Trip Dispatch: Soaking in Scottsdale on a bachelor party

By Brandon TuckerSeptember 19, 2013, 3:28 pm

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Even the TSA agent at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport had to ask me, 'Scottsdale? Why didn't you go to Vegas?'

I've had to explain the reason for selecting my bachelor party destination a handful of times over the past couple months. My answer was this: with most of my group having been veterans of a Las Vegas bachelor party weekend, the appeal to Scottsdale was that we could get warm weather, pools, golf and bars -- but things probably wouldn't go over the top, as the 24/7 entertainment of Vegas has a way of triggering.

After all, we're in our 30s now, and no one wanted to go home to their better halves explaining why next month's mortgage payment may be late.

Summer golf courses great for groups around Phoenix-Scottsdale

Raven Phoenix

Raven Golf Club Phoenix, minutes from Sky Harbor Airport. 

Yes, early September isn't exactly prime time on southwestern desert golf courses. But if you're willing to endure 100-degree temps, the reward is bargain tee times on wide open courses that were in surprisingly green and lush shape. Over-seeding doesn't occur on most courses until late September or early October, so we had our pick of just about every course in town.

We started at Raven Golf Club Phoenix, which was a perfect spot to play on arrival day since the airport is just 10 minutes away. It's a course I played last winter and really enjoyed as part of an O.B. Sports event, and it was good to see it's summer look is great, too. The layout has wide, rolling fairways and huge greens. Some of us hadn't played in awhile, so the idea of a target-style desert course wasn't appealing. While we sat in our shady carts drinking a mix of sports drinks and beer, we looked a fairway over and saw a single hoofing it in 100-plus degree heat. That surely wouldn't be us this week.

On day two, we headed north to Kierland Golf Club, part of the Westin Kierland Resort and always known to sport some of the best conditions and amenities in town to go with a resort-style, player-friendly layout. 27-hole Kierland has a layout that, particularly on the Acacia nine, has some really cool shots that made for a fun afternoon of skins, long drives and closest to the pin games. It's pretty easy to be talked into a margarita by the beverage cart gals who have pre-mixed taps ready to pour (nursing a beer in 100-degree sun generally means the final few sips taste like bath water). Troon Golf-managed courses like Kierland have recently been rolling out 'Time Par' for their facilities that promotes a swift pace of play. When you're out on a 105-degree afternoon however, it's easy to keep the ball hunts brisk and be generous with conceding three-footers.

On Friday, we wrapped up our golf portion of the trip with a two-team scramble on Talking Stick's North Course. Each course at Talking Stick is well-suited for groups with a few novice golfers in tow. Fairways here, like most Bill Coore & Ben Crenshaw designs, are monstrous (there is no rough, just fairways and desert areas), which lessens the possibility of someone's weekend getting ruined by a 'jumping cholla.' Greens are large and rolling with plenty of room to run up shots from the fairways. Yet, there is good hole variety, particularly on holes like the double-fairway 12th (named 'Red Mountain Gambler') a favorite hole for scramble strategy. There are only two par 5s, which lessens the birdie chances a bit. But considering my team shamefully bogeyed the par-5 17th hole (don't ask), I suppose we can't complain. Our two teams shot equal 3-under 67s, called it a 'truce' and were off to Old Town Scottsdale for the night. 

Talking Stick bachelor party group

The crew after playing to a scramble draw at Talking Stick.

Nightlife in Scottsdale's Old Town and lodging at Talking Stick

We chose to make Talking Stick Resort our base for the week for a variety of reasons, mainly because it was a better value than downtown Scottsdale and lot to do onsite, including golf and 24-hour gaming. Some folks in my group lamented the lack of live craps and roulette in Arizona casinos (there are video versions), but the rows of blackjack tables made up for it. 

