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“WE-KO-PA” translates to the “Four Peaks” that play an important spiritual role within the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation. For golfers, the tribal-owned We-Ko-Pa Golf Club has translated into a five-star, spirit-stirring experience ever since the Scott Miller-designed Cholla 18 opened in 2001. Coore-Crenshaw added the Saguaro course five years later. Countless awards have followed. Save for the stunning clubhouse, no homes or condos line the fairways. The buildings you pass upon entering the club are the Fort McDowell Casino and We-Ko-Pa Resort & Conference Center—both of which provide myriad après-golf options—including sleep. wekopa.com
In the Know
Adjacent to the We-Ko-PA courses, the We-Ko-Pa Resort & Conference Center in Fountain Hills (20 minutes from Sky Harbor) offers AAA four-star luxury in its 246 rooms, seven restaurants (including the fine-dining Ahnala Mesquite Room), Amethyst Spa and outdoor pool. It also provides access to the nearby upscale Fort McDowell Casino and pink-jeep tours of the adjacent Sonoran Desert. Stay-and-play access to superb golf clinches the deal. wekoparesort.com
Arguably the best greens in the Valley of the Sun belong to the two courses—Peaks and Ranch—at Tonto Verde Golf Club. See if you agree. Situated in a 717-home gated community abutting the Tonto National Forest, the 7,004-yard Ranch and tighter 6,733-yard Peaks both welcome the public—as does Tonto Verde’s Mesquite Grill. The debt-free community currently offers a $795 four day/three night couples Discovery Package that includes two rounds of golf, dinner, use of a luxury townhome, bikes and copius amenities. tontoverde.com
The course that began as Vista Verde and be-came Tegavah now has another name. Upgraded by Tom Lehman, Verde River Golf Club will reopen in the Trilogy at Verde River community this winter. verderivergolf.com
Short and Sweet
NOT SHORT ON FUN: Men and women can play the same tees at par-70 Rancho Mañana Golf Club. But though the Cave Creek course barely brushes 6,000 yards, it features long, beautiful views. Camelback, Mummy, Black and South mountains, as well as Squaw Peak and Elephant Butte, reveal themselves on the front-nine ascent. Water and wildlife define the back nine. The resort includes luxurious casitas, a spa and a huge outdoor pool. ranchomanana.com
FORESHADOWING: Paradise Valley is abuzz about the 183-room luxury resort opening in 2017 on land long occupied by the razed Mountain Shadows Resort. Keeping the name, the resurgent Mountain Shadows will also retain an 18-hole par-3 course designed by Forrest Richardson, who worked with Arthur Jack Snyder, the resort’s original course designer, in the 1960s. mountainshadows.com
Set amid the White Tank Mountains, some 25 miles west of Phoenix in Buckeye, the 12-year-old community of Verrado covers 8,800 acres (and, potentially 14,080 homes) while retaining a small-town vibe. An award-winning collaboration between John Fought and Tom Lehman, Verrado Golf Club spans 5,142 to 7,258 yards of ample landing areas, well-protected greens and magnificent desert landscape. Equally magnificent is the Verrado clubhouse, which treats guests to the casual elegance of the Verrado Grille. verradogolfclub.com
Fun and Food
Another Tom Lehman design should open by year end. The 18-hole Victory Course at Verrado rolls through dramatic terrain in the development’s high-energy 55-plus Victory District—which boasts its own restaurant and vineyard, fitness/wellness center and spa. The 1996 British Open winner says Victory is about “fun.” It features five- and six-hole loops for the time-pressed, no rough and a “golf playground” with targets for games like H-O-R-S-E. verrado.com/victory
Dining Options abound at resorts in the Valley of the Sun. Among the best are Talavera at Four Seasons Scottsdale at Troon North (talaverarestaurant.com), where spiced-up steakhouse fare comes with views of Pinnacle Peak; the Westin Kierland delivers the exotic Nuevo Latino Deseo (kierlandresort.com); Bourbon Steak, Ironwood and Richard Sandoval’s La Hacienda enhance the soigné experience at Fairmont Scottsdale Princess (scottsdaleprincess.com); JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge houses Roy Yamaguchi’s Pacific Rim perfection at Roy’s Desert Ridge (roysrestaurant.com).
