Renovations and eye-catching new amenities among what's new in Phoenix-Scottsdale golf scene

Scottsdale, Arizona's Troon North, with its 36 holes designed by Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish, is arguably the best daily fee facility in the Valley of the Sun and perhaps the entire state. Though I'm very fond of We-Ko-Pa, the Boulders, Grayhawk and the TPC Scottsdale, just to name a few, I still have Troon North at the top my personal top 10 in the area.

Of course, you don't stay at the top by staying pat, and Troon North has never done that. Most recently, it reopened the Monument Course after renovations that have the course pretty much flawless.

The improvements at Troon North are just a few of what's new in golf in the Phoenix-Scottsdale area in 2018. Here's a rundown. If you have information about significant changes at any other courses in the area, feel free to comment below. You can also check out reviews from our Local Golf Advisors. We have four in Arizona, including 'Dhume419', who has reviewed close to 100 rounds.

Monument gets new greens, bunkers

Greens on the Monument Course restored to original sizes with A-4 Bentgrass

In December, Troon North conducted a grand reopening of the Monument Course, which included local dignitaries, media and a couple of special guests, including Paige Spiranac, who was hitting tee shots on the par-3 16th for the groups to use if they so desired, as well as Dana Garmany, chairman and founder of Troon Golf.

But the real star of the reopening was the course. The course was shut down for a few months in 2017 as crews restored Monument's green complexes to their original size, shape and contours using GPS coordinates from Tom Weiskopf's original design. In addition, the greens were resurfaced with A4 bentgrass (one of the few public courses in the area that still has bent), and collars with TifGrand semi-dwarf Bermuda grass. Bunkers were also rebuilt with new liners, new Pioneer sand and enhanced drainage.

"By proactively improving and reinvesting, we are wholly committed to maintaining Troon North's standing as one of the top daily-fee facilities in the world," said Mitch Harrell, president of Troon Golf." To that end, we will be executing a similar improvement project on the Pinnacle Course during the summer of 2018."

The enhancements were the first major changes to the course since a 2007 renovation that included rerouting of the 36 holes. Then, under Weiskopf's direction, the original layouts were blended together, changing the sequence in which the holes were played.

Simply put, the Monument (ranked 58 on Golf Digest's top 100 public courses) is pretty much perfect right now. When the Pinnacle (no. 28) gets its treatment soon, it'll be the same story.

Fewer holes, more room on the Phoenician Resort course

The golf course at the Phoenician is going under the knife, too, and it will be a much more extensive renovation. Having shut down this month, it is being completely redesigned, under the direction of architect Phil Smith, who has designed courses with Jack Nicklaus and Weiskopf.

The 10-month project will see The Phoenician golf course go from 27 to 18 holes, which will address the problem that the three nines are currently there have been way too cramped. The news means that the golf course has a chance to be on par with the resort, which is certainly one of the most premier in the Southwest.

More fun at Kierland Golf Club; more turf removal

Kierland Golf Club and the Westin Kierland have never been shy when it comes to introducing fun concepts, both on the golf course and the resort. The new Skyview, a giant TV monitor that covers several floors on the back patio of the resort, is one of the latest innovations. It's a great place, for guests of the Westin to check out major sporting events, like Super Bowl, for example.

At the golf course, there's plenty of fun to be had, and it doesn't all involve golf shots. Nowhere will you find more modes of getting around the course (with its Segways, Golf Bikes, GolfBoards and air-conditioned golf carts), and Kierland just added another – the TurfRider.

Developed locally, Turfrider is a two-wheel scooter especially adapted for golf courses. The electric scooters are equipped with fat tires and a rocking stand when parked. Riding the scooters (there is a $39 upcharge) is almost as much fun as playing the courses there, and they are among the easiest to learn.

Also, on the fun side, Kierland Golf Club will be one of several facilities around the country to get the "Shark Experience" this year. Developed by Greg Norman in collaboration with Club Car, the Shark Experience equips golf carts with muti-media experiences including the ability to check scores of ballgames, videos and play personal tunes on high fidelity speakers located on the golf carts.

