SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Start with 36 holes of championship-caliber golf, add in a world-class resort and top it off with a luxurious casino and you've got your next vacation destination in Scottsdale: Talking Stick Resort.
The two Bill Coore/Ben Crenshaw-designed golf courses at Talking Stick Golf Club -- the North and South -- offer players a wide variety of golf challenges. And we do mean wide -- as in the fairways here are wide enough to land a plane. That's the good news. The bad news (okay, it's not bad news, just tough) is the greens are bordered by enough bunkers to lead players to think they are in a desert. Well, technically you are, but you get the picture.
The tree-lined North Course at Talking Stick Golf Club (more than 9,000 trees line both courses, with 4,500 brought in to add to the test and the beauty of the South Course) is the play of the day on this trip and it's one that shouldn't be missed.
This 7,133-yard layout is immaculate and the design impressive. The service - impressive.
"The conditioning of the courses here is always priority no. 1," said Director of Golf Jeff Sorkness. "We also pride ourselves in our customer service. We really want to show players a great time when they come out to Talking Stick."
That service comes into play right away when the outside-services staff steps up and whisk your clubs away to a waiting cart as you prepare to check in. A trip into the spacious clubhouse is next, where the staff is friendly and informative (always expected, but not always received).
Then it's out the doors to check on the spacious practice facility (there's enough room here for everyone to spread out and relax as they get ready for the round.)
Talking Stick Golf Club: Not a house in sight
Ah yes, the round. Talking Stick Golf Club is nestled in the heart of Scottsdale, yet there's not a house in sight as you tour the 36 holes. "It's just a great, relaxing atmosphere," Sorkness added. "We get a lot of people who come here to play and afterwards make plans to come back to play again."
On the golf course, players will step up to the tees and eye acres of wide-open spaces, as fairways are generous -- very generous. In fact, if you don't hit most of these fairways, maybe golf isn't your game.
There's nothing tricky about Talking Stick Golf Club. What you see is what you get. What makes this golf course a challenge is your play into and around the greens. More than 100 bunkers come into play on the two courses combined and, especially around the greens, the steepness makes for tough up-and-down shots.
"The bunkers definitely will test players," Sorkness said. "And around the greens they can be very deep. It really makes players think a little more on their approach shots."
One of Talking Stick Golf Club's signature holes -- and one of Sorkness' favorites -- is the par-4 12th hole on the North. The 392-yard, par-4 hole (named Red Mountain Gambler) features a split fairway. This hole, unlike most others, doesn't have the huge fairway as a target. Rather, there are two targets. The left side provides a wide-open look at the green with the approach shot but is a tougher fairway to hit (think about landing your tee shot on a patch of grass about the size of huge green). The right side offers a much larger target (the good news) but the approach shot must carry a ravine and stop on a postage-stamp sized green (the bad news). This is a great risk/reward hole.
And, you'll probably have a gallery when you play this hole as the green cozies up against a barbed wire fenced area that is home to about two dozen horses that will peak over as you putt out. If you've got an apple with you, toss it over. They will appreciate it.
"Every hole here is a challenge," Sorkness said. "It's a great golf experience. People just love it. It's forgiving and playable ... and that's a great combination."
Talking Stick Golf Club: In the clubhouse
The Wildhorse Grille is a popular spot before and after golf rounds. With a wide variety of menu options and a stunning view of the seventh hole, this is a great place to unwind. The hospitality and service are exceptional.
Talking Stick Resort
Talking Stick Resort is complete with 497 rooms and suites, an impressive spa, plenty of fine dining options -- from casual to elegant -- and, of course, a casino with more than 800 slot machines as well as table games. Add all of that together and Talking Stick Resort has become one of the places to go -- whether it's for a romantic getaway for two or a corporate outing. Add in the 36 holes of championship golf and you've got the makings of a perfect outing.
Talking Stick Golf Club: The verdict
Calm and tranquil, Talking Stick Golf Club is relaxing, challenging and enjoyable. What else is there when you're talking about golf?