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the El Conquistador golf resort tuscon
Courtesy Hilton El Conquistador

Destinations

Exploring Arizona Golf’s Fantastic Foursome

Stay and Play at Some of the Grand Canyon State’s Classic Golf Resorts.

With concerns about Co-Vid quite understandably still on many traveler’s minds, one thing Arizona provides in the depths of winter is sunshine, wide open spaces and plenty of golf.

So, on the flight of the… er to Phoenix, you can rest easy knowing that some of the better resorts, including the four we feature here, cater to your preferences ranging from more personal connection or contactless services.

“I think there is a science to the luxury tier,” said Tim Anderson, Director of Marketing for The Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North. “Luxury to me is serving you in the way you want to be served. A lot of our Midwest and East Coast guests escaping Chicago and New York, there was a franticness about traveling. It is our job to find out those who walk through the door that want to check in at the desk or prefer non-contact methods. Our job is to determine where you land in that spectrum and cater to it.”

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And be it amazing dining experiences, custom-day trip adventures, rejuvenating spa treatments all while enjoying some of the best golf courses in the world, you can’t go wrong with making these luxury destinations your accommodations foursome.

Arizona's-Phoenician-Resort-with-its-Camelback-Mountain-backdrop

Courtesy the Phoenician

Arizona's-Phoenician-Resort-with-its-Camelback-Mountain-backdrop

Courtesy the Phoenician

The Phoenician

Representing the hospitality of the old Southwest with its Sonoran cultural influences in its landscaping and architecture, The Phoenician, located near Old Town Scottsdale, Arizona, is a multi-award-winning property with a brilliant backdrop of Camelback Mountain.

“First and foremost, the Phoenician is a contemporary and affordable luxury,” said Denise Seomin, the resort’s Director of Public Relations and Marketing Communications. “Lot of times I think people tend to believe if it is a luxurious resort, it might be a little off-putting, but what I think really sets us apart is the fact that we’re much more approachable and relaxed with AAA Five Diamond service.”

As a result of major renovations completed in 2018 that includes a new three-story spa which showcases a rooftop pool and drybar. It features 24 treatment rooms offering facials and massages.

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About the state-of-the-art facility, Seomin proudly points out that ’while you relax, rejuvenate and nurture your inner self, you can take that experience well beyond your spa stay, leaving with suggestions and tips from your therapist on how you can continue to take advantage of the results of that treatment when you return home.’

There’s also The Phoenician Athletic Club, offering tennis, pickleball and basketball, as well as a state-of-the-art fitness center.

Courtesy the Phoenician

Eight restaurants are on the premises with menus that range from classic steak and seafood dishes at J&G Steakhouse to lighter, inspired Mediterranean dishes and enticing private dining offerings.

Now after your round of golf, you can enjoy your own private cabana poolside and

enjoy great hummus and kabobs along with some signature cocktails and smoothies courtesy of the Kalio Kabobery.

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And like the resort itself, the Phoenician Golf Course showcases the unique beauty of Arizona’s Sonoran Desert. Providing a natural rhythm and flow, the course plays to a par 71 and offers four sets of tees, ranging from 4,575 yards from the forward tees to 6,518 yards from the players’ tees.

“The Phoenician in the Valley of the Sun. Like the mythology of the bird rising from the ashes new life, new breath. We have a very special place,” Seomin stated.

The-12th-Green-at-Arizonas-Wigwam-Golf-Course

Courtesy Wigwam Resort

The Wigwam 

Another special place is The Wigwam. Built in 1918 as a retreat for executives of the Goodyear Tire Company, the grand Wigwam Arizona maintains its historical character while delivering a modern-day luxury experience including some quiet bungalows along the courses. Although only not far from downtown Phoenix in Litchfield Park, this resort feels away from it all and the resort, which can be accessed by chauffeured golf carts, is stunning, and features great golf, tennis, a spa, and a true Old West ambiance.

The Gold Course is one of three 18-hole tracks offered at The Wigwam (Blue and Red being the other fine layouts). Designed by Robert Trent Jones in 1965, Golf Digest cited the Gold Course as one of the best public courses in the state.

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“Blue and gold are like sister courses,” explained Leo Simonetta, Wigwam’s long-standing Director of Golf. “When Trent Jones came here in ’65, after plotting out Gold, he told Mr. Goodyear he thought he could plot out another course. Goodyear didn’t think there was enough land. Jones felt otherwise.”