Additionally, Kierland continues to tweak its golf courses to make them more environmentally friendly. Collaborating with course designer Scott Miller, the club converted an addition 11.4 acres from Bermudagrass to 2600 low-water use desert plants, 20 native trees and 3,000 decomposed granite. That's on top of the 17 acres it converted in 2013. The end result for the Audubon Cooperative Sanctaury is another 13 million gallons of water saved each year.

SunRidge Canyon continues to evolve

SunRidge Canyon Golf Club, known for its "Wicked Six" finishing stretch of holes, continued to become more playable after another series of enhancements in 2017. It's the third straight year the course has been tweaked to improve playability and look.

The latest work include the removal of bunkers on seven holes, adding more turf, the leveling of several tee boxes and expansion of tees on the eighth holes. In addition, desert brush was removed throughout the property, giving golfers a better chance to find wayward shots.

The result has been improved pace of play on this splendid Keith Foster design as well as more positive reviews for the course, which is ranked among the 20 best courses you can play in Arizona by Golf magazine.

Boulders enhances clubhouse

The Boulders has enhanced its clubhouse facilities offering a luxurious new golf shop, members lounges, event space and restaurants, including the new Grill Kitchen & Bar. This sophisticated casual dining experience combines "American-classic" cuisine with an outstanding wine list and polished service. Favorites include hickory-smoked prime rib, exceptional seafood and fresh salads, as well as inventive dishes such as Cubano sliders and the restaurant’s signature Divot Nachos.

Fairmont Scottsdale Princess refreshed its 69 Fairmont Gold Junior Suites with new Southwest chic furnishings which give the rooms a modern feel with clean lines in a cream palette. Nestled in a secluded enclave of the resort, the rooms are popular with golf travelers as many overlook the TPC Scottsdale Stadium Course and offer private check-in, a dedicated concierge and an exclusive lounge serving breakfast and afternoon hors d’oeuvres daily.

Foothills, El Dorado, Ahwatukee offer daily ace challenge

Golfers willing to bet on themselves will have the chance at Foothills Golf Club, The Duke at Rancho El Dorado and Ahwatukee Country Club, thanks to a new partnership with a state-of-the-art digital hole-in-one system.

Each of the courses is offering daily hole-in-one challenges by a company called Golf Digital Technologies. Golfers can play for $10,000 or $20,000, depending on whether they spend $5 or $10 respectively on their entry, payable at the tee. Because of the camera technology, no witnesses are needed, and any golfer who successfully aces a hole after entering the contest will receive a video of the feat to share with the world.

NGCOA bestows Troon with "Player Development Award"

Troon Golf was recently awarded the prestigious "Player Development Award" by the National Golf Course Owner's Association. The award is given to a course, entity or individual, which has implemented true and tested player development programs, providing effective return-on-investment and an overall welcoming atmosphere for new golfers of all ages.

Wigwam restores Blue and Red names for courses

In Litchfield Park, west of Phoenix, Wigwam Resort has restored the old names to a couple of courses. Formerly known the Patriot Course and Heritage Course, those two courses are now the Blue and Red again, which is what they were called before 2011.

"There is so much history and tradition wrapped up in the course names here at The Wigwam, it just makes sense to return to Blue, Red and Gold," said Leo Simonetta, director of golf, Wigwam Golf. "Our courses were named-by or named-for some of the biggest names in golf and Wigwam history."

Opened in 1965, the Blue and Gold were both designed by legendary golf course architect Robert Trent Jones, Sr. When Jones completed the courses, he named them after the official colors of the property's original developer and then owner, the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company. The Wigwam's Gold Course opened six years after Firestone Country Club's famed South Course – a club owned by Goodyear competitor, Firestone Tire and Rubber Company. Jones Sr. designed the Gold Course to be the West Coast rival of Firestone South (also a Jones Sr. design).

The Red Course, opened in 1974, was originally called the West Course. In the late 80s, it was renamed in honor of the club's head professional of 42 years, V.O. "Red" Allen, and the course's architect, Robert "Red" Lawrence.

Mike Bailey is a senior staff writer based in Houston. Focusing primarily on golf in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America with an occasional trip to Europe and beyond, he contributes course reviews, travel stories and features as well as the occasional equipment review. An award-winning writer and past president of Texas Golf Writers Association, he has more than 25 years in the golf industry. Before accepting his current position in 2008, he was on staff at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeBaileyGA and Instagram at @MikeStefanBailey.
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