Arizona Grand Resort & Spa, Phoenix
Desert meets green on these top courses. Glow Golf, anyone?
Few can resist Arizona when it comes to meetings, with its sun, warmth, spectacular surroundings and championship golf courses, many designed by famed architects such as Tom Fazio (Grayhawk in Scottsdale), Arnold Palmer (Desert Ridge in Phoenix) and Jack Nicklaus (La Paloma in Tucson).
“The golf experience in the desert is unique because of the stark contrast, from sand-colored desert landscape to lush, bright green fairways,” says PGA and LPGA instructor Donald Crawley, who runs Boulders Resort & Spa golf academy in Carefree, 35 miles north of Phoenix. Golf Magazine ranks Crawley as one of the top 100 teachers in the country. “Stepping out of a meeting and onto the desert links can literally transform your mindset from business to recreation in one not-so-quick golf swing,” he says.
The Boulders Resort & Spa, Carefree
Choose from any number of cities to enjoy a quick round, including Scottsdale, Phoenix, Tucson, Glendale or Tempe, with most resorts offering world-class golf. PGA Tour Events have been coming to the area since 1945, according to Visit Tuscon. Add function space to that, and it’s the perfect combination for a group meeting. And let’s not forget wildlife: Encounters with coyotes, roadrunners, deer and the occasional Gila monster are par for the course in Arizona. Here are just a few resorts offering golf experiences in a beautiful setting.
Tubac Golf Resort & Spa
Tubac Golf Resort & Spa, Amado
Movie buffs will recognize this course from the film Tin Cup. Set on 500 acres of the historic 1789 Otero Ranch in Tucson, Tubac Golf Resort & Spa is the brainchild of the late Bing Crosby, who designed it as a getaway for Hollywood celebrities.
Tubac provides 27 holes of golf, often played in a three-course rotation. The original front nine, Otero, is named for early settlers and has a lake running the length of the fairway. The Rancho nine is the most challenging of the courses and was featured in two scenes from Tin Cup. The par-5 No. 4 hole, known as the “Tin Cup,” was the setting for the scene where Kevin Costner caddies for Don Johnson, who wants to lay up with a seven iron. Costner says he can do it, and a young Phil Mickelson wagers on whether he will pull it off.
The third course, Anza nine, is popular for its views of the Santa Rita Mountains.
For meetings, there are 98 guest rooms and 8,000 sq. ft. of indoor space, including a conference center and a new 3,000-square-foot ballroom.
Boulders Resort & Spa
Named for the 12 million-year-old granite boulders dotting the landscape, the newly renovated Boulder Resort & Spa, just outside Scottsdale, is set on 1,300 acres in the Sonoran desert foothills. The 221-room resort features seven restaurants, a 33,000-square-foot spa and two championship golf courses designed by leading architect Jay Morrish.
Savvy golfers start with the Boulders’ South Course, known for its signature par-5 No. 5 hole, with a fairway so narrow there’s no room for error, since any slice or hook will land in the rough.
The Boulders resort also offers Pebble Tees for busy executives who don’t want to tackle 18 holes. Yardages of 100 to 200 yards are created by installing the tees.
Groups that want the whole caboodle can sign up for the Elite Golf Experience, featuring a golf concierge, personal coaching and a post-game barbecue with rare Scotch and custom-made cigars.
Boulders resort is a member of Hilton’s Curio Collection and has more than 50,000 sq. ft. of function space, including a 17,800-square-foot conference center and a new 5,600-square-foot ballroom. The clubhouse is undergoing renovation to add a restaurant and an outdoor patio.
Talking Stick Resort
Talking Stick Resort, Scottsdale
Don’t be misled by the resort’s mega casino. The 496-room AAA Four Diamond Talking Stick Resort in Scottsdale also offers some of the finest golf in the region. Conceptualized by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, the club has two courses with enough twists and turns to challenge even the most finicky golfer. The links-style O’odham course winds through grasslands and bunkering, while Piipaash is a more traditional course, with tree-lined fairways and smaller greens.
Talking Stick Golf Club is also home to Vision54 Golf Coaching, providing a holistic approach to the game (think physical, technical, mental and emotional). Golfers can practice what they’ve learned on a 17,000-square-foot driving range, the largest public practice facility in the valley.
For events, Talking Stick Resort has 100,000 sq. ft. of space, most notably a 25,000-square-foot ballroom and 650-seat showroom.