SNOWBIRD NEST: Ever since it opened at the base of Pinnacle Peak in 1983, Desert Highlands has set the gold standard for private golf-course living. With a golf club membership forged exclusively from property owners, the 850-acre member-owned development embraces fully the concept of community. Members gather to play the highly decorated 7,072-yard Jack Nicklaus design, dine at the clubhouse, play tennis or head to the spa, fitness center, outdoor pool or three-mile trail network. Nearly 560 homes and lots, ranging from the $800s to more than $2 million, comprise the gorgeous gated enclave. deserthighlandsscottsdale.com
BUY ONE, GET SIX: Desert Mountain Club’s 8,000 acres encompasses 35 “villages” containing homesites ($75,000-$1.8 million) and homes ($600,000- $8 million). Property purchase grants access to six distinct Nicklaus-designed courses (Outlaw is the toughest, Chiricahua the most scenic), each with its own architecturally singular clubhouse and restaurant. There are also 15 miles of trails and 3,000 acres of open space where families can “glamp,” ride horses and more. The Fitness, Tennis and Spa just completed a $12 million upgrade to bring it to 42,000-plus square feet. desertmountain.com
One of the most active of Arizona’s active-adult communities added even more vigor last April when Rio Verde Country Club selected Troon Privé to manage operations. The 41-year-old club, tucked into the McDowell foothills at the edge of the Tonto National Forest, has seen an uptick in fitness programming at its community center, rounds on its impeccable White Wing and Quail Run golf courses, and diners in its vibrant clubhouse restaurant. Construction on two pickleball and two bocce courts just finished. The club remains as unpretentious as ever, which participants in Rio Verde Discovery packages quickly discover. rioverdearizona.com
COUPLES’ RETREAT: Fred Couples, that is. The popular Tour player teamed up with Lee Schmidt and Brian Curley to create Ak-Chin Southern Dunes Golf Club in Maricopa, 40 miles south of Scottsdale. Ranked among Arizona’s top daily-fee golf courses by Golfweek and Golf magazines, the 7,546-yard Australian sandhills-inspired layout is a pure golf experience with no shot-distracting homes or traffic. Troon Golf manages the upscale facility. golfsoutherndunes.com
BOLDER BOULDERS: If you haven’t stayed at The Boulders Resort & Spa in the past year, check out how the Carefree resort upgraded all 160 of its casitas, added a lodge and redid the restaurant. The two courses remain unchanged. theboulders.com
BREWS CRUISE: Arizona Brewery Tours conducts enlightening and fun public and private craft-beer tours—including a Sip and Savor edition pairing food and brews at different breweries—in the greater Phoenix/Scottsdale area. They drive, you drink. azbrew.com
What To Do
GOLD STANDARD: Stretching through the natural ravines and boulder-strewn foothills of Pinnacle Peak, Troon North Golf Club’s Pinnacle and Monument courses remain the hallmarks of daily-fee desert golf. Designed by Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish—with some sweet remodeling by Weiskopf—the 26-year-old flagship of the Troon empire represents the best of the brand. troonnorthgolf.com
J-DUB Step: With 869 luxe rooms and 81 suites, the sprawling J.W. Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa provides a sumptuous family-friendly lodging experience. The award-winning property offers abundant guest services and amenities, including outstanding restaurants (Roy’s Pacific Rim, Stonegrill), Revive Spa, fitness center, water park and 36 holes of Tour-worthy golf designed by Arnold Palmer and Nick Faldo—complete with a steakhouse in the clubhouse. jwdesertridgeresort.com
Popular with Chicago Cubs fans during Spring Training, the 7,050-yard Longbow Golf Club in Mesa boasts a walkable layout, superbly sculpted bunkers and camera-worthy vistas of Red Mountain. The Ken Kavanaugh design annually hosts the AJGA’s famed Winn Grips Heather Farr Classic, so you’ll walk in some famous footsteps—when those feet were smaller, of course. OB Sports manages the facility, highlighted by a one-of-a-kind clubhouse that offers an intimate restaurant and outdoor patio with fans, heaters, misters, kitchen, bar and fireplace. longbowgolf.com
EVERY THURSDAY NIGHT from 7 to 9 p.m., Downtown Scottsdale puts the art in party. For 41 years the Scottsdale ArtWalk has showcased the eclectic artistic styles of the city’s vibrant gallery scene along Main Street and Marshall Way. Wander into galleries and stroll around a delightful area punctuated by dramatic statues, bubbling fountains, live music, lighted palm trees, courtyards, restaurants, bars and intriguing individuals. scottsdalegalleries.com
The largest patio in Old Town Scottsdale—4,500 square feet— belongs to The Mint, an ornate, hip “ultra lounge” housed in a former bank (the original vault door provides the centerpiece). Hang outside on the patio or in one of the cabanas. Inside the pulse of house music fills the 7,000-square-foot space, comprised of a large dance area and private VIP rooms. themintaz.com
MORE THAN 2,000 WINES populate the list at Scottsdale’s Kazimierz World Wine Bar, which serves vino by the glass, flight and bottle in an eccentric, unpretentious environment that’s part European wine cave and part living room. Live entertainment begins at 9pm daily, and the slate of “global small foods” is impressive and satisfying. kazbar.com
STAIRMASTER: Architect Scott Miller sculpted the holes at Eagle Mountain Golf Club into massive bowls, redirecting wayward drives and giving your calves a workout as you walk to the cart paths from fairways and greens. The 6,800-yard OB Sports-managed facility in Fountain Hills also features one of the desert’s best finishing holes and killer mountain views. eaglemtn.com
GET YOUR PHIL: Trace Phil Mickelson’s Arizona roots. Lefty spent his college days at ASU Karsten Golf Course (asukarsten.com) in Tempe and then served as PGA Tour Ambassador to Grayhawk Golf Club (grayhawkgolf.com), where Phil’s Grill displays all kinds of memorabilia. He belongs to the oh-so-private Whisper Rock and owns the public McDowell Mountain Golf Club (mcdowellmountaingolfgc.com).
