Although several Golfest members reside in Arizona, most of them had not played or spent much time in the greater-Phoenix golf mecca area of Scottsdale. This served as our inspiration for Golfest 2016 – Scottsdale, which is our annual invasion of premium golf venues for our personal satisfaction. This plan was to work in 90 quality holes of golf along with some other entertainment options into a lightening quick 72-hour time frame. Those options included gambling, pool time, good food, adult beverages, and even a women’s body building contest. Yes, that’s what I said, so that is not a misprint. Here is a quick review of the trip:
9/8/16 – CAMELBACK MOUNTAIN GOLF CLUB – AMBIENTE COURSE – With the exception of Golfest Founders Jim Allen and Jim Dee, most of our group blew into Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport via Southwest on the morning of our first round at Camelback Golf Club. A handful literally piled into Todd Baltzley’s mini-van rental and headed to the Talking Stick Resort to check in. And let me clarify something for all of you at home, five guys in a mini-van are not “chick-magnets.” By the way, the Talking Stick served as the official base camp of this trip.
Once everything was squared up at the hotel, the group headed over to Camelback for lunch and libations and to take a glance or two at the GolfestUSA championship belt that was up for grabs for the Golfest Scottsdale winner. To make things more interesting – and to make sure all golfers adopted a “take no prisoners” attitude – Golfest implemented a modified Stableford point’s format. This pretty much guaranteed that there wouldn’t be a single lay up all weekend and no putts were going to be left short of the hole.
For most of us, Camelback was not what we were expecting. It wasn’t your standard desert course. It was a rolling course that played long and somewhat narrow. The rough was exactly that and in most cases at least 18” deep grouse. Any wayward ball into the deep stuff was death. The greens rolled true, but it wasn’t uncommon to miss a 10’ putt and have an 8-footer coming back the other way. Many of those putts left us scratching our head in disbelief.
And from a temperature standpoint, it was a moderate 95 degrees, which can almost be regarded a cool in Arizona. Mother nature was going to cooperate.
Baltzley seemed to master Camelback the best, racking up 24 points to take a five-point lead over Juan Carlos Serrano for the Golfest Championship. Baltzley scored five net birdies on the front nine and seven overall to earn the top spot. Five-golfers scored in double-digits. Four others … not so much.
GRAYHAWK TALON COURSE – The Golfest vehicles were pulling up to bag drop area at Grayhawk minutes after the sun peaked over the mountain. The first tee time was at 7:00 a.m. and breakfast, range time, and a pre-round bloody Mary made us pressed for time.
The view from the first tee box on the Talon Course pretty much laid down the gold standard for the rest of the day. For those who thought Camelback was a little tight, Grayhawk shrunk the spray zone down even considerably more with a truly awesome desert layout that didn’t always call for a driver off the tee box. Every hole was in perfect shape and easily rewarded any golfer who kept it on the short hairs. On the other hand, the rough was very penalizing and if you were unfortunate enough to hit in the desert-scape, it was even worse.
Baltzley, who may have had a target on his back after his super impressive first day of golf, might have put too much pressure on himself and sputtered out of the gate. Only one birdie would end up on his card at the Talon, allowing the rest of the field to gain some serious ground and reshuffle the deck. Consistency is the key when playing a Stableford format with handicaps in play. Along those lines, running together a series of boring pars and a few birdies, Allen and Lou “Boogie” Dominguez moved up the leaderboard and took over the top two positions with 31 and 30 points, respectively. However, the top five were only separated by only four points (Spanky Hayes 29, Baltzley 28, & Serrano 27).
One of the great features of this trip was the GolfGenius software that was being utilized for the Stableford scoring. All scoring was done on a phone app and all parties could view it in real time. It may have been the best $249 Golfest has ever spent and it comes highly recommended. All you do is load in the golf course information, player info and handicaps, and it does the rest. The plan is to use it for the Golfest Cup competition in 2017 in Boulder City, NV.
Lunch was served up at the famed Twin Peaks Restaurant in Scottsdale and the place was absolutely packed … on a Friday afternoon no less. Most of the conversation centered around a ton of food and how jammed up the Golfest scoreboard was at the top. It was anyone’s game, or at least that is what everyone thought when we pulled out of the parking lot.