Established in the 1920s, when golf courses were barely a blip on the Arizona map, the 331-room The Wigwam in Litchfield Park outside Phoenix is the state’s only resort with 54 holes of championship golf, two of which—Gold and The Patriot—were designed by the legendary Robert Trent Jones Sr. The Heritage course was designed by Red Lawrence.
Though one of the oldest golf resorts in Arizona— the property served as a winter retreat for Goodyear Tire & Rubber executives—The Wigwam has some of the newest technology. Golfers can analyze their game using a radar-based launch monitor to learn about ball flight, track their swing with 3-D technology and analyze their putting with specialized video software.
Recently, The Wigwam’s Patriot Golf Course completed an extensive renovation, eliminating 30 bunkers and adding white sand.
“The Patriot course looks and feels like a new golf course,” says Leo Simonetta, director of golf at The Wigwam Golf Club. “The new white-sand bunkers, set against the emerald green and striped fairways, look amazing.” In addition, a new irrigation system ensures consistent playing conditions.
Groups can enjoy 100,000 sq. ft. of function space. One popular venue is Sunset Point, an Old West-inspired setting providing the ultimate cowboy-town experience.
Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North
Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North
Troon North Golf Club stands out as the crown jewel of Scottsdale golf, with two 18-hole courses stretching through the natural ravines and foothills of Pinnacle Peak.
“What makes Sonoran Desert golf unique is its surroundings,” says Mike Friend, director of sales at Troon North Golf Club. And reliable weather. “For someone planning a golf trip, the last thing they want is to be rained out,” he says.
Troon North features two Tom Weiskopf-designed courses: Monument course is an ode to British golf with its bump-and-run shots (hole No. 9 is called Hell’s Bunker); and Pinnacle course is popular for elevated greens, protected by deep bunkers.
Troon North provides a full complement of golf professionals: instructors, performance specialists, dietitians and physical therapists. The spa offers massages tailored to golfers using warmed golf balls.
Beyond golf, the 210-room resort has 35,920 sq. ft. of event space, including a 5,940-squarefoot ballroom and four terraces. Popular event themes include Ryder Cup and Western, where guests don customized Stetson hats.
The Westin Kierland Resort & Spa
Rainmakers Ballroom at Westin Kierland Resort & Spa, Scottsdale
The Westin Kierland Resort & Spa, Scottsdale has been long known for its 27 holes of Scottish-themed golf (a bagpiper can launch your event) and air-conditioned carts, but now there’s another reason to visit: Segways. The resort is the first in the country where golfers can take to the greens on a Segway.
These aren’t just any Segways, however. They are designed to hold scorecards, tees, golf balls and drinks, and are built with stabilization technology that ensures balance while rolling around the 300 bunkers and desert washes.
In addition to two-wheeled transit, golfers can surf the course on electric-powered Golfboards, a variation of a snowboard or surfboard that skims across the greens.
New to The Westin Kierland golf is caddie service. Caddies help golfers navigate the course and assist with speed of play.
“If you’ve ever played golf with a caddie, you know how much more enjoyable it makes a round of golf,” says Mike Ryan, division president of Troon Golf.
Beyond golf, the 732-room resort has a spa, outdoor fire pits and numerous meeting venues, including three ballrooms, one of which has 25,000 sq. ft. of space.
The Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain
Glow Golf at Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain, Marana
Legendary champion Jack Nicklaus took advantage of the high Sonoran Desert setting to integrate innovation and diversity into his Signature Design golf course at The Ritz-Carlton’s Golf Club, Dove Mountain in Marana, just outside Tucson. The club has 27 holes, all with unique challenges.
For lighter playing, there’s Glow Golf, matching attendees with resort golf pros in glow putting and chipping challenges. The nighttime competition is played on a putting green illuminated by the glow of custom putting holes. Guests use glow golf balls to navigate the holes, and chip from a driving range toward a glowing flag.
In addition to golf, the 253-room resort provides more than 44,000 sq. ft. of function space, including a 9,000-square-foot ballroom.
Arizona Grand Resort & Spa
AAA Four Diamond Arizona Grand Resort & Spa in Tempe features an 18-hole golf course that was awarded the prestigious Best Places to Play distinction by Golf Digest. Winding through South Mountain Park, a protected Sonoran Desert preserve, the golf course is a popular draw at the 744- room resort, which has a spa, six dining venues and one of the largest water parks in the United States. Golf tournaments are requested group events, and there’s 120,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, including 16 outdoor venues, to accommodate attendees.
