The Phoenician, Scottsdale. Ted Robinson Sr and Arthur Jack Snyder (1981) with renovation by Phil Smith (2018).
Smith’s redesign turned a 27-hole facility into 18, largely by eliminating the old Desert Nine, which had some of the best views but otherwise wasn’t an especially strong set of golf holes. Besides that, the renovation definitely improved the remaining course, making corridors wider and more playable, eliminating several ponds, reshaping bunkers and greens, and even building new holes in a couple of cases.
The majority of the front nine tracks the old Oasis Nine, which does it no favors. Smith couldn’t do much with the awkward routing of the 4th-6th holes (the 6th tee is right next to the 4th green but instead of walking to that tee box you walk around a pond to the left of the 4th green, play the par-3 5th, double back to the 6th tee, then play on), but he did at least improve the holes. At the 4th, he eliminated the creek and pond right of the 4th green and the bunker short left while expanding the pond to the left of the green to be the focus of the hole. Similarly, the 7th hole remains a dreaded 90 degree dogleg, but at least the new design sheds two truly terrible ponds that were part of the old design. Both the 2nd and 3rd holes also lost ponds that weren’t really adding anything to their design. And with the loss of the Desert Nine, a new 9th hole on the west side of the driving range feels much less cluttered than that area did previously.
The back nine is largely the old Canyon Nine, though it’s still a long drive from the 9th green The first six holes on this side haven’t changed too much, but they’re all wider and seem to sit a little more gracefully on the ground as some of the old artificial mounding has been eliminated. There’s a solid stretch from the 13th hole, a potentially reachable par 4, followed by the 14th which is only 400 yards but plays uphill and to a green guarded by a deep bunker that makes par a premium score, followed again by a very reachable par 5 at the 15th.
The new 16th hole occupies the corridor along the entrance road where the Desert Nine’s 9th hole used to be, but it’s a completely new hole with the tee shot played from a different angle and a wide fairway with a centerline bunker. Going right yields a better angle into the green, but that side is narrower and there’s more trouble if you miss that direction.
Probably the most improved is the 18th, a par 5 that used to require three shots including an awkward layup off the the tee thanks to tree plantings and water that cut in along the right of the fairway. Smith opened up the right side visually and pushed the lake back, while adding a bunker at the corner. A tee shot that can carry that bunker now leaves the player with a good chance to reach the peninsula green of this par 5 in two, while plenty of conservative options still exist, as well.
There’s nothing standout or terrific here, but the course is much improved and more fitting of the resort to which it is attached. Does it merit the high price tag that comes with being attached to that resort? Probably not, but that’s resort golf for you.
Arizona 5th Decile