SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — His feet up, a scotch on the rocks jingling in his hand, his golf clubs on the way back to his hotel after a workout, Aaron Rowe could care less at this moment that this trendy town has taken some hits in recent months. The Chicago Tribune wants to call Scottsdale "Snottsdale"? Good for them.
Pass the caviar (beluga please), set up next morning's tee time at the Troon North golf course and let everyone know which nightclub with vapid blondes — and a celebrity VIP list — the crew's hitting tonight.
"I'm on vacation here," Rowe said, shrugging. "I don't mind if people call me a snob. As long as they treat me like a snob."
That brought a clinking chorus of high-priced drinks together. No one in Rowe's group is shy about why they hit Scottsdale for their golf/party/pampering vacations. They come to be treated like kings, to have everything and anything at their beck and call. Or least at the beck and call of their VISA and American Express cards.
"We're seeing a lot more high-end vacationers who don't really care too much what the price of the room is," said Lance Burton, the marketing director at Wigwam Resort. "They just care about the amenities and service that you have to offer them."
Or as Doug Foss, sales and marketing director at the Raven at Verrado course, puts it, "What can you do for them that no one else does?"
Let chamber of commerce officials and city leaders fret over a short-lived CBS reality show this summer that showed attractive Scottsdale women discussing cheating on their husbands, lounging by the pool and planning elaborate shopping and plastic surgery days. You're talking bad image? Many of the golfers who pour into Scottsdale do so to live that image's reality.
Scottsdale, which casts a sun-like shadow over its parent metropolis Phoenix in golfer recognition, put itself on the map with over-the-top luxury. It wasn't dubbed "Beverly Hills Of The Desert" in the New York Times by accident.
Scottsdale (population 222,000) is second to only New York City (population eight million) for the most AAA Five-Diamond awarded hotels and resorts in the United States with five. NYC comes in with six.
That's a lot of luxury in a rather small area.
"The best thing about Scottsdale is that you'll find a great spa in one shopping center and three great restaurants in another one five minutes away," said visitor Mai Nguyen, who's personal passion is the spas. "You barely need a driver."
That doesn't mean that plenty of Scottsdale visitors don't employ them. And no, we're not talking about the Nike SasQuatch. These are actual human drivers, the kind that are nicely complemented by your own pilot.
Coming into Scottsdale Airport on your own private jet has rapidly become the status symbol in town. Who wants to mingle with the masses at Phoenix Sky Harbor? John Travolta has flown himself in. Michael Jordan uses Scottsdale Airport as a quick base for his golf escapes. Heck, even Michael Jackson reportedly went Scottsdale Airport to dodge the paparazzi during the height of one of his child molestation allegations, slipping in late at night and retreating into the plush confines of Boulders Resort — one of Scottsdale's five AAA Five-Diamond award winners.
Scottsdale Airport is one of the busiest single runway airports in the world. It's still not close to big enough for the crowd of money-no-object folks who love this town.
"Anyone can get a private jet flown in to Las Vegas," Rowe said. "There are so many spots available. Here, it means something. You've got some juice."
Anyone who plays Scottsdale's TPC Desert Course can attest to what that juice looks like from the ground. Golfers almost duck small planes on this Scottsdale version of a budget play near the runway. Hey, did Jennifer Aniston cause me to duck hook that drive?
"Just think of all that money that's coming in," Carl Emerick said, waiting to tee off on TPC Desert as another Gulfstream jet rumbled overhead. "I wouldn't mind living that life for a week."
Those who do it for real don't play TPC Desert. Here are three rules of high-end Scottsdale luxury golfers. Why only three? These people don't have time for any drawn-out lists.
1). You pay to play: Dropping $200 plus to play in high season ain't no big thing. In fact, it's the thing. Luxury-seeking golfers used to peeling off three bills to play Scottsdale's finest almost didn't know what to do when We-Ko-Pa — an often mere $150 course — started drawing some of the biggest buzz in the entire Phoenix Valley.
These money warriors are more comfortable unleashing their custom-made drivers on the Troon Norths, Boulders and Wildfires. Or better yet, using their wallet power to open the gates to an exclusive private course such as the Phil Mickelson designed Whisper Rock.
2). Rest where pamper rules: Four Seasons Resort at Troon North, Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, Camelback Inn, Boulders Resort and The Phoenician are the elite five AAA Five-Diamond resorts.
But high rollers will go to whichever hotel fawns over them most personally. A stay at the boutique James Hotel is very different for Jessica Simpson or someone who at least plays within a few tax brackets of a Jessica Simpson than it is for a regular vacationer.
3). Club hard: Nothing seems to cap off a day of picturesque golf like a night of hitting on women — or men — to the pulsating beat of club music. Axis/Radius, e4, Myst, Devil's Martini and the more casual, but no less a scene Kazimierz World Wine Bar are some of the favorites.
You might find snobby people in these trendy spots, sure. But you can bet they'll be having the time of their lives.
"Party like the SEC (Security and Exchange Commission) is coming," Rowe said. A waitress in leather found herself being motioned over again.
August 14, 2006