SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Fervent followers of my golf travels will recall in 2013, I celebrated my bachelor party in Scottsdale . That trip was the weekend after Labor Day; it wasn't exactly comfortable temps for 18 holes of golf. But it was great for value -- pool parties with some football games and blackjack. And you could pretty much go anywhere you want, anytime you wanted, without reservations. That's a good thing for impulse-driven, planning-be-damned groups led by yours truly.
So this year, when one of my buddies in attendance that week had his own bachelor party to plan this spring, we didn't look too far. It was back to Scottsdale and Talking Stick Resort.
It may be the same destination, but Scottsdale in late-April is very different from the dog days of summer, which had more of a staycation vibe.
Spring hotel rates are higher, and you need to plan well in advance if you're picky about your golf courses. Despite requesting tee times over a month in advance, availability was slim pickings, and we ended up with tee times at the golf courses we requested but much later in the day than we wanted.
We were hardly the only buddies trip/bachelor party in town. We ran into countless others, and each one we met seemed to be on a quest to play the top shelf courses. There may be 200-ish courses in the Phoenix-Scottsdale area, but visitors are clamoring after the best stuff.
So plan well in advance if you are picky about the courses and times you want to play. But the reward is a festive atmosphere everywhere you go and (mostly) very pleasant weather.
Bachelor party golf lineup in Scottsdale
For a Thursday afternoon warmup on arrival day, we teed it up at Talking Stick North , a design I've played before and really enjoy. It's easier on the wallet compared to the area's elite courses, and the all-natural, Coore-Crenshaw design is very mellow and forgiving, so no one's confidence is wrecked too hard on their first desert round. Also, considering we chose not to have a car for the weekend, it's a great place to stay-and-play without paying for additional transportation. ( Read my review of Talking Stick North ).
On Friday, I made a selfish call and set our group up at TPC Scottsdale's Stadium Course . I've played the Champion Course before but have only walked the Stadium a few times during the Waste Management Phoenix Open, and it was finally time to put my own ball in the air. Playing the Stadium Course in April, long after the 500,000 or so fans are gone, feels practically unrecognizable without all the bleachers, tents and shenanigans. The result -- and I found this out the hard way -- is plenty of grass for your missed shots. I found myself in the grassy slopes off the fairways often.
At other desert courses, these same balls would be found half-sunk into a Jumping Cholla. The Stadium, it turns out, is quite manageable for mid-handicappers not playing the most serious round of golf. That is, until the back nine amps up with water hazards, some nervy tee shots and forced carries. I like Troon North and We-Ko-Pa's desert layouts to showcase true desert golf a little better, but there isn't a more complete tee-to-green product, when considering the drama, conditions and amenities, than the Stadium. ( Read my review of the Stadium Course ).
On Saturday, we had the last tee times of the day on the Saguaro Course at We-Ko-Pa Golf Club . Chasing the sun, the loop was still a lot of fun, and I forgot how scenic every step is, even when swirling winds, dark clouds, and faint, rumbling thunder is looming. Big fairways, tons of hole variety and great views -- as well as reservation solitude -- made it a real favorite. In the home stretch, we teamed up as a six-some and nearly made it all the way home before dark. At the 16th tee, the clouds broke just enough for the purplish evening sun to glow the mountains in the distance. ( Read my review of the Saguaro Course ).
Stay and play: Talking Stick Resort
Talking Stick has become even more of a no-brainer place for buddies trips to stay since my visit three years ago. Not only has Uber and Lyft helped reduce the cost for a ride into Old Town Scottsdale for a night out (about $10-$15 each way), but TopGolf Scottsdale was also added on property too. Which feels like a place purpose-built for bachelor parties, with great food and drinks and a more casual golf vibe. Plus you can just hang out in the bar area and not rent a hitting bay, which we did Friday afternoon.
Talking Stick's weekend Release pool parties are still a big draw, and there is also an on-site club on the top floor if you don't want to head downtown. A massive poker room and plenty of blackjack tables also do their best to keep you in-house, and we frequented the 24-hour restaurant late-night more than once.
Now well into our 30s, I'm not sure how many more, if any, bachelor parties we have on the horizon, but we may very well end up back at Scottsdale for family trips or otherwise. Stay tuned.