Arizona: Three Places to Stay and Play on Your Next Visit
Fall is one of the best times of year to visit Arizona. The heat of the summer has subsided and the throngs of winter have yet to arrive. The golf courses are moving toward tip-top condition, the restaurants are less crowded and tee times are plentiful. What are you waiting for? Jump in the car or hop the hour-long flight … the Grand Canyon State awaits!
Fairmont Scottsdale Princess
As a brand, Fairmont Hotels & Resorts has always been so reliably good. Whether you’re staying in one of their classic resorts such as Fairmont Banff Springs or Fairmont San Francisco, or one of the modern classics such as Fairmont Pacific Rim, you can count on an excellent experience in a unique environment with amenities that often impress.
The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess — squarely in the “modern classic” category — is no exception. Located near the heart of “new” Scottsdale, adjacent to the 36 holes at TPC Scottsdale and also near Scottsdale Quarter and Kierland Commons shopping and dining centers, the Scottsdale Princess is a perfect base of operation for a stay in the Valley of the Sun.
TPC Scottsdale’s Stadium Course is where the PGA TOUR Waste Management Phoenix Open is contested. If you’ve ever attended or watched this tourney on television, you know it is regarded by players as one of the most enjoyable weeks of the year. Not only do they relish the fan interaction on the often-raucous 16th hole, but the course can yield some low scores. Ask Phil Mickelson who shot a 60 here en route to victory in 2005 and has won the event three times.
The sister course at TPC Scottsdale is the Champions Course. Built on the former site of TPC Scottsdale’s Desert Course, architect Randy Heckenkemper created a completely new design here several years ago. Though the Stadium Course gets most of the attention from media and visiting golfers because of the TOUR event, many locals proclaim the Champions Course their favorite of the two. A strategic design, it fits seamlessly into the natural desert terrain, offering up a variety of memorable holes, including a drivable par-four, a risk/reward split fairway on No. 15 and a strong quintet of one-shotters.
Other courses within close proximity to Scottsdale Princess — where the resort’s golf-knowledgeable Leisure Services Team would just love to make you a tee time — read like a “best of Scottsdale” list. Choices include the target-oriented Grayhawk GC’s Talon Course; the two much-lauded Tom Weiskopf designs at Troon North, Pinnacle and Monument; and the 36 scenic and heralded holes at We-Ko-Pa GC, Cholla and Saguaro, the latter being one of Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore’s best design collaborations.
Wherever you choose to play, heading back to the Scottsdale Princess after a round ensures your good day will continue. After refreshing in your spacious and handsomely appointed guestroom, dining choices include one of the best Mexican restaurants you’ll ever try, La Hacienda by Richard Sandoval, or the ever-tempting Michael Mina’s Bourbon Steak.
La Hacienda’s tequila bar features more than 200 tequilas, including several rare and specialty sipping varieties; along with a must-try guacamole sampler with three delicious takes on the classic recipe: pomegranate, spicy crab and pepita (roasted pumpkin seeds) and a menu of very fresh and tasty Modern Mexican cuisine.
Meanwhile, Bourbon Steak’s menu features the finest cuts of beef, poultry and fish, all slow-poached in butter, grilled and finished over seasoned wood-fueled flames.
On second thought, I’ll change “reliably good” to “reliably great” when discussing this favorite Scottsdale resort.
For fall, check out the Fairmont’s “Ultimate Golf Package” that includes overnight premium accommodations with one round of golf per room/per night at any of the resort’s preferred golf partners, including TPC Scottsdale and Grayhawk GC, and a $50 food and beverage credit per room per night. Rates start at $229 per night, double occupancy. Fairmont.com/Scottsdale
GIVING “FULL SERVICE” A NEW MEANING
The Westin Kierland Resort & Spa
In the 1987 film Planes, Trains & Automobiles, the two main characters, played by Steve Martin and John Candy, struggle to get home for Thanksgiving through a series of transportation mishaps with hilarious consequences. The title — though without the mishaps — may occur to you when contemplating your transportations options on the golf course at The Westin Kierland Resort & Spa. If it were a film it would be called Segways, GolfBikes & Golf Cars.
“The idea is to make golf engaging for everyone,” says Nancy Dickens, director of golf. “If you’re a traditionalist you can walk these courses easily. Or, if you want to try something different, the GolfBikes and Segways are a whole lot of fun.” The resort is also “eagerly awaiting” the arrival of several GolfBoards, the new surf-the-turf product that won Best New Product recognition at the 2014 PGA Merchandise Show.
If engaging is the goal, The Westin Kierland is doing its job very well. In addition to playing 27 fun holes of Scott Miller-designed golf, guests can taste their favorite single malts in the Scotch Library, grab a surfboard or boogie board and hang 10 on the Kierland FlowRider, join the regulars (including some PGA and LPGA pros) in a FORE-MAX fitness training program geared specifically to golfers, get a massage at Agave Spa and dine on Nuevo Latino cuisine in the signature deseo restaurant. In other words, The Westin Kierland gives new meaning to the phrase “full-service resort.”
