SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — No words can describe how nice it is to be in the Valley of the Sun in December.
You can just feel the warmth, both from the shining sun and locals who ready to welcome back the snowbirds, the lifeblood of their economy. Almost every course is in close to ideal shape thanks to the fall overseeding process.
GolfPass had two writers on the ground within the last month, teeing up a variety of courses to review and scouting out what's new for golfers heading into the winter high season. Check it out:
New management continues updates at Eagle Mountain
Five years before We-Ko-Pa and about six miles west, in the community of Fountain Hills, Architect Scott Miller laid out Eagle Mountain Golf Club, which snakes up and down a system of canyons. The perched clubhouse treats all who visit to a majestic southwesterly view. (Travel tip: try and make a late-afternoon tee time to catch the sunset.)
Under new management from Troon Golf since 2020, Eagle Mountain is fresh off a summer-long renovation project that updated the course's drainage, irrigation and bunkers, reducing them from 60 to 31. The result: better conditions and enhanced playability; the gathering features around several greens can make for some atypically pleasing bounces, which helps balance out the challenge of avoiding the desert on most of the holes.
New greens at Gainey Ranch
Not many traveling golfers realize they can play Gainey Ranch Golf Club, a private 27-hole facility run by ClubCorp. But there is a loophole - a stay and play at the adjacent Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort & Spa At Gainey Ranch. Resort guests who want to play will discover new TifEagle Bermuda greens on the two best nines, the Arroyo and the Lakes. They're still a little firm from the summer renovation project, but the new smooth surfaces are worth it. The ninth hole on the Lakes nine provides the lasting memory. This short, risk-reward par 5 finishes at a green guarded by a pond fed by an elaborate waterfall.
The Phoenician adds new instruction and fitting tech
Lessons and club fittings with Michael Lamanna, the director of instruction at The Phoenician, now includes the use of a TrackMan Launch Monitor. The device is useful to track all sorts of data such as ball spin, carry distance, total distance, ball speed, "smash factor" (ball speed divided by clubhead speed) and more. Phoenician members will also have access to the device (through the use of an app) to dial in how far they hit each club.
We-Ko-Pa celebrates 20th anniversary
When it first opened in 2001, We-Ko-Pa Golf Club's Cholla Course instantly jumped toward the top of the list of must-play golf courses. Its design, another in Scott Miller's portfolio, winds through desert splendor in the shadow of the McDowell Mountains. When it swelled to two courses, adding the spectacular Coore/Crenshaw-designed Saguaro in 2006, We-Ko-Pa became known by many golfers as the premier 36-hole facility in the Valley. Saguaro's classic strategic values, its easily walkable routing and the way it sits in its enchanting desert setting make it a true must-play among more than 100 accessible courses in the Valley of the Sun.
More Phoenix-Scottsdale insider notes for peak season
For business travelers, the Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North recently revealed a $2-million renovation of its 17,000-square-foot indoor meeting space. ... For those looking for an outdoor adventure away from the course, Antelope Canyon has reopened after an 18-month closure due to the pandemic. Tours are limited to four per day. ... For beer lovers, The Vanilla Gorilla, a craft beer bar, recently debuted in north Scottdale less than three miles from TPC Scottsdale. ... Adero Scottsdale, the Autograph Collection hotel that opened last year across from SunRidge Canyon Golf Club in Fountain Hills, has hired new chef Kenneth Arneson, who is creating new resort-wide menus.