This year marked the 17thannual Media Golf Classic held in sunny Scottsdale, Arizona. It was my first time joining a group of golf journalists from both the U.S. and Canada for five days of fabulous desert golf, cowboy cookouts and camaraderie.
The invitational event is organized by Bill Huffman, a veteran golf reporter and author of Arizona’s Greatest Golf Courses. “Huff Daddy,” as he is fondly known, sure knows how to keep his fellow swingers happy, both on and off the fairways.
This year “Huff”, with the cooperation of Experience Scottsdale and numerous sponsors, introduced participants to a number of new experiences in the Sonoran Desert.
We stayed at Mountain Shadows, a brand new facility built on the grounds of the old resort of the same name where celebrities such as Lucille Ball and Bob Hope used to hang out. My room had stunning vistas of Camelback Mountain from the balcony and the deep soaker tub. The staff could not have been more professional or helpful and the complimentary valet service is really convenient, especially when you are schlepping golf clubs every day.
Mountain Shadows boasts the new Short Course, the only par-three, 18-hole facility in Arizona. Architect Forest Richardson re-configured the old Mountain Shadows course where each hole presents unique challenges, especially on the greens. For added fun and a chance to win a few bets, Richardson added a bonus putting hole between the 17thand 18thfairways. The Short Course at Mountain Shadows is the ideal introductory warm-up, especially for those of us who haven’t swung a club for a few months.
On day two we were hosted by the folks at Papago Golf course, a municipal gem near the Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport with a backdrop of sculptural buttes. Papago has a spiffy new clubhouse that houses Lou’s Bar & Grill, a great spot for casual dining with great $5 deals on their Happy Hour menu from 3 to 6 p.m. Papago is the home course for the men’s and women’s golf teams of Arizona State University. Also on the property is the impressive new training facility that was designed by Arizona’s own Phil Mickelson for the golf teams of his alma mater.
In keeping with the cowboy theme, at the new Wickenburg Ranch, north of Scottsdale, our group was escorted to the driving range by two concierges on horseback. A masseuse from the Wickenburg’s Alvea Spa was on hand with her portable massage chair to iron out the kinks before we tackled the championship Big Wick, a stunning desert layout with plenty of forced carries and elevation changes. The unconventional routing includes six par-threes, five par-fives and seven par-fours many with views of the iconic Vulture Peak. I won’t likely forget the 13th, a par-three that plunges down to a postage-stamp green framed by a lake. Every hole is unique and memorable.
Afterwards we headed down to Lit’l Wic, a new par-three nine-hole course where rock and country music, a relaxed dress code and no tee times contribute to a casual, fun vibe. You can play in your flip-flops and jeans if you wish. Four fairways are lit for nighttime swingers. In the middle of all this fun, the Watering Hole is the ideal place to slate your thirst, watch some sports and roast a marshmallow around the fire pit.
The newly renovated Phoenician Golf Club hosted us in grand style, starting with breakfast burritos and Bloody Marys. Architect Phil Smith transformed the previous 27-hole course into an 18-hole track that flows seamlessly. Their new fleet of Club Cars is outfitted with the “Shark Experience,” an ingenious technology from Greg Norman featuring high-definition touch screen displays and built-in speakers with Bluetooth connectivity. We rocked and rolled to the tunes of Bruce Springsteen during our round, which was preferable to hearing about the latest Trump tweets. After lunch, we toured the Five Diamond Resort, also recently renovated to include a fabulous new spa.
Troon is the world’s largest golf management company with more than 360 locations. When a golf course is operated by Troon, I have high expectations. Those lofty expectations were exceeded at Troon North’s newly enhanced Pinnacle Course. Tom Weiskopf’s greens have been updated and resurfaced and the bunkers renovated. It’s no wonder that Golf Magazinenamed Pinnacle the number one course in Arizona. Stunning vistas of Pinnacle Rock, arroyos, horned lizards and other critters will spice up your round while marveling at the riveting “only-in-Scottsdale” scenery.