With 36 holes of golf, 497 guest rooms, six restaurants, 240,000 square feet of casino space, a 13,000-square-foot open air spa and 20 cabanas around the pool, Scottsdale’s Talking Stick Resort wants for nothing. Owned by the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, the resort’s links-style North and tree-lined South courses, designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, provide memorable experiences. So does Talking Stick’s fine-dining Orange Sky Restaurant and O Lounge, which perch on the resort’s top floor and feature more than 300 wines with which to pair its award-winning cuisine and stunning sunsets. talkingstick.com
Inns and Out
SMOKIN’ CAMEL: The Ambiente and Padre golf courses are just two of many ways to play at Scottsdale’s JW Marriott Camelback Inn. Others include its cosseting spa, two fitness centers, heated outdoor pool, tennis courts and nearby biking trails. This fall Lincoln Restaurant and Bar 1936 opens as the 453-room resort’s main dining spot. camelbackinn.com
FISHER IN PHOENIX: Adjacent to the JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge, the Palmer and Faldo courses at Wildfire Golf Club annually host the LPGA Tour’s JTBC Founders Cup (Mar 17-20, 2017). From November until April, the resort courses also welcome PGA instructor and CAG contributor Alex Fisher, who teaches at Durango’s Glacier Club in summer. wildfiregolf.com
TRAIL FIX: You don’t need harnesses and ropes to climb into the rocks around Scottsdale. Popular trails lead up Pinnacle Peak and Camelback Mountain. The Piestewa Peak, Tom Thumb, and Lost Dog Wash trails offer challenging, less crowded alternatives.
PRINCESS DIARY: The AAA Five-Diamond Fairmont Scottsdale Princess surrounds you with luxury. Spanish-syle architecture, lagoons, fountains, fire pits, colorful desert plants and expansive green spaces set the tone for the Lavish Well & Being Spa; six heated pools featuring waterslides and a 9,000- square-foot white sand beach; five award-winning restaurants and lounges; and the two TPC Scottsdale courses next door. scottsdaleprincess.com
FUN FOR ALL AGES: For years only the 30,000 member-owners in the Sun City West community could play its four regulation and three executive layouts. But for the first time ever, the public can book tee times in the age-restricted community. Non-members still won’t, however, have access to the four rec centers, 30-lane bowling center. voluminous library and the myriad amenities provided by the private resort association. suncitywest.com
Your turn to play the stadium course at TPC Scottsdale won’t draw the half-million fans who annually attend the Waste Management Phoenix Open. The Weiskopf-Morrish-designed course does leave up all year the 20,000-capacity seating at the par-3 16th hole to provide guests the sensation of arena golf—without the rowdy gallery. Per person rates at the Stadium ($225-$260 in Nov.-Dec.) and Champions ($157) courses include a forecaddie per foursome. Prices traditionally go up $80-$100 January-March. tpc.com/scottsdale
After losing its PGA Tour event in 2006, the Tucson area held eight consecutive WGC Accenture Match Play Championships (2007-2014), with the last six at the semi-private 27-hole Golf Club at Dove Mountain north of Tucson. While the Saguaro and Tortolita nines hosted pros like 2014 winner Jason Day (who outdueled escape artist Victor Dubuisson), designer Jack Nicklaus favors the Wild Burro nine, where vistas of the Tortolita Mountains and The Ritz-Carlton resort qualify it as the most scenic of the three. thegolfclubatdovemountain.com
This article appears in the Fall 2016 issue of Colorado AvidGolfer. Subscribe today!
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