“So, if you look at Blue, a lot of the holes are similar in design. It is only 6,000 yards, but when people question that I say, ‘let me know how you did’. Because the greens are really small and very well bunkered. There’s a lot of strategy even though many holes are shorter. On gold you have say a 450 par 4, on blue you have 350.  And that’s the difference, while the shot characteristics are still the same. And for the longest time, as a tribute to his design capabilities, the course record was the same for both courses. And blue is over 1000 yards shorter!”

Courtesy Wigwam Resort

Playing to over 7400 yards, the par 72 Gold course is long and winding with four sets of tees that play to distances and slopes measuring 7430 yards/135 slope, 6830 yards/130 slope, 6348 yards/125 slope and 5885 yards with a slope of 119 from the forward sets. This experience suits long hitters – as even those playing from the Club or white tees will have to negotiate almost 6400 yards.

Mature trees are present on all of the courses, as well as winding creeks that create water hazards, which come into play on several holes. There are also strategically placed sand bunkers present on the course. The rolling landscape of the course causes elevation changes that can affect shots.

Simonetta offers fair warning.

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“The greens are not big here and if you play for the middle of the green, I tell people, ‘you are going to be happier by the end of the day’. What Trent Jones did was angle greens. And if you short side greens here, you are going to be in bunkers. If you go over the green, you’re probably going to over a slope. So, you’d have a tough chip shot coming back. It won’t be an easy pitch. You’re gonna have to think about the slope you’re on.”

Together (with the more recently designed Heritage “Red” Course), you have a setup of pure golf that offer diversity and playability that separate this Arizona resort from others in the state.

Arizona Hilton El Conquistador

Courtesy Hilton El Conquistador

The El Conquistador

Any trip to the state of Arizona requires at least getting a taste of Tucson. And while the golf is quite enjoyable (as long as your ball doesn’t roll up next to a saguaro cactus), what the Hilton El Conquistador will leave you with is a mouth-watering remembrance of delightful dishes as well as soothing aching muscle treatments in between your rounds on the links.

Just over a ninety-minute drive southeast of Phoenix, one of Tucson’s best restaurants is the Hilton’s Epazote where you can enjoy fine regional wines, original cocktails and locally brewed beers as you review the menu sitting indoors or out with a brilliant view of the 5,300-ft cliffs of Pusch Ridge.

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The offerings feature an emphasis on regional flavorings. Epazote (pronounced ‘e – puh – zo – tay’) is a herb used in Southwestern cuisine to add a spicy, earthy flavor.

“We offer ingredients cultivated by the finest local growers, ranchers, vintners and brewers,” explained chef Johnathan Kupper.  “Our menu includes Pan Seared Mountain Trout fished from local mountain streams, Southwest Crepes, Herb Grilled Filet of Beef and Mesquite Beef Short Ribs with Goat Milk Mashed Potatoes. We continuously draw from the tradition of ‘being from the earth’ for our namesake and our cuisine. This includes our own garden and Epazote uses its own herbs. We have lemon, basel, different kinds of mints- chocolate and spearmint. lemon grass, oregano, thyme and sage.”

Take some “sage” advice and try the fried cactus or the Posele, a traditional Mexican dish. Basically, it’s a stew, cooked for hours and hours with pork, hominy, onions and usually Anaheim chilis. Another guest favorite is smoked linguini marinara where one can add mussels or shrimp to it, scallops even chicken or steak.

Ready for dessert in the Arizona desert?

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“Chef Dawn Garcia Webb is our pastry chef and she does an amazing creme brulee. There’s the honey-citrus brulee that’s got Arizona honey in it with fresh citrus from lemon and orange zest. We top it off with sugar and burn it and some fresh berry combo,” said Kupper.

Courtesy Hilton El Conquistador

Add to the word fresh, relaxed and balanced, and that is what you will feel after an appointment at El Conquistador’s SpaWell.

Trinket Acevedo, the Director of this spa oasis, tries to sum up her goal in treating golfers in particular.

“We strive to bring people into a sense of well-being here. Like our Himalayan hot stone massage. It creates a deeper reach and balance. It relaxes the muscles and keeps everything in a more balanced way.

