000 yards and the practice facility was enhanced to attract range grinders. The project will be complete when the new 11,000-square-foot clubhouse opens in January, just in time for prime time.

McDowell Mountain

McDowell Mountain has been cleaned up and widened under Lefty's eye. 

Minutes from Scottsdale, another facility delivers a legendary name without a premium green fee is the Pete Dye-designed ASU Karsten Golf Course ($59-69 in December). Though unquestionably a Dye signature thanks to its railroad ties, plenty of greenside water hazards and enormous grassy mounds bordering fairways, it's one of Dye's more playable courses from the 6,200-yard set of tees -- for those of us who never had a chance of landing a Sun Devils golf scholarship.

Golf in the West Valley: Wigwam Gold and Raven at Verrado

Wigwam Gold

Classic golf awaits in the West Valley at Wigwam Resort's Gold Course.

Those who make the 30-minute drive from Scottsdale to the West Valley can find not only good bargains but also some sleeper layouts worth the gas money.

At the historic Wigwam Resort, the Gold Course blends classic bones with modern stoutness. The course plays 7,430 yards from the back tees, long enough to host the Patriot All-America, a top collegiate event. The parkland design by Robert Trent Jones Sr. features raised and intricate greens and directional fairway bunkers, making it one this area's finest plays for lower-handicap players. For the rest of us, the 6,348-yard gold set provides for a most pleasant and unique round. You also won't be fishing around desert or tip-toeing around 'jumping Cholla' for errant drives; this course is wall-to-wall grass and a mix of mature, native and imported trees that frame each hole (December green fees: $55-69).

Toward the westernmost edge of the Valley is the Raven Golf Club at Verrado, another desert play luring golfers away from the epicenter with great rates and a championship layout (December green fees: $69-99). One of the Valley's newest courses and part of a budding residential development (yes, locals throughout the desert admit the market has picked up quite nicely in the past few months), Verrado's back nine winds up and down foothills to deliver great variety with scenic downhill holes and tough uphill ones. The higher tee boxes showcase wide fairways you can swing away at, plus a unique view of the distant Phoenix skyline miles to the east.

Stay and play in Scottsdale

Valley Ho

Hotel Valley Ho in downtown Scottsdale

If your group wants to make downtown Scottsdale your base for the week and wants some stylish digs, check into the Hotel Valley Ho, a mid-century modern refab with updated guest rooms and niceties like an espresso maker, HD TV and a large bathroom. Or, for golf and gaming, the new Talking Stick Resort is sleek and has the best casino floor in the Valley, not to mention 36 holes of all-natural Bill Coore & Ben Crenshaw golf, plus a massive practice facility onsite. 

The scene in downtown Scottsdale is a mix of chic joints and dives. You can get a great cut of steak or prime rib in a friendly, sporty environment at Donn & Charlie's. Or go for something a little more slick like Mission, serving Latin American dishes in a stylish environment. For casual beers and sausage, try the new Brat Haus, serving all sorts of varieties of both beers and meats from pork to turkey and rabbit.

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Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

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Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

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DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

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LPGA lists April date for new LA event

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.