The People’s Open Just One Reason to Visit Some Classic Scottsdale Golf Courses

Scottsdale: Home to renowned PGA Tour stop and timeless golf courses. Experience the allure of top-tier dining and distinctive lodging, making it a premier winter getaway in North America.

One of the most popular stops on the PGA Tour returns to Scottsdale in early February, but it’s the area’s classic courses that keeps golfers coming back throughout the year. Add in top-notch restaurants and unique accommodations, and it’s clear why this is one of North America’s most popular winter vacation destinations.

1. A Chance to Play Where the Pros Play

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It’s difficult to put an exact date on when Scottsdale became one of the most popular golf destinations in the world, but if you had to, Jan. 25th, 1997, would be a pretty good place to start. It was on that day – 27 years ago – that Tiger Woods hit a hole-in-one on the 16th hole of the TPC Scottsdale during the Phoenix Open and in that moment a new golf tradition was born.

Since that infamous moment, the Phoenix Open – now known as the WM Phoenix Open – has become one of the most popular stops on the PGA Tour. And not because of the quality of the field or the purse up for grabs, but because it’s the closest the PGA Tour will likely ever get to resembling a real-life version of Happy Gilmore.

This year (the tournament is held from Feb. 8th to 11th, which also happens to be Super Bowl weekend), the Open will host over a quarter million people over four days and most of those people will clamour to get a seat around the 16th hole, where Tiger scored his hole-in-one.

It doesn’t look anything like it did back then, just search out the video on YouTube to see for yourself. Since that time, corporates boxes and bleachers are built up around the hole to hold up to 20,000 spectators each day. The only thing that hasn’t changed from that day 27 years ago is the continued tradition of throwing beers onto the green in the event of another hole-in-one.

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While tickets to the Open are difficult to come by, some advance planning can ensure you have an opportunity to play the 16th hole and the rest of the TPC Scottsdale course in a similar setup to how the pros play it. Construction of the corporate boxes, stadium seating and beer tents for the tournament start as early as five months out, with tear down taking about half the time. Over the years, the bleacher environment created around the 16th has now extended to the 17th and 18th holes, as well. Right up until the last week of January, golfers willing to pay the $550 green fee can live out the dream on the Stadium course, although a much cheaper option, at half the price, is the sister track at the TPC Scottsdale, the Champions course.

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And while the South American-themed Toro restaurant has been a mainstay eatery of the TPC Scottsdale for years, a new addition to the site is Draftkings Sportsbook, which opened in late October. With the rising popularity of sports betting over the last couple of years, the facility provides fans of all sports with the opportunity to place bets and order some great food.

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Draftkings has 32 betting kiosks, over 3,000 square feet of video walls allowing you catch every live sport you can imagine, and six ticket windows. The indoor-outdoor bar set up allows guests to enjoy the menu of Executive Chef Matthew O’Harris from a variety of locations, including cabanas on the patio, with fire pits and outdoor games like cornhole.

2. The OG of Scottsdale Golf Still Holds Its Own

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The first question often asked of a visiting golfer headed to Scottsdale is, “Are you playing Troon?”

While Scottsdale was already a popular golf destination in the 1980s, with the construction of the TPC Scottsdale in 1986 helping build on that reputation, the opening of Troon North Golf Club in 1990 cemented Scottsdale as a must-visit golf stop. Golf now contributes over $6 billion to the Arizona economy each year and over half that comes out of the Scottsdale area. 

Troon North was revolutionary for its time: an upscale golf experience for the public – from the parking lot through the golf course to the post-round drinks – was hard to find almost 35 years ago. And that dedication to quality hasn’t changed, even as the parent company has grown to heights hardly imaginable back in the ‘90s.

Troon Golf now manages over 825 locations around the world, leading the industry in golf course management, while still headquartered in Scottsdale. And its namesake continues to impress. The original 18 holes – the Monument course – designed by Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish was built into the boulders at the base of Pinnacle Peak and continues to rank as one of the top courses in Arizona. Its sister course, the Pinnacle, built six years later, scores higher in most rankings today, due to its extreme elevation changes and dramatic views of the valley from many of the tee boxes.

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With views of the 18th holes of the Pinnacle Course, the Dynamite Grille is a perfect way to finish a day at Troon, with an easy to digest menu. And if you still have some golf left in you, the recently opened PopStroke should help ease that inch.

The mini-putt facility in Scottsdale is one of four locations in the United States, with another located in nearby Glendale and two in Florida. It’s an elevated mini-putt experience with two Tiger Woods-designed 18-hole courses, constant rock music playing throughout, and TV screens in well-placed locations to keep tabs on your favourite sports while putting. 

3. The Boulders Bring New Meaning to the Word “Balance”

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The Boulders is an isolated property, even by North Scottsdale standards, but that’s part of its charm. That, and the namesake boulders that appear to defy the laws of balance and gravity.

You truly need to see the ancient boulder formations at The Boulders Resorts & Spa to appreciate their uniqueness. Technically located in Carefree, AZ, just north of Scottsdale, this resort property stands alone because of its surroundings, and more specifically the 12-million-year-old boulder formations.

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Now a member of the Hilton hotel chain, under the Curio Collection, the resort first opened back in 1985 and has been through a multitude of expansions and renovations owed to a variety of different ownership groups over the years. The resulting resort includes two 18-hole golf courses; a Tennis Garden with tennis and pickle ball courts; a 33,000-square-foot spa and fitness centre; three pools; and five different restaurants. The Palo Verde restaurant is a standout, with a Southwestern-influenced menu that changes with the seasons. For a real treat, groups of six or larger can request to dine in the wine room, which looks out to the rest of the restaurant and the sixth fairway of the South Course.

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Be warned, The Boulders is a massive property, extending out over 1,300 acres of the Sonoran Desert foothills. While shuttles can be called from your room and regularly roam the property looking for weary walkers, take advantage of your location to get out and hike the many walking trails throughout. A map can be provided at the front desk that lists no less than four different hiking with various distances depending on how much time you have available.

4. Grayhawk Puts the Fun Back in the Game

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If there was one course in the Scottsdale area, and throughout the United States for that matter, that understood the direction golf was headed many decades ago, it was Grayhawk Golf Club. Since it opened to the public back in 1994, Grayhawk understood that the staid and stuffy nature of golf was making way for a more casual, dare we say “fun,” game.

Golfers these days, especially those on annual golf trip, want to have fun. They want to listen to music and not take themselves too seriously. But they want to do it on a course that challenges them. And one that feeds them well while doing it. Grayhawk has been designed to check all those boxes.

Featuring not one but two world-class courses – Raptor and Talon – Grayhawk welcomes visitors with piped-in rock music from the bag drop off area to the putting green to the driving range. Each of the Grayhawk courses has hosted their fair share of state and national golf events over the last 30 years, and most recently both the men’s and women’s NCAA Division 1 Golf Champions for the last three years running.

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Phil’s Grill provides a variety of food and drink options for before, during or after a round, and is named after Grayhawk’s professional golf ambassador Phil Mickelson, who now plays on the LIV Golf Tour. While waiting for your food, you can peruse the various paraphernalia from Mickelson’s golf career that adorn the walls of the restaurant.