Legacy Golf Resort
Legacy Golf Resort, Phoenix
Named the top public golf course in Phoenix by ESPN Travel and one of the top 10 courses in Phoenix by Golf Digest, the club at the 328-room Legacy Golf Resort in Phoenix boasts championship golfing in a historical setting. The resort is on property that was once a 7,500-acre ranch owned by Dwight B. Heard, publisher of the Arizona Republic newspaper in the 1900s.
The 18-hole course was designed by architect Gary Panks and is well-suited to golfers of all levels. Panks retained the property’s rich Western heritage, with tales of President Teddy Roosevelt and Pancho Villa visiting the bunkhouse still preserved on the course’s first tee.
For events, there are the 1,200-square-foot Kokopelli room; the 660-square-foot Apache Room; and 304-square-foot Sedona Room 16.
Getting Off-Course in Arizona
When it’s time to go from on-course to off-course, here are a few diversions that may appeal.
Brunch at Wrigley Mansion: Set on a hill overlooking Phoenix, this elegant Italianate mansion was built in 1932 by chewing gum magnate William Wrigley Jr. Group tours are offered, and can include brunch or dinner in the onsite restaurant. The mansion also hosts events, with space for 20 to 1,500.
Hot-air ballooning (pictured): Get a bird’s-eye view of cities and desert on a sunrise or sunset hot-air balloon ride, usually lasting one hour. Balloons hold six to eight people. Excursions can include champagne breakfast or cocktails and hors d’oeuvres.
Sonoran Desert experience: The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Tuscan is 85 percent outdoors and home to 230 native animals and 1,200 types of plants. Get immersed in nature on 92 acres.
Drinks at the oldest saloon in Scottsdale: Clint Eastwood, John Wayne and Jennifer Aniston have walked through the swinging doors of The Rusty Spur Saloon, Scottsdale’s oldest saloon. The convivial vibe makes it a great place to start or end an evening in Old Town.
Wine tasting: Yes, Arizona has wineries. Most are outside Tucson and Sedona and offer group tours and wine tasting.
Drive and a movie: Combine them at the Glendale 9. Glendale is home to the valley’s only drive-in theater.
Daytrip to Tombstone: Straight off a movie set, Tombstone is The Town Too Tough to Die. Though an all-day excursion from Phoenix, it gives groups an up-close look at the famous OK Corral, Big Nose Kate’s Saloon and the nearby San Xavier del Bac Mission.
7 Golf Facts to Know Before You Go
1. Phoenix is the United States’ sixth-largest city, with a population of more than 1.6 million, many of them golfers.
2. Phoenix basks in sunshine more often than any other major metropolitan area in the United States. The sun shines on Phoenix during 85 percent of its daylight hours, which is good for golfers.
3. Greater Phoenix has more than 62,000 guest rooms at more than 450 hotels and more than 40 resort properties, meaning golfers never have to sleep on the golf course.
4. Greater Phoenix is home to more than 200 golf courses, which is good for golfers and caddies.
5. The Waste Management Open, played each February at TPC Scottsdale, is the best-attended event on the PGA Tour, averaging more than 500,000 spectators, mostly golfers.
6. The Phoenix Open set records attendance in 2015, with 564,368 fans attending the event, a Woodstock for golfers.
7. Phoenix has museums to suit nearly every taste, including Heard Museum (Native American); Desert Botanical Garden (the world’s largest collection of desert plants); Taliesin West (home of Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation); Phoenix Art Museum (the Southwest’s largest art museum); Fleischer Museum (American Impressionism); Arizona Science Center; Hall of Flame Fire Museum (featuring the world’s largest collection of fire-fighting equipment); Pueblo Grande Museum and Cultural Park (Native American) and Musical Instrument Museum. The United States Golf Association Museum can be found 2,374 miles northeast of Phoenix, in Far Hills, New Jersey.
Major Meeting Venues
Renaissance Glendale Hotel & Spa
Next to Westgate City Center and University of Phoenix Stadium; spa; popular Soleil Restaurant; 320 guest rooms; 100,000 sq. ft. of meeting space.
