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Teeing it up around the world with different people in unique places is the ethos of golf. At the end of the day, it is what we all play for. To chase a little white ball around the world for new experiences with some good company.
For those who don’t play, it is why you should. Golf will take you anywhere and everywhere if you make it part of your life. For myself, I have been working at implementing it into my career. And because of social media and the internet, I have been able to go places and meet people that I would never have otherwise.
A few months back, Experience Scottsdale shot me an email asking if I wanted to come out to the Grand Canyon State to play some desert golf and write about my time there. I was a bit taken aback, to be honest. Getting sent around the world to play golf has always been a dream of mine and it looked like it was finally coming to fruition. So, of course, I said yes. I had never been to Arizona before, so back to my main point, once again golf was taking me somewhere new.
Troon North Golf Club
The course that hosted my maiden voyage with desert golf was Troon North Golf Club. A Tom Weiskopf design that weaves it’s way through the Sonoran Desert surrounded by breathtaking views of the McDowell Mountains. The course featured two 18 hole layouts, the Pinnacle Course (my favorite) and the Monument Course.
For those who aren’t familiar with the designer of the 36 hole layout, Tom Weiskopf is a former professional golfer turned noted architect. He had a very successful playing career, netting 16 wins on the PGA Tour while adding a Claret Jug to his trophy case in 1973.
After his playing days came to an end, Tom hooked up with architect Jay Morrish. The duo is responsible for the design or renovation of over 20 courses including the fan favorite, TPC Scottsdale. Tom eventually went out on his own and has given the world of golf the likes of Loch Lomond Golf Club, the host of the Scottish Open from 2001 – 2010, among a multitude of other designs.
Weiskopf is known for implementing driveable par 4’s into his layouts and this is something that was definitely felt on both Troon North courses. I personally love when a golf course has at least one hole that is driveable. It makes you think. Should I play it safe and hit an iron or risk it all with the big stick. I personally went with the latter and had mixed results. It’s more fun that way.
Thoughts on Desert Golf
Having spent much of my life playing on the East Coast, the opportunity for a change in scenery was refreshing. The only other time I had explored an entirely new terrain was during a quick stint playing links golf in Ireland. Each experience with a different landscape adds to your golfing IQ. You get the chance to see how architects mold distinct types of land to build a masterpiece from their mind’s eye.
For myself, that was where my excitement stemmed. Creating a golf course out of the harsh conditions of the desert is simply cool, and I was curious to see what navigating one was like.
From a playing standpoint, I understand that a common criticism of desert golf is that with narrow fairways and a multitude of hazards, leaving the course with a golf bag that is lighter by a dozen balls is a certain possibility. For the average player, this challenges your enjoyment of the round.
Troon North decided to do something about this by making changes that would help keep a few more of those pricey pearls in your quiver.
New course renovations by original designer and British Open Champion Tom Weiskopf have created two new layouts with improved playability. By blending the two tracks together and changing the sequence in which the holes are encountered, the new design allows each layout to be played exactly as the land dictates, while still maintaining the courses’ true character and integrity.
After two days, I had lost a few balls, but nothing crazy, and what I appreciated most was the strategy that each hole provided. If you would like, you can play a par four safe by hitting an iron off the tee to a wider section of the fairway. Or, you can be a bit frisky and let one loose with the driver risking your ball snuggling up next to a cactus. My playing partner, Graylyn Loomis, played all 36 holes with the same golf ball. Even though he is a phenomenal player, it still speaks to the increased playability of the restoration.
As a close second to the strategy and creativity off the tee, my other favorite aspect of desert golf was THE VIEWS. The Sonoran is a beautiful place. Playing through it allows you to experience the unique landscape in the best way imaginable.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my first experience with desert golf at Troon North. The people were awesome, the food was delicious, and the golf was memorable.
To circle back to my main point, if you decide to chase this crazy game down the rabbit hole, you may find yourself on an adventure to somewhere new. And at the very least make some like-minded friends along the way.