Let me tell you flat out, it was tough being a wounded Golf Road Warrior (I pulled a lower chest muscle the day before) and not able to play the eagerly anticipated TPC Scottsdale Stadium Course. For weeks I’d been thinking about my tee shot at the famed par-three 16th hole, locus of the loudest fan party in golf during its annual PGA Tour stop. My dream was to stiff my iron shot next to the flag and then tip my cap to the imagined throng of rowdy onlookers.
But stuff sometimes happens to us senior players and so instead of being “a player,” I became a “veteran observer” and “astute notetaker” during the round. Surprisingly, not only was it an enjoyable diversion, it kept me occupied and out of trouble. As the bumper sticker seen on the way to the course opined, “I’m out of bed and dressed. What more do you want?”
Anyway, here are some observations and notes taken during my non-playing walkabout at the Stadium Course:
- Hosting our group and representing the course was the charming Tiffany Nelson, a former college player from Purdue, who sported a fine swing and overall steady game. Unless someone was talking about skins, Tiffany would never be described as a “Spoilermaker.”
- Also in our group was Josh, a top-notch forecaddie who really knew his way around this course and people in general. Aren’t the best caddies deft communicators at heart? He’s caddied for a number of notable Tour players, such as Tom Lehman, as well as former President Bill Clinton. When asked about Clinton’s game and his notorious use of mulligans, Josh replied diplomatically: “Well, he’d hit some extra shots on holes but I never was close enough to hear if he was keeping score. Besides, there were Secret Service agents around with hidden guns.” Smart fellow, this Josh.
- First impressions of the course after a few holes: more benign off the tee and with wider fairways than expected. Yet, driving accuracy was at a premium due to the healthy rough that was already being nurtured for the tournament in early February. Greens were fast as in: rolling-past-the-hole-now please stop-I said stop-stop!
- The first birdie of the day was at the par-three 150-yard fourth hole. Peter “The Voice” Kessler hit a well-struck seven-iron to within four feet or, as someone quipped, to within a “horizontal Munchkin.”
- The fourth green/ the fifth tee is where the course abuts the property of the sprawling Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, the luxury 650-room resort that must be a carnival during tournament week. In fact, my first floor room with patio looked out at the fifth tee. The bellman later said my room location is one of the most desirable since guests can sit out and watch with marvel as the Tour players march by. That day, only a few cackling birds looking for food marveled at our group.
- Favorite hole, front side: the par-four 446-yard eight hole epitomized the design acumen of Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish. To reach the green in two it took a big drive with a preferred draw (for righties) to match this slight dogleg left. I especially liked how the designers, as they did at many holes, allowed for an open front to the green with nary a bunker blocking the way. Instead, there’s a ground-pleasing sculpted out grassy depression posing as a modest challenge for players leaving it short and right of the green, allowing for par if one can get it up and down. Tough but not torturous defines this #2 handicap hole.
- Wildlife persistently poked its nose into the Stadium Course landscape. Off into the distance at one hole, we caught a glimpse of a lone coyote loping behind a green. Josh reported he spied a bobcat on the course one day. I relished the sights and sounds of quail, the cactus wren and the especially the pesky and distinctively loud grackle bird who according to one bird watching guide “can empty a feeder more quickly than a teenager can eat a pizza.” Ditto on any snacks left unguarded in the cart.
- Favorite hole, back side: the par-five 468-yard 15th hole. Step aside, 16th hole, this hole is a winner. Aiming out at Thompson Peak, topping out at 4K feet and within the McDowell Mountains, the 15th is a beguiling risk/reward offering befitting an island green that, according to Josh, delivers match play high drama from the heroic second shot to the sad putt for triple.
Reader, permit me now to suspend further notes of my visit to the TPC Scottsdale. It’s just too painful to relive the pain. No, not the pulled chest muscle; rather the sheer ache and horror of traveling so far and not playing this worthy test of golf.
image courtesy of TPC Scottsdale