Scottsdale, AZ - After golfing at The Phoenician one might think they teed off in Southern California rather than in the middle of the Sonoran desert. Well, don't turn around if you want to keep that tropical image, because the course snuggles up to Camelback Mountain.
Several ways lead you to the only five-star resort in Phoenix. From the airport take Sky Harbor Blvd. to 44th Street and turn left. At Camelback Road turn right and follow to Jokake Blvd, then turn left into The Phoenician.
After you drive through the resort's gates, you leave reality below and enter a palace like no other in Arizona. The property, built into the mountain, hands you a better view the further up you drive. The first turnoff on the right leads you to many of the recreational facilities. Continuing straight you receive a glimpse of the golf course on both sides with nothing but majestic structures in front of you.
The golden hotel rests high on the property, overlooking the grounds - almost like a queen addressing her court. To arrive at check-in, take the road as far as you can toward the mountain until you meander to a round about, where you will be greeted by several friendly subjects of the queen.
Unlike many resorts in Phoenix, The Phoenician's golf course is an amenity of the hotel, such as the health spa and tennis courts. Many deluxe courses in the area have a surrounding resort, but the two run separate businesses. The Princess, for example, overlooks the TPC of Scottsdale, home of the annual Phoenix Open. However, the two do not relate. At The Phoenician, 90 percent of the players vacation at the hotel.
"We are the hotel," says John Jackson, Director of Golf.
The Phoenician is a 250-acre luxury resort including 654 guestrooms, 73 of which are suites. Over six different eateries await guests at the resort, along with eight shops and boutiques. For recreation, The Phoenician offers nine pools, including Mother-of-Pearl and Canyon pools, with a 165-foot water slide, a Tennis Garden, clubhouse and pro shop, The Centre for Well-Being spa, and a dozen recreation activities for kids such as hiking, archery, and basketball and finally - the 27-hole championship golf course.
Your first view when entering the course is the exquisite clubhouse. The circular structure gives off a glow of royalty. Truly luxurious, the tall entryway with pillars on both sides has a winding staircase in between you and a peak at the course. Much like the entire resort, artwork displays itself throughout the white marble foyer and beyond.
What makes The Phoenician's golf course so unique are its two contrasts. Arizona houses two types of golf courses; first, the course trying to sweep golfers away to Florida, by creating landscaping only found in tropical regions. Palm trees everywhere! Waterfalls pouring over huge rock formations encompassed by extravagant flowerbeds of every color. Second, the desert target course which does deny where you woke up this morning, with all fairways separated by desert brush.
The Phoenician captures the best of both worlds. Golfers can enjoy the beauty of a tropical course without escaping the rich desert scenery resting behind their shoulders.
The Scottsdale facility has three different nine-hole courses, all aptly named - Canyon, Desert, and Oasis. The Oasis and Desert were built 12 years ago, but the Canyon only 4. Each nine covers a lot of space, so the cart paths can be tricky as some wind around different holes. Just keep following the signs, trust your instincts and you'll arrive at the next tee box.
The Oasis gives its challengers plenty of picturesque, luxuriant holes to conquer. Magnificent landscaping and water hazards that sparkle with beauty are abound, but their dangers punish.
"The Oasis is a more traditional nine holes of golf, with flat terrain and lush vegetation," says Jackson.
After the first hole however, you might be a little disappointed with the direction your cart leads you. While the holes remain breathtaking, the surrounding scenery starts to go downhill. What makes The Phoenician so spectacular is that most of the course wraps around the hotel. The Oasis lures you away from the resort into a small community of homes that take from the beauty of the environment.
The good news is, holes 8 and 9 carry you back the way you came, creating the two most impressive holes on the Oasis course. Hole 8 lies in-between Camelback Mountain and the driving range. It's an uphill, par 4. For some golfers, who we all love to hate, this is the only realistic Par 4 with a driveable green. But the fairway slopes up, so looks can be deceiving.
Hole 9 offers both a wonderful view and a tricky layout. The resort sits in back of the green with the rugged southern slope of the mountain to the right, and water on the left of fairway. It has an elevated tee, my kind of tee, but water sits and waits for your ball right at the base of the green. And what would a hole be without some bunkers getting in your way. If you have no difficulty clearing the water, still be wary of the sand at the corners.
The Phoenician's Canyon Nine delivers a completely different desert setting. Each hole not only hugs the base of Camelback, but the aerial nine gives you a complete view of the city. The rich browns from the mountain and the vibrant greens from the turf, provide much more life than typical desert courses. Water on only four holes makes the Canyon the easiest of the three nines, according to Jackson.
"The two other nines, are much more forgiving than the Oasis," Jackson notes.
Built only four years ago, the Canyon is the newest addition to The Phoenician. The hotel also added a new 60-room unit when the Canyon addition erupted. The par fours challenge even the best of players, but opportunity knocks on the two par fives.
The Desert nine, has only one hole with water, but much more can go wrong than on the Canyon. It's longer than the Canyon, and out-of-bounds brush can really kill a game. On seven of the holes, the desert sits along both sides of the fairway.
Once plagued by palm tress on the Oasis, your ball now will philander with cactus and brush for nine holes. But don't be too sad, you will still encounter palm trees peppered throughout play. You can never get away from palm trees completely at this resort. The Desert shoots back behind the hotel, offering scenic views for both the golfer and the hotel guest.
"The Desert is very scenic," begins Jackson. "It goes up back in the mountain behind the hotel. On the sixth hole, you overlook number four by a couple hundred feet."
The Phoenician is very refreshing, because it's a challenging resort course. Resort courses tend to be geared toward the vacation golfer, who some feel aren't as good as others who play on a regular basis. The Phoenician will not disappoint. You have the beauty of a resort course with enough difficulty to be challenging, but not too difficult to spoil a gratifying vacation in the heart of the American Southwest.
Peak season begins on October 1 at The Phoenician. A round of golf for guests of the resort is $160 and $180 for local residents. During off-season, rates become a little more affordable at $90 for both guests and non-guests.
The Phoenician Golf Club
6000 East Camelback Road
Scottsdale, AZ 85251
Practice Fac.: A
Pace of Play: B-
Overall Course Rating: B+