The three nine-hole courses are perfect for the GolfBikes and Segways, gently rolling hills carpeted with velvety green grass and cart paths traversing the desert washes and transition areas. Named after indigenous plant life found on the course — Acacia, Ironwood, and Mesquite — Miller’s design is free-flowing, with each rota assuming its own personality and unique flavor.
A Scottsdale resident and former design associate with Jack Nicklaus, Miller created a parkland-style course at Kierland. Fairways are broad and driver-friendly, giving players confidence when standing on the tee. Putting surfaces are generally accessible and on the large side, so while you may face some lengthy putts … well, at least you’re putting. And, word to the wise, try to avoid the more than 300 sand bunkers that dot the course, as they can provide a formidable challenge to par should your shots wander.
Of course if your shots wander too frequently, perhaps a visit to the on-site LaBeauve Academy might be in order. Run by dynamic the husband-and-wife team Mike and Sandy LaBeauve, both listed as Top 100 instructors by GOLF Magazine, you can sign up for daily clinics, or personal instruction. Playing lessons are also offered.
Most guestrooms at the resort are in a highrise building with panoramic views of the golf course, Scottsdale, and the far mountains that ring the valley. Of course, Westin’s signature Heavenly Beds are just waiting for you to flop down after a long day, with that long “Ahhhhhhh…” that always follows. One- and two-bedroom casita suites are also offered, situated in a separate building steps from the main resort next to the swimming pool and lazy river.
You can experience Kierland Golf Club’s challenging 27 holes and stay in luxury after a long day on the course this fall with the The Westin Kierland Resort & Spa “Unlimited Golf for Two” package. Rates from $429 per night Sept. 8-Dec. 31, 2014; includes “unlimited golf” for two guests. KierlandResort.com
OLD SCOTTSDALE, BIG FUN
Scottsdale Resort & Athletic Club
If you love tennis as much as golf, here’s a suggestion for your next Arizona visit: Scottsdale Resort & Athletic Club. With 11 lighted courts — including an exhibition court for you top level players — Scottsdale Resort and Athletic Club has been named in the “Top 50 Tennis Resorts” by Tennis Magazine. Plus, with two swimming pools, several workout studios, an intimate spa, and a full schedule of fitness classes, everything you need for a health-oriented stay is found right here.
The resort is situated within two miles of several golf courses that you’ll definitely want to play: Talking Stick Golf Club, McCormick Ranch Golf Club, and Silverado Golf Club, the latter of which is immediately adjacent. Guests can likewise play other top area courses such as Troon North, which are offered in some of the golf packages. And if you enjoy stepping out of an evening, it is located near Old Town Scottsdale, where a plethora of restaurants and nightlife always enliven a visit.
Standard guestrooms at Scottsdale Resort are nice enough, but treat yourself to a more spacious suite or villa. These have a very homey feel to them and come with separate den and wet bar, and enough room to unpack your bags and get comfortable.
Of the golf facilities, Talking Stick would be my first choice. There are two 18-hole courses here, both fashioned by the renowned design team of Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore. True to their traditionalist beliefs, the dynamic duo moved a minimum of dirt in construction, and used the natural land formations to create the playing characteristics.
The North Course is more target-oriented than the South, and often favored by better players. With its fairways crossing frequent washes and arroyos, the North has a “desert links” feel. The South, on the other hand, is a lot of fun to play for groups and higher-handicappers, with wider, tree-lined fairways and a pleasant, parkland style.
McCormack Ranch also sports two 18-hole courses, Pine and Palm, both designed by Desmond Muirhead. These are parkland-style courses, with 10 water holes on the Palm and a lot of palm trees; while the Pine Course is noticeably narrower off the tees and, you guessed it, is lined by mature pine trees. You’ll love the views of Camelback Mountain from either of these fun courses.
At Silverado Golf Club, a walkable distance from your guest room at Scottsdale Resort, 18 holes of daily fee golf await. Playing just 6,313 yards from the back tees (par-70), don’t mistake this layout for a pushover; it has enough difficulty built in to make any round interesting. Hole 18, for example, is a short 157-yard par-3 with elevated tee boxes which allow for a great visual of the putting surface as well as picturesque views of the Mummy Mountains. But, surrounded by water and four well-positioned bunkers, this is definitely a finish hole on which you need to pay attention.
Scottsdale Resort & Athletic Club is ample evidence that a great trip to the Valley of the Sun can be achieved on any budget.
Check out the “Guys Golf Getaway” package that includes: three nights in a two-bedroom villa for three people; one round of golf at Silverado Golf Course, McCormick Ranch Golf Course, and Troon North per person; $100 food and beverage credit; in-suite snacks (chips, dip, bottles of water, mixed nuts); access to the Athletic Club and complimentary use of fitness facilities, lap pool, and whirlpool spa. September 16 – December 31: $1,843. (That’s only $614 apiece!) ScottsdaleResortAndAthleticClub.com