SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - The lavish atmosphere at The Phoenician resort in Scottsdale, replete with palm-lined walkways and graceful fountains, brings to mind Palm Springs, Calif. This is the height of luxury in desert golf. In fact, it's practically desert golf without really feeling like you're in the desert.
The Phoenician opened in 1988 to great anticipation and wide acclaim and has been racking up awards and honors ever since, including the prestigious Five Diamond Award from AAA for the past five years. The resort boasts 577 guestrooms, 62 suites, and four presidential suites (in case four presidents show up all at once, perhaps).
Each guestroom and suite features one-of-a-kind, hand-picked artwork, and the resort has a $25 million art collection. The Phoenician is not sitting on its laurels, though; it's in the middle of a $70 million interior renovation.
Hungry guests can choose from eight different dining venues. The apex restaurant is Il Terrazzo, which opened last June and serves authentic Italian fare in opulent, marble-floored surroundings. Guests can then burn off some of those carbs in any of the nine swimming pools on the property or on a stroll through the two-acre Cactus Garden.
The Centre for Well-Being offers an extensive menu of spa treatments, along with a host of services to promote both physical and spiritual health. These include a Circle of Intuitive Guides (e.g., Golf/Sports Guided Imagery, $150/50 min.; Hypnotherapy, $185/80 min.) and Fitness and Wellness consultations (e.g., Fit-for-Golf, $120/50 min.; Belly Dancing, $125/50 min.).
But don't let the sumptuous ambiance make you think The Phoenician is uptight. For kids aged 5-12, the Funician's Kids Club offers a daily, supervised program of games, crafts and activities. And the Explorers Activity Center and "Saturdays on the Lawn" provide more than enough pleasant distractions for even the most hyperactive child or sullen teenager. In the summer off-season, family getaway packages start at just $249.
The Phoenician's best feature, though - at least to a golfer - is the 27 holes of championship golf that wind through the property. Each of the three nine-hole courses has its own character. The Desert Course has dramatic elevation changes and great views of Camelback Mountain. The Oasis Course (closed until October for renovation) is a non-desert course in the desert, with tree-lined fairways and tranquil water features. The newest nine, the Canyon Course, is situated on the southern slope of Camelback Mountain and provides sweeping vistas of the Valley of the Sun.
The Desert Course is arguably the most difficult nine, and players will remember the par 3s in particular. The 180-yard sixth features an elevated tee overlooking the north valley, and a 30-foot drop over desert scrub to the green.
The 120-yard eighth forces you to ascend a long stairway up to a tiny tee box, from which you peer down some 60 feet to the green. Depending on the position of the tee markers, players might not even be able to see the green when they tee off. The hole actually plays less than 100 yards, and is - to be honest - a bit tricked up, but it is a challenge to pull the right club, and it is certainly memorable.
The Canyon Course is the newest nine and the most scenic. The green complexes are absolutely gorgeous, with bunkering whose lines and shapes are almost art-deco. By far the most fun hole is the short, drivable 303-yard, par-4 sixth, where a solid seeing-eye drive and a deft putting touch can earn an eagle for even a golf-writing hacker.
The 201-yard seventh is also a lovely short hole, downhill and over water. But it does not play nearly as long as the scorecard says, and can turn from beauty to beast faster than a sidewinder strike.
Best of all, like the rest of Phoenix-Scottsdale, summer season brings excellent deals on golf packages at The Phoenician, including unlimited summer golf starting at just $199/night for two golfers.
If you want to be pampered, if you want to be immersed in the good life, if you want to feel like a movie star, The Phoenician is the place to do it in Phoenix/Scottsdale. Simply put, this is the swanky epicenter of golf in the Valley of the Sun.
June 8, 2009