Thunderbird Executive Inn & Conference Center
On the campus of Thunderbird School of Global Management; dining hall; pub; business center; 134 guest rooms; 40,000 sq. ft. of meeting space.
Arizona Golf Resort, Spa & Conference Center
On 147 acres; championship golf; pool; two lakes; 200 guest rooms; 20,000 sq. ft. of meeting space.
Phoenix Marriott Mesa
Next to Mesa Convention Center; modern hotel with an outdoor fire pit; fitness center; pool; 274 guest rooms; 45,128 sq. ft. of meeting space.
Hyatt Regency Phoenix
Adjacent to Phoenix Convention Center; 693 guest rooms; 48,000 sq. ft. of function space; 12,000-squarefoot atrium for receptions; pool; five eating options.
Phoenix Convention Center
Three-building downtown complex; 900,000 sq. ft. of exhibition and meeting space; West Building is LEED Silver certified; West and North buildings connected by skybridge; South Building has two exhibit halls with a combined 82,000 sq. ft. of meeting space.
Royal Palms Resort and Spa
Provides 119 accommodations, including suites and casitas; 20,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; estate dates to the 1920s and still exudes its original Spanish Colonial design.
Sheraton Grand Phoenix Downtown Hotel
AAA Four Diamond hotel in central location; 1,000 guest rooms, including 47 suites; 80,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; 27,170-square-foot ballroom; pool; fitness center; close to Phoenix Convention Center, restaurants, entertainment and culture.
Fairmont Scottsdale Princess
Stellar meeting property; 106,000 sq. ft. of indoor event space and 94,000 sq. ft. of outdoor space for a combined 316,000 sq. ft. of total event space; 750 guest rooms.
Gainey Suites Hotel
Unique boutique property in prestigious Gainey Ranch neighborhood; 162 guest rooms; fitness center; pool; 8,000 sq. ft. of recently upgraded meeting space.
Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Gainey Ranch
Situated on 27 acres; 493 guest rooms; 70,000 sq. ft. of event space; 35,000 sq. ft. of indoor meeting space; 14,280-square-foot ballroom.
JW Marriott Scottsdale Camelback Inn Resort & Spa
World-class spa; 36 holes of championship golf; 453 Puebla-style guest rooms; 91,119 sq. ft. of indoor and outdoor event space.
Omni Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Montelucia
Designed to resemble an Andalusian village in Spain; award-winning spa; amazing mountain views from its Paradise Valley location; 27,000 sq. ft. of indoor event space; 74,000 sq. ft. outside; 293 guest rooms.
Luxury resort; 645 guest rooms; 65,000 sq. ft. of indoor meeting space, plus 45,000-square-foot Camelback Ballroom Complex; 15,000-squarefoot ballroom; seven pools; eight eating options; 27-hole championship golf course; 22,000-square-foot spa.
The Scottsdale Plaza Resort
Spanish Mediterranean architecture and decor; 404 guest rooms; salon and day spa; five heated pools; 40,000 sq. ft. of meeting space.
The Westin Kierland Resort & Spa
Luxury resort; 732 guest rooms; 200,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; 41 meeting rooms; largest meeting room is 24,500 sq. ft.; largest meeting room capacity is 3,584; nine dining options; two pools; water park; spa; golf course.
AAA Four Diamond rated; property anchors entertainment district; 230 guest rooms; 33 specialty suites; 10,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; pool provides dynamic event space.
Hilton Tucson El Conquistador Golf & Tennis Resort
AAA Four Diamond resort on 500 acres; 428 guest rooms, including 139 casitas; 100,000 sq. ft. of event space, with 54,000 sq. ft. of indoor flexible space; championship golf, 45 holes; five pools.
JW Marriott Tucson Starr Pass Resort & Spa
AAA Four Diamond property; 575 guest rooms and suites; 80,768 sq. ft. of event space; 13 meeting rooms and a ballroom that can accommodate 3,300; ; three championship golf courses.
Loews Ventana Canyon Resort
Two Tom Fazio-designed golf courses; 398 large guest rooms, including 27 suites; 37,000 sq. ft. of indoor meeting space and 40,000 sq. ft. of outdoor space; Western-themed event venue; spa.
The Westin La Paloma
Located in Santa Catalina Mountains foothills; 487 guest rooms; 27 holes of golf; 10 tennis courts; spa; 18 meeting rooms with more than 64,000 sq. ft. of space, including 18,000-square-foot ballroom.