Get Your Groove On at the Phoenix Open

Golf’s most raucous tourney is a showcase for Tom Weiskopf’s brilliant redesign of the TPC Scottsdale Stadium Course, the layout that more than any other has spread the gospel of desert design.

TPC Stadium Course (Image: TPC Scottsdale)

The Stadium Course’s famous grandstand-enclosed par-three 16th. (Image: TPC Scottsdale)

(Last updated March 2023.)

Billed as the “Greatest Show on Grass,” the Waste Management Phoenix Open is a sports marketer’s fantasy come to life. Even non-golfers feel obliged to make the scene at the TPC Scottsdale Stadium Course. Young women in stiletto heels and skin-tight dresses stream through the gates to flirt with shirtless and face-painted young men. In the evening, the party refuels at the Coors Light Birds Nest, a temporary nightclub under a giant tent.

Wildest of all are the crowds that overflow the grandstand surrounding the notorious par-three 16th hole. Players are variously greeted by cheers, boos and name-calling as they enter the stadium. Those unfortunate enough to make poor tee shots are berated mercilessly as they take their walk of shame to the green.

Easily forgotten in the hoopla of a tourney that before the global pandemic annually drew more than 700,000 fans (by far the PGA Tour’s largest attendance) is the Stadium Course’s prominence among the groundbreaking desert courses that have made PhoenixScottsdale one of the world’s top golf destinations. Originally designed by Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish, the course brilliantly blends large patches of natural desert with just 28 acres of green fairways.

TPC Scottsdale Stadium Course No. 16 (Image: TPC Scottsdale)

No hole in golf is more nerve-rattling than the Stadium Course’s 16th. (Image: TPC Scottsdale)

Beginning in the 1980s, local water restrictions forced Weiskopf, Morrish and other architects to limit their use of turf fairways and instead embrace the natural drama of the Sonoran Desert. Tee boxes are isolated in seas of sagebrush, cacti and sand. Giant saguaros are used to frame landing areas edged by dusty gullies known as arroyos. And in their most radical innovation, architects frequently make golfers fly their approach shots to greens protected by large and gnarly waste areas.

Today, more than 200 of Arizona’s 300 courses are found in the Phoenix-Scottsdale area. Other top clubs include Grayhawk Golf Club, We-Ko-Pa Golf Club, Troon North Golf Club, The Boulders Golf Club, Wildfire Golf Club, Raven Golf Club, Dove Valley Ranch Golf Club, Eagle Mountain Golf Club, and McDowell Mountain Golf Club.

But more than any other, the Stadium Course has spread the gospel of desert design around the golf world. In 2015, Weiskopf completed an eight-month, US$12-million facelift of the Phoenix Open’s host course. Greens were relocated on several holes, bunkers reshaped and more than 250 trees planted.

As always, it’s going to be a wild four days.

Where to Stay

Fairmont Scottsdale Princess: Located next door to the TPC Scottsdale Stadium Course, this popular luxury hotel is home base for many of the visiting PGA Tour pros.

Westin Kierland Resort & Spa: This tastefully decorated hotel in North Scottsdale features 27 holes of golf just steps from the lobby doors.

Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North: Nestled in the foothills of Scottsdale’s Pinnacle Peak, this luxury resort offers easy access to nearby Troon North Golf Club.