We do deep tissue massages. Stretching. Sports massage. Sports massage is more stretching and movement to loosen up muscles and joints. Our technicians look at the client and customize. (With golfers) we are well aware of the stress on their back and shoulders from consecutive days of play, something that they don’t normally do back home. The therapists here are trained to be able to focus on particular issues affecting golfers or runners or cyclists.”

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One of SpaWell’s specialties is the Himalayan Salt Stone Massage where warm salt stones are used to soothe sore muscles and naturally replenish one’s body with vital minerals.

Golf at El Conquistador Tucson features the Par 71 Canada course and the par 72 Conquistador course just a few minute drive away in a great, peaceful setting at the base of the Pusch Ridge mountains in the Catalina Foothills. There’s also a nine-hole, par 35 on-site course that is well-suited for a quick round or two with terrific desert views.

Mark Thesing, the golf pro at the Conquistador Country Club, explains the keys to success playing each 18-hole course.

“For Canada it is a little bit shorter, so if you are a longer hitter, I’d say leave your driver in the bag. It will help you keep it in play on most holes because there’s out of bounds on left and right for most holes. As well as desert conditions. Conquistador is a little bit longer and more open. The greens I feel are a little trickier over there. That is the course’s main defense, faster and undulating greens.

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The average stimpmeter at Conquistador is 11. Canada 10 at this time.”

Courtesy Four Seasons Scottsdale

Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale

One of the great plays and stays in all of Arizona is the Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North.

“This property is situated right in the middle of 5, if not 7 highly reputable golf courses. You can easily spend three days enjoying three different and superb layouts,” said Four Seasons Marketing boss Tim Anderson, an avid player himself.

“We have a great relationship with Troon North and golf has exploded as the pandemic stretched on. We remained open throughout and lots of Californians, in particular, came in to play golf. Probably a core group of 30 throughout the months were regular guests here. The sense of safety, the openness as the state has been open for business almost the entire time, I think the golf is second to none in the area. Both of Troon’s courses are fantastic. Time and again our guests after returned from a round and told me, they just enjoyed the ‘classic desert golf experience,’ “added Anderson.

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Indeed, Monument and Pinnacle are premiere tracks that stretch through the natural ravines and foothills in the shadows of Pinnacle Peak.

Conceived by legendary golfer Tom Weiskopf and architect Jay Morrish, the Monument course is a 7,039-yard, par-72 layout that offers a challenge to both low- and high-handicap players with stunning desert vistas.

With saguaro cacti fronting mountain peaks, the scenery on the 7,009-yard, par-71 Pinnacle course is as compelling as its five sets of tees.

Four Seasons Scottsdale Arizona

Courtesy Four Seasons Scottsdale

Featuring massive granite boulders that lie strewn across the rugged landscape of Arizona’s Sonoran Desert, by combining iconic golf with the visual sensation of desert landscape, Troon North Golf Club have set a standard unmatched in the American Southwest. It’s no surprise that year-in, and year-out, Troon North’s Monument and Pinnacle courses consistently rank at the top of every golfer’s must-play list.

While the golf is second-to-none, and the Arizona resort’s award-winning dining and spa services first class, guests at The Four Seasons have a wealth of other outdoor experiences they can choose from. Hiking, biking, jeep tours, riding horses, ATVs and hot air ballooning are some of the options, but the Scottsdale resort has built a reputation on service that isn’t limited to traditional activities.

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“Early on we saw the outdoor adventure opportunity come into play,” noted Anderson. “Because we remained open, many Four Seasons customers would come here as a base camp and take a day trip to Sedona then a day trip to the Grand Canyon. Then down to Tombstone, just all over Arizona where they’d spend 4-5 days.”

We had guests renting Harley Davidsons and just taking off down the highway. People were doing bucket list stuff because you couldn’t go to Europe or the Caribbean,” continued Anderson. “It’s been an attitude of, ‘doing stuff we haven’t done before as opposed to taking a vacation and doing the same we’ve always done.’

So I think people’s creativity came out well in that. Our biggest package is Sip, Cycle and Tour where we fly you to Sedona, do some cycling then visit a winery then fly back here. It is an amazing experience and I think the biggest thing from a luxury tier is that there’s not really a cost-prohibitive side of it, because it is the experience they want.”

If it’s golf, sunshine and pampering amidst the beautiful and timeless atmosphere of the American Southwest you seek, one can’t go wrong with this foursome.

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