SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - It's no secret that the Stadium Course at TPC Scottsdale hosts the rowdiest golf tournament on the PGA Tour schedule.
As a stadium course, it naturally allows for large crowds and great viewing corridors. Most of the players seem to love the atmosphere of the Waste Management Phoenix Open, the most heavily attended tour event.
But when 20,000 raucous spectators leave, and it's just you and your group on the par-3 16th, is the magic still there? Well, not exactly. But this Jay Morrish-Tom Weiskopf design remains a hoot to play.
In season, conditioning is near perfect, and most of the holes offer wide fairways. Also, it's anything but a typical desert golf course, which can make for a nice change of pace in Arizona.
Translation: Wide expanses of green grass abound.
"It's a lot of fun," said Clay Scott, who has played the par-71, 7,216-yard Stadium Course on several occasions. "I just hit it as far as I can off the tee, then hit it again. I wear that course out."
The city of Scottsdale leases the TPC Scottsdale, operated on Sonoran Desert land by PGA Tour Golf Course Properties Inc., and owned by the Federal Bureau of Reclamation. Designed specifically for the Phoenix Open, the course opened in December 1986, albeit a little late and little over budget.
Over the years, the golf course has undergone a number of improvements. In 1997, all the greens were rebuilt. Officials added more than 13,000 plants – many indigenous – a year later to give the golf course a little more scenery.
In 2000, inlaid stone replaced railroad-tie bulkheads along the water hazards and tee boxes. And in 2003, the golf course received some design tweaks and another 120 yards or so in length as tournament officials sought to make the course slighly more difficult.
For good players, the Stadium Course isn't particularly difficult, as evidenced by scoring at the Phoenix Open. Mark Calcavecchia blistered the Stadium Course when he won in 1998, shooting a PGA Tour-record, 28-under-par 256. Aaron Baddeley won at 21-under par in 2007.
But for the everyday player, the golf course isn't so easy - with numerous water hazards, a few long holes and the threat of windy conditions.
The chance to follow in the pros' footsteps and recall some of the most memorable moments of the Phoenix Open ranks as perhaps the most appealing aspect of the Stadium Course.
For example, the boulder that impeded Tiger Woods in 1999 still sits on the par-5 13th, with a plaque to chronicle the event. Woods received a favorable ruling that classified the object as a loose impediment. He then enlisted the help of nine fans, who moved the giant rock and cleared the way for Woods to hit his second shot.
Of course, Woods also provided a moment for the mob at No. 16 in 1997, when he aced the hole to incite a deafening roar that has yet to be matched. Today, the 16th is completely enclosed for the Phoenix Open, and crowds not only cheer the good shots but boo the marginal and bad ones.
One of the most memorable moments came in 2001 on the short, par-4 17th. Andrew Magee, still steaming from a double-bogey 7 two holes earlier, decided to pull driver. He had never driven the hole – not even in practice rounds – so imagine his surprise when his ball bounced onto the green and through the group of Steve Pate, Gary Nicklaus and Tom Byrum. Incredibly, it caromed off Byrum's putter into the hole.
Play the Stadium Course on a nice day and you're bound to have fun. Many memorable holes await, including the par-5 15th, with its island green. From the proper tees, most players can consider going for it in two after a good drive.
I like the finishing hole, too, and the par 4 is one of the toughest on the golf course with a big lake to the left of the fairway and bunkers designed to catch errant tee shots on the right side.
In short, if you like impeccable conditions on a golf course and prefer not to consult the yardage book for every shot, you'll enjoy the TPC Scottsdale's Stadium Course.
TPC Scottsdale features great practice facilities with a large range and short-game area. There's also the PGA Tour Academy, which offers golf schools and individual lessons, utilizing the latest in video and computer software. And the school employs some of the best instructors in the country.
For one of the best ways to enjoy the TPC Scottsdale experience, book a package at the nearby Fairmont Scottsdale. The resort also operates the Grill at the TPC, overlooking the 18th green of the Stadium Course.
The AAA Five-Diamond Fairmont Scottsdale offers 649 guest rooms, including two presidential suites, 69 Fairmont Gold rooms and 119 casitas. It also includes the heralded Willow Stream Spa, two award-winning restaurants, meeting facilities and extensive pool areas.
February 25, 2010