The centerpiece of the non-golfing activities of the weekend centered around the resort's weekend Release Pool Party series which runs through the end of September and attracts a good crowd. For the football-obsessed folks in my group, reserving a poolside cabana meant we had a front row seat to the pool, plus a DirecTV feed that got us any college football game we wanted Saturday afternoon. Between the scenery around the pool and the games on TV, there wasn't a better place to be in town for awhile. We kept our waitress busy for six hours, ordering everything from buckets of beer to margaritas and quesadillas. I don't trust my camera phone much near bodies of water, but this resort-made video on Labor Day just about sums up the vibe: 

It seems that during summertime, the majority of the crowd in Scottsdale is in the 'staycation' mode. Bachelorette parties are in abundance, which makes an easy ice breaker for us tourist folk. Even on what we thought would be a relatively slow weekend after Labor Day, lines were out the door at many bars, so I'd recommend going early. A lot of bars, even the ones that seem relatively casual, can get shoulder-to-shoulder by midnight and getting a table requires a reservation. 

The epicenter of the scene is 'Whiskey Row' in Old Town, a compact block with a handful of large, open-air bars that pound music. At Dierk Bentley's Whiskey Row, country clad gals dance on the bar pouring out shots, and there's also a stage elevated above the bar that shows bands on the weekends. A few other bars were worth venturing a few blocks from here elsewhere in Old Town, like American Junkie, which has a most festive crowd, indoor/outdoor setup and good tunes.

American Junkie is a good spot to end the night, but a few other spots are good for starting it off. Patties is an Irish pub with shuffleboard and ping-pong, while The Lodge has corn hole, darts, pool, Golden Tee and Big Buck Hunter. In the streets, 8-seater golf carts serve as a cheap and efficient method of transportation between spots in Old Town; the drivers work on tips and are easy to spot. 

Getting us back and forth from Talking Stick was a free hotel shuttle that runs guests downtown every hour until 2 a.m. In fact, the driver offered to zip us around personally for a few hours both Friday and Saturday so we could bounce around the city at will, while leaving our rental car we needed for golf parked all weekend. Besides gratuity, it didn't cost us a thing. 

By Sunday morning, as we gathered for one last breakfast, our entire group was quite knackered. Myself, and I'm guessing everyone else, was ready to head home to our better halves -- and that's the point of a successful bachelor party, right? 

View Phoenix-Scottsdale Golf Packages and tee times on GolfNow

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Ortiz takes Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:19 am

Former Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.

Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Tour Player of the Year.

McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.

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Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?

By Randall MellJanuary 16, 2018, 12:00 am

Memo to the golf gods:

If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?

Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?

It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.

With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.

It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.

We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.

We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.

Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.

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Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line.  Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.

We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors. 

In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.

While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.

Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.

Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.

Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.

While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.

Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.

So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?

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McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever

By Will GrayJanuary 15, 2018, 6:28 pm

With his return to competition just days away, Rory McIlroy believes that the 2018 season may be the most action packed of his pro career.

The 28-year-old has not teed it up since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October, a hiatus he will end at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It will be the start of a busy spring for the Ulsterman, who will also play next week in Dubai before a run of six PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters.

Speaking to the U.K.'s Telegraph, McIlroy confirmed that he will also make a return trip to the British Masters in October and plans to remain busy over the next 12 months.

"I might play more times this year than any before. I played 28 times in 2008 and I'm on track to beat that," McIlroy said. "I could get to 30 (events), depending on where I'm placed in the Race to Dubai. But I'll see."

McIlroy's ambitious plan comes in the wake of a frustrating 2017 campaign, when he injured his ribs in his first start and twice missed chunks of time in an effort to recover. He failed to win a worldwide event and finished the year ranked outside the top 10, both of which had not happened since 2008.

But having had more than three months to get his body and swing in shape, McIlroy is optimistic heading into the first of what he hopes will be eight starts in the 12 weeks before he drives down Magnolia Lane.

"I've worked hard on my short game and I'm probably feeling better with the putter than I ever have," McIlroy said. "I've had a lot of time to concentrate on everything and it all feels very good and a long way down the road."

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What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 15, 2018, 6:05 pm

Patton Kizzire earned his second PGA Tour victory by winning a six-hole playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Take a look inside his bag.

Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X shaft

Fairway Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 95 TX shaft

Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees), with UST Mamiya AXIV Core 100 Hybrid shaft

Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (4), 718 CB (5-6), 718 MB (7-9), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Wedges: Titleist SM7 prototype (47, 52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Tour prototype

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x