SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Joe Ogilvie admits he's not "a spa guy."
But like anybody who visits the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess resort, Ogilvie, a PGA Tour pro born in Ohio, was no match for the intoxicating allure of its Willow Stream Spa.
"I spent eight hours a day there last December," Ogilvie admitted, almost sheepishly, talking to a private party enjoying the resort during the 2012 Waste Management Phoenix Open.
PGA Tour pros live a pretty pampered life, following the sun from one fabulous resort destination to the next. If the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess can impress Ogilvie, it can certainly do the same for any guest. The staff will make sure of it.
"It isn't the brick and mortar that make this resort. It is the staff, all 900 of them," General Manager Jack Miller told guests at the party. "Our saying is, 'The answer is yes. What is the question?'"
This resort opened in 1987 and has earned AAA Five Diamond status every year since 1990. It sprawls out across 450 acres of Sonoran Desert.
First-timers will no doubt get lost in its mazes of outdoor courtyards, walking trails and fishing ponds. Exploring is all part of the experience. From the soft pink hues of the buildings to the landscaping of cacti, this place feels more like an extension of the desert than an intrusion. "This is Scottsdale's most distinct Southwestern resort," Miller said. "There aren't many of them in the valley."
The 649-room resort is home to 25 suites (two presidential), 66 Fairmont Gold rooms and 125 casitas, with luxury and spacious comforts. There are four heated outdoor pools, including the Sonoran Splash with two 200-foot waterslides, and a tennis center, home to seven lighted courts and a 6,300-seat stadium.
The 53,000-square-foot, $20-million Palomino Conference Center is on track to open Oct. 11, 2012, bringing the resort's meeting space to 150,000 square feet, the largest in the entire Fairmont chain.
The competition for the best restaurant on property remains fierce. Bourbon Steak by Michael Mina, a modern American steakhouse, serves great cuts of beef, chicken and fish. La Hacienda is Richard Sandoval's tribute to classic Mexican cuisine. The resort's Tequila Goddess, Danielle Griffin, learned about tequila by studying in Mexico, not the old-fashioned way you and I did ... downing a bottle one crazy night in college. Griffin is just the seventh expert in the United States to be certified by Mexico's Tequila Regulatory Council. Tequila tastings, hosted on weekends by Griffin, introduces the resort's 110 different varieties from 36 different labels.
For more drinks and socializing, the Stone Rose Lounge heats up at night with outdoor fire pits and cozy couches to sink into. It's a cool place to hang out after a day in the sun.
The Willow Stream Spa rates as one of the most celebrated under the Fairmont umbrella. It was inspired by a hidden oasis deep in the Grand Canyon called Havasupai, known for its gorgeous natural waterfalls.
The three levels of the spa are linked by its own waterfall. Disappearing under cascading water in the outdoor pool is recommended after a massage.
Leave more time to unplug by hanging out at the private rooftop pool and using the spoils of the saunas, eucalyptus inhalation rooms, and hot and cold plunge pools in the men's and women's lounges. A fitness center and salon complete this first-class facility.
The host hotel of several recent Waste Management Phoenix Opens, the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess straddles the fairways of the Stadium Course at the TPC Scottsdale.
Staying at the resort would make for a perfect tournament weekend. There is no need to fight the crowds and traffic of golf's grandest party. Just park the car at the resort and shuttle to the course, or walk through the special entrance behind the casitas near the fifth tee.
The Stadium Course, a Jay Morrish-Tom Weiskopf design that opened in 1986, won't wow players with sweeping views, but its mounding and tough green surrounds demand full attention anyway. The meat of the golf course starts at No. 15 and finishes strong with the famous par-3 at No. 16 and the drivable par-4 17th.
The Champions Course -- the old Desert course was redesigned by Randy Heckenkemper in 2007 -- delivers golf that is more walkable and more affordable with the same slick greens.
Most of us don't play the game like Ogilvie or other PGA Tour pros, but a stay-and-play at this dreamy resort affords us a window into their world for a day or two.
February 16, 2012