The Phoenician: Luxury Redefined at a Desert Oasis

There is no more glittering testament to ‘80s opulence than The Phoenician, a lavishly appointed marble palace in Scottsdale, Ariz. built with hundreds of millions of savings-and-loan dollars grifted by Charles H.  Keating, Jr. His gilded initials were long ago lifted from the lobby floor, though the crystal chandeliers hanging from the gold coffered ceilings and museum-quality art collection are still intact. The Phoenician will always be flashy, but in the wake of a recent $70 million renovation, this grand dame of the desert has successfully redefined its take on Luxury.

Fanned out at the base of Camelback Mountain, the semi-circular property, now a member of Starwood’s Luxury Collection, was patterned after the Crescent Hotel in Bath, England. A palm-lined drive brings guests to a massive porte-cochere and a stunning entryway created with four types of Italian marble. As in the ‘80s, there are plenty of high-priced Italian sports cars conspicuously parked near the entrance to the hotel. While the public spaces exude regal grandeur, the airy, spacious guest rooms, done up in desert tones and situated in two gracefully curved wings, are sumptuously comfortable. For another level of luxury, the Canyon Suites, an ultra-luxe hideaway tucked within the larger resort, offers personalized service with prices to match.

Dismissed over the years as an afterthought for holidaymakers and conventioneers, the resort’s compact 27-hole course was recently improved. It now functions as a solid resort facility designed to give pleasure. Serious golfers can find far more challenging venues at Troon North, Grayhawk and We-Ko-Pa, but casual players seeking a sporty outing on a well-groomed course at an amenity-laden resort can do no better than The Phoenician.

Gilded entry: the lobby at The Phoenician

As part of a major redesign, Arizona-based designer Forrest Richardson was hired to create a new ninth hole on the Oasis nine, known for its tree-lined fairways and numerous water features. Slated to debut Dec. 1, 2010, the new hole, a short risk-reward par four stretching to just over 300 yards, plays to an island-style green ringed by sand. “Golfers will be able to play conservatively or go for it,” Richardson said. “The final hurdle will be the exciting approach to a narrow green rising up from a ‘sea’ of sand.” There’s else quite like it in Scottsdale.

Richardson also oversaw major upgrades to the Phoenician Golf Club, including turf and irrigation improvements and refurbishment of the water features that define the golf experience. As before, the target-style Desert nine, chiseled into the flanks of the mountain, is known for its sharp elevation changes and fine views of the valley. The Canyon nine, accented by beautiful landscaping, splits the difference between the Oasis and Desert nines.

After the round, nature lovers can explore the resort’s two-acre Cactus Garden, where 250 varieties of cacti and succulents from around the world are cultivated. For water sprites, there’s a tiered oasis of seven pools that includes an oval pool tiled in mother-of-pearl and a 165-foot water slide. The Centre for Well-Being, a full-service spa and fitness complex, is world-class, while supervised programs are available for children at the Funicians Kids Club.

Renowned for its culinary variety and excellence, The Phoenician has completely revised its line-up of restaurants. Long gone is Mary Elaine’s, the formal temple of haute cuisine named for Keating’s wife. The resort now offers 10 restaurants and lounges, including the family-friendly Il Terrazzo, where fresh pastas, artisan breads and patio dining are available. J&G Steakhouse, the brainchild of celebrity chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, has a sophisticated bill of fare matched by a rich palate of colors inspired by steak and wine. Relish Burger Bistro, located above the dazzling golf clubhouse, is the perfect place for post-round dining. In addition to spiked shakes, the bistro boasts Arizona’s largest tequila selection.

No word if the 86-year-old Keating, who served 4 ½ years of jail time in the 1990s and now works as a business consultant in the Phoenix area, has dropped by for a margarita.

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