Not even a pandemic can slow the never-ending growth in and around Phoenix-Scottsdale in 2020. Snowbirds who love golf and are willing to travel might be able to enjoy the spoils of more deals and fewer tourists this winter. With the Canadian border still closed to non-essential travel, a sizable chunk of the Sonoran desert's winter traffic will be stuck in the snow and cold north of the border.
Here's a primer on the latest golf and resort news from the Valley of the Sun:
New casino at We-Ko-Pa
The aging Fort McDowell Casino has been replaced by a new 167,000-square-foot gaming facility, transforming the newly branded We-Ko-Pa Casino Resort into the best gambling and golf destination in Arizona. The larger casino, which debuted in October, features a garden court, specialty high-end dining, a sports bar with an entertainment stage and other best-in-class amenities. Gaming options include 850 slot machines; a 400-seat smoke-free bingo hall with 50-inch monitors; 22 blackjack tables; and a five-table poker room for live games and tournaments.
It represents a new chapter for the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation, which opened a bingo hall in 1984. Eight years later, the tribe peacefully – and successfully – held off the attempts of federal agents to seize their slot machines, protecting their right to operate a casino on the reservation. Tribal members blocked the road with every car, truck and heavy piece of machinery they could find. Today, the new casino complements the 36 award-winning holes at We-Ko-Pa Golf Club and the existing 246-room hotel that has received the AAA Four Diamond award every year since it opened in 2006.
New accommodations added next to SunRidge Canyon
Although not technically a golf-specific resort like some of the region's best 36-hole haunts - the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, The Boulders and Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North - the new ADERO Scottsdale sits across the street from the SunRidge Canyon Golf Club, offering packages to stay and play. Named after the canyon enveloping the six-story, 177-room property, the Marriott International Autograph Collection resort provides elevated amenities to connect guests to its sensational desert surroundings, including the famed Four Peaks and McDowell Mountain Range. Built with $100 million, it opened Oct. 15 as the area's first resort in a Dark Sky Zone.
Toptracer Range comes to two Mesa courses
Two of Mesa's local favorites, the Longbow Golf Club and Dobson Ranch, have installed Toptracer Range technology on their practice ranges. Through an app, players can receive instant shot data or play entertaining virtual games, while hitting off of real grass turf. The data - such as carry distance, swing speed and more - can help players improve while practicing or playing contests, such as long-drive competitions, against friends.
New restaurants around Scottsdale
Foodies who visit every winter might be interested in trying some of the new restaurants around Scottsdale. The Craftsman Cocktails and Kitchen and Reserve in the Old Town area both debuted in October. Opening at SkySong in Scottsdale in November is Broth & Bao, a fast-casual restaurant with an open concept kitchen that lets guests build-their-own ramen and boa bowls. More options are available at Stratta Kitchen, a fine dining experience at FRANCINE; The Americano; authentic Neapolitan pizza at Pizzeria Virtú; or the ultra-swanky Benjamin’s Upstairs.
Poston Butte, an under-the-radar Gary Panks design in Florence, just completed a bunker renovation project this summer. Whirlwind Golf Club in Chandler should be in prime shape, considering that its Devil's Claw course just finished a bunker renovation in 2019 and its Cattail course is scheduled for one next summer. Both projects are under the watchful eye of Troon Golf with Director of Agronomy Jonathan Williams.
Arizona Troon Card
Troon Golf is beefing up the benefits of its loyalty card to get locals playing more golf this winter, possibly to make up for the tourists who might stay home. The Arizona Troon Card could be ideal for someone planning on playing multiple rounds and spending more time than just a week-long vacation in the state. It can save you up to 50 percent off at 22 Troon and OB Sports-managed courses throughout Arizona, including Troon North, Quintero, Wickenburg Ranch and Papago. Of course, there's also plenty of golf packages worth exploring, too (see below).
What's on tap for 2021
The Sterling Grove Golf & Country Club in Surprise is scheduled to open in summer/fall of 2021, although it's only accessible for members and their guests. The Jack Nicklaus course is being managed by Troon Golf as part of a Toll Brothers community that will eventually be home to pickleball, tennis and bocce ball courts, three pools, parks and miles of tree-lined and shaded walking and biking paths.
Ritz-Carlton fans will be excited for next year's grand opening of the Ritz-Carlton, Paradise Valley, a 215-room, 20-acre retreat that is the centerpiece of The Palmeraie, a $2-billion master-planned community home to more than 60 luxury and specialty boutiques and numerous dining outlets.