TPC Scottsdale Course Review
27 Jan 2015
by Golfweek

see also: TPC at Scottsdale - Stadium Course, All Course Reviews

TPC Scottsdale Stadium, 18th hole<br>photo courtesy TPC Scottsdale
TPC Scottsdale Stadium, 18th hole
photo courtesy TPC Scottsdale
by Bradley S. Klein

Don’t let the guys at PGA Tour headquarters get in the way of the big story at this week’s Waste Management Phoenix Open. The real news out of TPC Scottsdale is that players were greeted by a totally revamped course. They can throw out their yardage books and learn the place anew. It might look the same on TV, but in person, the facility north of Phoenix that’s hosting more than half a million spectators this week is a very different golf course than the one that made its Tour debut in 1987.

OK, let’s get one thing out of the way. The corporate Pollyannas in starched whites who run big-time golf out of Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., have put the kibosh on spectator-player interaction at the raucous par-3 16th hole by prohibiting Tour players from throwing objects into the stands. That means no more flying footballs, hats and soccer balls – and presumably fewer drunks falling out of the stands.

But a curious thing is that along the way, Tour officials have allowed tournament organizers – the Phoenix Thunderbirds, in collaboration with Waste Management, Inc. – to expand seating at this stadium-like hole. A third tier along the north side of the makeshift stands will now sell for a premium, enhancing total seating capacity by about 1,500 to 19,000 people. So while the Tour is squishing the players’ spontaneity, it’s also enhancing its own bottom line. Such is the nature of the golf business today.

TPC Scottsdale’s Stadium Course, a 30- year old design by Jay Morrish and Tom Weiskopf, has always been one of those desert hybrids – scrubby, arid ground on the periphery and lush, heavily maintained turf and trees along fairway corridors. The course was due for an overhaul to update the irrigation system, rebuild bunkers that had been compromised, clean up lines and get some of the cart paths out of line and sight. Weiskopf did the re-design work and it turned out great.

Additional yardage, always desirable on the PGA Tour these days, was out of the question on a site so heavily bordered by hotel, commercial space and land designated for the Central Arizona Project Canal. The latter structure is located right behind the 18th tee and prevents the par-4 finishing hole from being stretched beyond 442 yards.

That’s OK. To make up for the inability to move the tee back, the notorious carry down the left side (over water the entire way) was made more daunting than ever by adding a wacky-looking, four- row, Church Pews bunker at the far end. Clearing this sacrilegious hazard now requires a launch of 339 yards – up from 319 yards. The old hazard was a simple and deep bunker, and frankly, the new hazard looks idiotic. But it will work to keep all but the boldest (or dumbest) players from trying to take the short cut.

No. 14 on TPC Scottsdale's Stadium Course
(photo courtesy TPC Scottsdale)

Actually, the Church Pews on the 18th, modeled after the original Church Pews bunker between the third and fourth holes at Oakmont (Pa,) Country Club, previously appeared at the TPC Scottsdale’s short, drivable par-4 17th. However, that bunker was so ill-positioned (way left and short) that it never came into play or view. Now on the 18th, it is conspicuous and, if truth be told, the only sore site on an otherwise stellar renovation.

The greens that shrank have been recaptured to their full extent. The area around the hole location on the back-left peninsula on that infamous par- 4 17th hole is much roomier than it was in recent years. A terribly awkward, banana-shaped green on the par-5 third hole has been abandoned and replaced with a more accessible putting surface and moved further to the left, though not without its own steep bank that will surely prove controversial.

A hole-by-hole recitation is unnecessary. Suffice it to say that with gleaming new white bunkers replacing the old, tired-looking brownish ones, TPC Scottsdale’s Stadium Course shines. Several bunkers have been shifted to figure more prominently into play from the back tees, making accuracy off the tee imperative. Pushing cart paths away from fairways in the landing areas and around greens makes the whole place look more like a golf course and less like a go-cart track.

It helps, too, that the TifEagle Bermudagrass surfaces on the newly rebuilt greens grew in smoother and with less grain than the older putting surfaces. The course closed for six months in mid- 2014 for renovation and didn’t reopen until the overseeded rye grass was in place, dense and lush. Playing surfaces on the Stadium Course have a depth and consistency that are uncommon for a desert tournament course as heavily played as this one.

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