TPC Scottsdale

TPC Scottsdale, Scottsdale. Champions Course by Randy Heckenkemper, 2007.

This course was a total remodel of the prior Desert course, which opened alongside the Stadium course in the 80s and had also been designed by Weiskopf and Morrish. The holes use generally the same corridors, but for the most part it’s an entirely new course with a character unique from the previous course and its more famous sister across the street.

The Champions course pulls off the nifty trick of being playable for the average golfer and yet still a very challenging course for a good player to score well on. In fact I’d argue this is a more difficult course to score well on than the tournament course across the street.

The 15th here is a very good driveable hole—you can play safe by making the hole a virtual 90 degree dogleg and never taking on a desert carry, or you can attempt to go right at the green. It’s 270 or longer the get all the way up on the green, but a finger of fairway means that a drive of 220 will clear the desert, tempting many. The trick is that the short pitch from that finger of fairway is uphill and blind and a tricky distance and any drive that goes left or right could find a bunker or desert. Too many short par 4s get the mix of risk and reward wrong—either there’s no real good chance for eagle or birdie, or there’s no real danger in going for it. This is a hole where 2 and 6 (or worse) are both truly on the table from the tee.

Arizona 3rd Decile [2019]


TPC Scottsdale. Stadium Course by Jay Morrish and Tom Weiskopf (1986) with revisions by Tom Weiskopf (2014).

The 16th looks totally different without the tournament’s “stadium”

You know this course from the annual tournament the week of the Super Bowl, though if you come here to play (when the stadium isn’t up and there aren’t hundreds of thousands of fans, you may not recognize the course.

The recent changes are a mixed bag—there are a few improvements, a couple choices I don’t care for, but overall the course still is what it is, both for the pros and the guys who drop the big bucks here to play 16 when there’s no stadium and no noise.

The main issue with this course is that the front nine just isn’t very interesting. It’s not bad golf by any means, but the back nine is a roller coaster of memorable holes and risk/reward decisions and the front side offers almost none of that, so the balance of the course feels off (makes for good TV though). Most of the holes on the front are wide and plain; the dominant visual is the spectator mounding. There’s desert, but it’s barely in play and well-groomed where present. There are a few holes with out of bounds on the front, but otherwise it’d be pretty hard to lose a ball going out.

And then you make the turn.

The tenth, as an almost 90 degree dogleg with a large waste bunker at the corner, presents an interesting decision on the tee shot. 11 introduces a large lake and gives a sneak peek to the finishing run of holes. I miss the old island of desert on 13 that forced you to choose a narrow line right of the island if you wanted to get home in two, but most of the pros had made the island irrelevant and the new hole seems to retain a lot of the basic strategy in terms of what line you take with your tee shot.

The run from 15 to the clubhouse is excellent—the reachable 15th with an island green that’s big enough to tempt you, the 16th, which even when the crowds aren’t there is the rare late round par 3 that tests your skill with a short iron, the driveable 17th  and its amoeba green, and the dramatic 18th over a lake that challenges mortals to bite off as much as they dare. That’s a really fun (if not great, the greens at the TPC are never interesting enough to really earn that word) stretch of holes. But this is an 18 hole course and for the prices they charge it seems a shame that the front nine is so lackluster in comparison.

Arizona 2nd Decile [2016]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s