Mark Marais and Stuart Thompson May 2015
By Stuart Thompson
Mark and I left a surprising warm and sunny Northern Ireland to go experience desert golf for the first time. After years of watching tournament golf at Scottsdale on
We flew into Phoenix and as it is the small airport the immigration was pretty painless and in no time we had our hire car and hit the road for the short drive to Scottsdale. Our base for the first three nights was the JW Marriott McDowell Mountains. We checked in and strangely it was Saturday night again due to the time difference so a bit of dinner (at an ungodly hour back home) and a couple of beers then bed for some sleep before the start of the Chaka Desert Challenge which started the following morning.
View from my room at Marriott Scottsdale McDowell Mountains
It was an early
The Iconic 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale
Wildfire Golf Course, Scottsdale
Designer: Nick Faldo
Stuarts Favourite hole: 16th risk & reward par 3 which you can drive for the big hitters but you have out of bounds on the left and five perfectly position bunkers to catch you out around the green, even if you're not a big hitter
Stuart teeing off Wildfire GC Scottsdale
After the handicap meeting and a cold beer we headed back to the hotel and after a quick change we went to the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess resort for dinner. This was a totally different hotel than we were staying in as the Marriott is small and
Note: If you stay at this hotel you avail of discounted green fees at TPC Scottsdale.
Fairmont Scottsdale Princess
The superb Westin Kierland Golf Course
Our next stop was Troon North golf club where sadly we didn't have a tee time today as this was definitely desert golf at its best. Both myself and Mark
Troon North desert golf at its best
Stuart and Mark at Troon North
Camelback GC - Ambiente Course
Stuart's favourite hole - 4th Par 4, it's not the hardest hole on the course but the drive diagonally across the waste land with the bunkered fairway and tight green it really is a hole that could be a card wrecker early on in the round.
Stuart at Camelback
Unfortunately it was time to leave Scottsdale and we set off in early morning rush hour for the 4 1/2 hour drive to Palm Springs. It was great to be out on the open road going through the harsh desert landscape and the initial stretch out of Phoenix was pretty flat and I lost count of the cacti en route. The final stretch was more interesting and overall it was a lovely experience and something I would do again. It was funny after all the desert and mountain ranges to arrive in the lovely ambiance of Palm Springs nestled at the foot of the mountains with LA on the other side. We stayed in the superb JW Marriott Desert Springs which has two courses on site, a beautiful lake with little boats taking you to the restaurants at night and many rooms with wonderful views of the 18th green and sunset over the mountains. Mark and I sat out on a balcony enjoying tortilla chips and dips and a bucket of cold corona watching the sun set over the mountains - we agreed it would have been pretty romantic in different company!
Sunset at JW Marriott Desert Springs
It was off to the range again to warm / loosen up after the drive and to take on Mark who after yesterday had finished strongly whilst I had problems with my short game. The course itself is built around the resort so as you guess there isn't a big lot of room for error on some holes (my excuse for putting 2 balls in the car park). This match ended up close with Mark winning 3&2 even with me enjoying a 2 over par back9 he was playing like a single figure handicapper! Match Stuart 1 1/2 Mark 1 1/2.
There was a serious handicap meeting over a few beers that night as it was the mighty TPC West Stadium course the next day,
Desert Springs GC - Palms Course
Stuart's favourite hole - 18th, to be
This was the day we both had really been looking forward too as we got to play the course rated as the toughest course in the west coast and 4th toughest in the entire USA.
La Quinta rooms
There aren't too many courses that when you arrive that you get the kid in a toy shop feeling, everything from the minute you walk through the clubhouse doors and walk past the players who have won tournaments and played at the courses gives you an idea of what is to come. The Pete Dye course doesn't have one bad hole on it and is designed to perfection with long waste bunkers 200yrd carries over water to a 30ft drop off the side of a green which is guarded with a bunker! And greens that are like putting on glass. Mark again was playing like a pro and won 3&2 making the match Stuart 1 1/2 Mark 2 1/2.
TPC West - Stadium course
Stuart's favourite hole: Hard to pick a favourite hole as they are all good but the 17th with the island green it is always a test and something we don't get on our courses so this would be my favourite.
It was the last day of the golf and after breakfast we made the
TPC West Nicklaus course
Stuart's favourite hole - 9th great par 4 with houses / out of bounds on the left and long waste sand bunker and water on the right for your drive, as for the 2nd shot you have a tight approach over water to an angled green.
TPC West Nicklaus course
Mark at PGA West Nicklaus Course
It was a quick shower and changed before we packed up and started out for the drive to Vegas. Again it was a lovely drive and an experience as I don't think I have driven in such spectacular scenery, and ending with the drive into the bright lights of Vegas.
After 5 days of golf and two long
Stuart enjoying Vegas
To find out more or ask about your own USA golf trip please email Stuart at firstname.lastname@example.org