Wide Open: Limitless golf options around Scottsdale during Waste Management Phoenix Open week

By Brandon Tucker, Travel ArticlesFebruary 3, 2012, 9:35 pm

Pictures From left: An old saguaro cactus on SunRidge Canyon's back nine, a golfer takes aim on Troon North's Monument Course, and sunset on Boulders South. 

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Of all the host cities I've visited during the week of their PGA Tour event, none are ever as galvanized as the Phoenix-Scottsdale area during the Waste Management Phoenix Open.

It doesn't matter who you speak with during your trip: someone at the bell desk, security personnel in the airport, or staff at a golf course, they're excitedly telling you about their open plans. At SunRidge Canyon in Fountain Hills, one gal I met serving burgers told me she bought her boyfriend matching outfits for Christmas just to compliment their tickets to the TPC.

Having attended the event last year, complete with 16th hole passes and an evening at the Bird's Nest, I spent my time visiting area golf courses, most of which enjoy a nice stimulus of rounds during their peak season. 

I stayed at Talking Stick Resort, an ideal base for golfers during tournament week or baseball spring training (the Salt River Fields are just across Highway 101). Located on Salt River Pima Maricopa Native American land, it's a new property and the rooms are spacious and slick. Multiple restaurants, from cafes and buffets to chic fine dining mean you can try somewhere new every meal. They're large pool area even attracted some pool-goers despite weather that didn't peak past the mid 70s (surely plenty warm for those visiting from the north). The casino, which has plenty of 24-hour tables and slots, also includes a large poker room. Every I walked by, whether it was 7 a.m. on my way out the door to a tee time or midnight coming back from a night out, it was packed to the gills. The great juxtaposition of Talking Stick is that the hotel and casino is stylish and modern, while the two Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw-designed golf courses onsite are minimalist and subtle. While lots of fun with wide playing corridors and no real estate onsite, they're certainly not of the spectacular nature like Boulders or Troon North but consistently pleasant. 

Talking Stick is flat, but more mountainous golf is nearby. A big reason why I came out to Scottsdale was to visit SunRidge Canyon, a course that's flown under the radar in recent years but has received new local ownership. The club also just announced that instructor Jim McLean will debut a new golf school here. Located in Fountain Hills, SunRidge rolls spectacularly down and back up rugged canyon terrain. The front nine plays mostly downhill, while the back nine trudges back up. The 18th hole, a dogleg left over bunkers that heads uphill to an elevated green is as tough as a closer as I've played in the valley. Thankfully, the course also has some of the prettiest views in the valley on both nines. 

Speaking of picturesque, I also had the chance to head north and play both Boulders South (where I used my camera more than my golf clubs) and Troon North's Monument Course for the first time. Joining me for the round at Troon North were three Norwegians in town to get a winter golf fix in the mornings and head to the tournament in the afternoons. If you think Troon North's sticker price at over $200 is pricy, my cart partner Oliver confessed to me that amount of cash converted to Norwegian Kroners gets you on a pretty ordinary course back home. In Scottsdale, it gets you a peak season 9 a.m. tee time on arguably the top golf course in the country's most visited winter golf destination. 

Shortly after, I zipped down Highway 101 to Phoenix for a twilight round at Arizona Grand Golf Resort, a resort course minutes from downtown Phoenix and Sky Harbor International Airport. While narrow in spots, the course really gets going on the final six holes with a natural stretch along the South Mountain Park nature preserve that has trails filled with mountain bikers and dog walkers. While the Phoenician sits on camelback Mountain's slopes, from Arizona Grand's elevated 18th tee, you get an entirely different perspective of the valley with views of the Phoenix Skyline and Camelback that's worth the green fee. 

Lastly, after three multi-round days and multi-beer evenings, I had an 8 a.m. tee time at the 27-hole Phoenician Resort, which sits at the base of Camelback Mountain about a mile from downtown Scottsdale. 

With little sleep and sore muscles from 36 holes the day before, two notable events occurred within the first four holes on the Canyon nine: the first time I can recall skipping my ball off the water (unintentionally of course, I wasn't summoning my inner Vijay) yet still saved par; then on the fourth hole I skulled a drive off a rock and watched it sail straight over my head over a fence and out of bounds. 

I hardly ever drink Bloody Marys on the golf course. But when the cart gal showed up soon after my follies, suddenly I was in the mood. 

Spot-on conditions at this posh, AAA Five Diamond Resort has been commonplace for years. But one of the new developments at the Phoenician compared to when I was last here two years ago is the new Relish Burger Bistro, located right above the pro shop. Relish serves a variety of kobe beef burgers or alternatives like salmon and tuna patties. I opted for a Cowboy Burger: which came with onion rings, bacon, jalapenos, onions, cheddar cheese and steak sauce. I even had them throw on a fried egg for a little extra protein - plus a side of fried pickles. 

It was an odd order for me, but nothing stranger than I'd already seen on the course that morning anyways. I'd officially seen and eaten it all in the desert, and it was time to head home. 

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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.'"

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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.