TPC at Scottsdale, Arizona

March 3, 2008 1:06:23 PM PST
This is the home of the Phoenix Open, that January tournament with drunken, near riotous crowds, and as you stroll these fairways, you can almost hear the echoes. Why? The course has omnipresent spectator mounds which sometimes surround entire holes. Mounds, but no people. Ghost mounds?The TPC is all about risk and reward, particularly on the last four holes. If you're a pro, they'll make you think. And if you're an average Joe, you'll flat-out sweat. The relatively short 501-yard par 5 15th plays to an island green. It's easy stuff for a tour pro. Mark Calcavecchia played it in 6 under over four days when he won in 1989. But for the vacationing hacker, the approach over water will get your blood pumping. Assuming the green is at all in range, do not?repeat, do not?pull the 4 iron. Play it long. There's room behind the green. I hit a career 3-wood on, made birdie, and took away the memory of a lifetime. The par 3 16th is, in my opinion, a piece of the Holy Grail. Why? It gave us an all-time Tiger moment when he made his ace at the 1997 Open. Without the grandstand, however, this hole looks almost ordinary. The pros often drive the 332-yard par 4 17th. Both we and they take it for granted, but you'll appreciate their bravado when you see the water to the left and behind the green. From the tournament tees, plan to carry your drive at least 240 yards to carry a bunker guarding the middle fairway. Do so, and you're putting. Finally, there is the monster 18th ,which requires a big drive over water to avoid a huge fairway bunker on the right. You'll follow with a difficult long iron to a wicked bunkered green with a false front. This finishing hole produces more casualties than conquering heroes. Keep in mind that the TPC at Scottsdale is not desert golf but rather luxurious golf in a desert climate. The visitor is immersed in a voluptuously green world. It isn't rudely carved up by pretentious architectural contrivances. It's just plain solid golf with great bunkering and plenty of water on the back nine to make things interesting. If you visit in December or January, beware the rough. They grow it long before tournament time. Once in, you'll have a difficult time getting out, and your scores will balloon. Fees range from $74 to $215, depending on the season. Course ratings range from 68.9 to 74.5, and slopes from 120 to 135.