REVIEW: TPC Scottsdale Stadium Course

Imagine Playing In Front Of 200,000 Spectators
TPC Scottsdale hosts the Waste Management Phoenix Open every spring which is the largest PGA event year after year.  This past spring I was part of the 200,000+ golf fans (review here) that descended on the course for Saturday’s round.  That atmosphere is unlike anything I’ve ever seen in golf or any other sport for that matter.  It really feels like a big party with golf going on in the background.  It is also what makes TPC Scottsdale such a special experience when you are part of the tournament, then play the same place you just watched the pro play.  I could feel the adrenaline standing on the tee box and had a few nerves over birdie putts, almost as if the crowds were will there.
1.  Atmosphere
One month after the WMPO there were still numerous stands up, although they were being dismantled during my round.  If you play closer to the tournament, all the stands are likely to be up.  Whether the stands are up or all gone, you can still feel or imagine the roar of the crowd when you make birdie, or the boos if you shank one towards the stands.  I think watching the tournament live and playing the same course really gives you a feel for what the Tour players experience.  This is one of the top reasons to play TPC Scottsdale Stadium Course.

2. Conditions
Playing were the pros play, means you get to experience the course conditions they have during a tournament.  TPC prides itself in maintaining their courses to tour levels.  TPC Scottsdale Stadium Course was in impeccable shape one month after the tournament.  The fairways were firm and fast and the green ran a speedy 12 on the stimp.  The rough was still thick and the trampled areas where the crowds walk were still visible, but not as significant.  It is always a pleasure to play on such a well manicured course.

3. Experience
Unless you are a member of TPC, you will be required to take a fore-caddie.  Their purpose is to help you maneuver the course, repair the course during your round, keep play moving, and to help you enjoy the experience at TPC Scottsdale Stadium course.  It is just another way you feel a little like you are part of the tournament experience.  While you still ride carts and your caddie doesn’t carry your bag, they still give your pointers, help you read a putt and keep your ball clean during the round.

4. Hole 16
This is “The” hole at TPC Scottsdale; not because of the difficulty, but because of the stadium stands that hold almost 20,000 fans. When the stadium is filled during tournament week, the cheers/jeers echo throughout the entire property.  This 135 yard one shot hole isn’t long, nor is the green tiny.  I actually stuck it to about 6 feet.  My buddy shanked his tee shot so I gave him a loud “booo” so he could experience what he would have heard at the tournament.  This hole really is best played when the stands are up.

5. Holes 15-18
Already starting on hole 15 is a potentially tough stretch of holes.  The finishing 4 holes could either reward you or punish you depending on how you play them.  15 is par 5 that can be reached in 2, but with significant water danger both off the tee and around the green, is best played as a 3 shot approach.  16 was already mentioned above.  17 is a short drivable par 4, but can also be dangerous if not played with some caution.  Hole 18 has plenty of trouble off the tee and requires some decent length to comfortably reach the elevated green.  During the tournament, it feels like 75% of the fans line this stretch of holes.  This just adds to the pressure of finishing strong.

6. Amenities
It felt weird driving right up to the clubhouse to play after parking a couple miles away to watch the WMPO.  The clubhouse is big, luxurious and has everything you’d want to remember your round, or to enjoy more than just golf.  The turn station has great food, although overpriced.  The golf is already expensive enough, $8 for a hot dog is overkill if you ask me.  But for our round the timing was necessary since we played over the lunch hour.  The range and practice area was huge and offered plenty to get ready for your round.

7. Course
TPC Scottsdale Stadium course is kind of hybrid style.  It isn’t a true desert course, it isn’t a parkland, nor is it a links course.  It really feels like a tournament course that doesn’t fit a specific style.  If you are traveling to Scottsdale for a winter vacation, TPC Scottsdale is your choice because of the tournament venue and conditions, not necessarily to have a true desert golf experience.  The mountains are in the distance, the desert isn’t too wild and there is a fair amount of water.  It is a fairly challenging course with decent length on numerous holes and fairly challenging green.  Don’t expect to go out and shoot your best round here.

8. Value
I’m not one to tell anyone how to spend their money, but TPC Scottsdale is one of the more expensive rounds of golf in the Phoenix area during the winter months.  You will get the tournament experience if you play during this time of year, but it will cost you.  If you are a member of the TPC network it isn’t so expensive.  I did find the value in playing where the pros play, imagining what the crowd would do after my shots and how my game stacks up with their game (it doesn’t).  It is worth it do it at least once to say you’ve played there and experienced the tournament conditions.

9. Conclusion
TPC Scottsdale offers a tournament atmosphere whether the stands are up, down or somewhere in between.  I was thrilled to be part of the record setting crowd of spectators and just as excited to play the course a month later.  I see this as a bucket list kind of course, especially when the stands are up.  It isn’t the most beautiful, nor the most challenging course in town, but no other course has that tournament atmosphere even when you only have 4 “fans” watching your round.  Just imagine 200,000 fans watching you play golf at TPC Scottsdale Stadium Course.

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