TROON NORTH MONUMENT COURSE – This 36-hole Troon North facility is typically recognized as the crown jewel of the Phoenix/Scottsdale area. The Troon North parking lot was humping at 6:30 a.m. with two tournaments, plus Golfest on the docket. Most of us loaded up with some breakfast before heading to the first tee box for a group photo. The Monument is a beautiful layout but the first five holes featured a variety of “ground under repair” situations on the fairways where some grass was being replaced. If it weren’t for that, it probably would’ve been named the Golfest Course of the Year.
The Monument course features a ton of huge saguaros, mesquite and ironweed as it winds through arroyos and natural washes. The fairways are a lush green and many of the bunkers are unforgiving deep. By the way, the course is named after the par-5 second hole which features a huge “monument” boulder at the turn of the dogleg right. It looks like a giant thumb sticking out of the ground.
Spanky Hayes was the leading point scorer at Grayhawk, racking up 23-points by shooting an 82. He trailed Allen (who scored 22 points) by a single point with only one scoring round at TPC Scottsdale left on the schedule. Serrano was still in striking distance, seven points behind.
TROON NORTH PINNACLE COURSE – Seven Golfestian’s decided to attempt 36-holes on Saturday, especially since the Pinnacle Course was recently listed by Golf Magazine as the best course in Arizona (as if we really needed an excuse to play more golf.) The temperature at our 2:30 p.m. was looming in the 95-degree range, so this was going to make this an endurance round with more than a fair share of adult beverages. The good news was that it wasn’t going to count for the GolfestUSA championship belt. Just some nice leisurely golf
The Pinnacle Course is basic clone of the Monument course except with more elevated tee boxes. It was worthy of its Golf Magazine rating especially when the sun began to set behind the foothills. The views were spectacular. This was a long day, and it wasn’t over yet.
After what can best be described as the best cool shower of my life at the Talking Stick Resort, it was time to score some serious grub. The Talking Stick Casino was packed and high-end Mexican food was in order. Mine was a surf and turf burrito the size of a Nerf football and a couple of Margaritas. Our group wolfed down our food like we hadn’t eaten for a week.
By the way, one of the strangest moments on the trip was getting off the elevator at Talking Stick. When the doors opened, a huge 6-foot-tall Amazon woman with gigantic muscles and a spray on tan was standing there in a short dress. While her features were very manly, there wasn’t an ounce of fat on her. She looked like she could hold her own in an alley fight if she stumbled into one. In reality, she was a bodybuilder who was participating in a competition at the resort. Before the night was over, we viewed at least 20 of them roaming the casino floor – all capable of kicking my butt if we got out of line.
TPC SCOTTSDALE – STADIUM COURSE – The Golfest-Scottsdale finale was held at a course made famous for its rowdiness – mainly the PGA’s Waste Management Open which usually takes place every year around Super Bowl Weekend. If that doesn’t jar your memory, think about the 140-yard par-3 16th hole with 45,000 fans singing college fight songs in a huge stadium built around the hole. Oh yah, I know what you are talking about now.
TPC Scottsdale is definitely a PGA tournament-friendly course, easily the flattest of the four courses that we had played. However, the elevation changes and rolling hills they do have, test one’s skill level to the max. Strategically placed trees tend to get in the way also. As with most courses, keeping it in play and out of the hazards were the key to success here. And as simple as that sounds, almost everybody struggled to keep in play and score low. Baltzley was the day’s high point scorer with only 14 points, the lowest high score of the four rounds played.
In the final group, Spanky Hayes and Serrano were unable to string several good holes together to make a run at point-leader Allen. They ended up scoring only three-points combined on the final day. Allen scored just nine points but that was enough to claim the GolfestUSA championship belt with 58-total points. Baltzley and Spanky Hayes tied for second with 51. Serrano finished fourth with 49 points.
Now that everyone in Golfest has the experience of one Stableford Tournament under their belt, almost everyone is probably going to play it different in 2017. Then again, maybe not.
After awarding some cash and prizes, eating some sushi in the TPC Scottsdale Toro Restaurant, and watching opening weekend NFL football, we were all headed to the Southwest Airlines terminal for our flights home. Once again, this golf extravaganza ended way too quick.
Golfest is proud to announce that our 2016 Golfest Golf Course of the Year is the Grayhawk Talon Course.