TPC Scottsdale – Stadium Golf, The Rowdiest Hole and You

Certainly you have seen the famed Par 3 sixteenth hole at the TPC Stadium Course in Scottsdale, Arizona. Annually it hosts the PGA Tour’s Phoenix Open where the pros must negotiate the most daunting 160 yard arena in golf. But more on that later.

The TPC Scottsdale complex is made up of two courses, the tournament hosting Stadium Course and its not so little sister the Champions Course. The adjacent Fairmont Princess resort is one of the finest in all of Phoenix. Together they combine to form one of the best golf/spa resort destinations in the country.

The Golf

My initial visit to The Stadium Course was over 20 years ago. It was the first time I had played a golf course that was host to a PGA Tour event. I returned this year to find the layout just as I remembered it. Carved from nothing, this open Links style layout has matured into a good test of golf for all levels of players.

Most holes offer generous fairways off the tee but trouble abounds should you miss the short grass. The putting surfaces have always been above average both in speed and condition. Like almost all Tom Weiskopf/Jay Morrish designs, you will find a great mix of holes and often a drivable Par 4 like the 332 yard 17th hole.

But the most famous hole is the Par 3 16th. At only 160 yards, distance is not the main concern here during tournament week. Tuning out the thousands of spectators sitting in grandstands that line nearly the entire hole is the major obstacle here. When you tee it up, the stands and the fans will be gone. Yet, imagine the throngs, silent for a split second while you swing then bursting into cries of “You’re the man” and “It’s in the hole” ala Tiger Woods ace during the 1997 event. Memorable!

While the Stadium Course gets all the accolades, The Champions Course is no slouch. The holes here are much narrower than on the Stadium Course and the greens more severe. Keeping the ball in play is a bit more difficult making accuracy off the tee crucial for good scoring. Approach shots need to be well planned as being on the wrong level on some of these greens is a three putt in waiting.

The Resort

The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess is a large upscale resort with every imaginable amenity and luxury. From the Willow Stream Spa to the tennis complex and fine dining at Bourbon Steak or The Hacienda restaurants, this resort has it all. Accommodations range from oversize rooms all the way to generous casita living. Like the nearby Phoenician, Westin Kierland and JW Marriott Desert Ridge resorts, this is another fine example of today's world class resorts.

The Fairmont's pool areas are large beautiful spaces that front part of the Stadium Course. It is here, on the fourth hole right by the main pool, where your author recorded a hole in one the year the course opened. I have fond memories and a slight bias for this place.

Golf Claps & Silent Treatment: The Barclays

That gust you heard wasn’t Hurricane Irene, but a sigh of relief coming from the PGA Tour officials who decided Saturday was a suitable day to conclude The Barclays.

HurricaneYes, with all of New Jersey under a state of emergency and nearby New York shutting down its mass transit system in advance of the cyclone, the show went on at Plainfield CC in Edison, N.J. Fortunately, they managed to finish the FedEx Cup’s first 2011 event early Saturday afternoon and get everyone off the course safe and sound.

Dustin Johnson weathered the storm better than anyone. The lanky, athletic wonder swamped 36-hole leader Matt Kuchar with a final-round 65, vaulting into the top spot in the Cup standings with three tourneys to go.

The next sound you hear will be our polite acknowledgement of the weekend’s winners.

Golf Claps

  • Dustin Johnson: Hurricane, schmurricane. Johnson rained on Kuchar’s parade with a front-nine 29 (6-under), then cruised home with nine straight pars as Kuchar crumbled. The win was Johnson’s first this season and fifth of his career. It put him not only in command of the FedEx Cup race, but in contention for the subjective title of Best American Golfer.
  • Vijay Singh: Thought ol’ Veej was done for, didn’t you? Hardly. By tying for third, Singh jumped from 36th to eighth in the Cup standings, giving him a chance to take the whole shooting match for the second time. While he hasn’t won in three years, Singh, now 48, is feeling fine thanks to a recent injection in his ailing back. Watch out for him at this week’s Deutsche Bank Championship, which he won in 2008.
  • Ian Poulter (pictured): Staring at FedEx Cup elimination, the colorful Englishmen needed a furious finish toIan Poulter keep his season alive. Four birdies in the last five holes and a closing 64 did the trick, pushing Poulter from 114th all the way to 78th.
  • Ernie Els: Likewise, Els fired a final-round 67 to sneak into the top Cup’s 100 – 99th to be exact – and qualify for the Deutsche Bank. Things don’t come as easy for big Ernie as they once did, but at least he’s showing signs of life.

Silent Treatment

  • Tour planners: OK, so all’s well that ends well. But it seemed odd, almost arrogant, to be playing a golf tournament amidst the chaos Irene brought to the Northeast. While families sought shelter and supplies in preparation for the worst – which thankfully didn’t materialize – pro golfers whistled while they, um, worked. Weird.
  • The eight who dropped out: Say goodbye to Bryce Molder, Hunter Haas, Chris DiMarco, Paul Goydos, Nick O’Hern, Matt Bettencourt, Tim Herron and Michael Bradley. They slipped from the top 100 in the Cup standings and failed to qualify for the remaining events. But hey, that means plenty of free time to watch football!

Come on – Hit It Already – I’m Falling Asleep Over Here

It used to be I could keep my attention focused during a round of golf. Am I losing what patience I have left? Or, is it not just charity events that take over five hours to play these days? Seems as if it is a persistent problem wherever I play.

Blame the pros – kind of

How often do we see Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, etc look at a putt from every conceivable side of the hole and then have their caddy peer in as well? And what’s with the Camilo Villegas human crab position as he reads a putt? But remember, this is their livelihood so I guess they deserve some slack. But hey, even tour rounds are out of control as there is little or no enforcement of their own slow play rules. I swear I could get a massage at the Broadmoor and Sundara during some of their pre-shot routines.

It’s time to play by, and enforce, some semblance of pace of play on the pro tours. Now is their time to show the average golfer that they need not consult a wind gauge, yardage book, laser, trusted putt reader, topographical map and course psychiatrist before every stroke.

Some Suggestions

  • Whoever gets to the tee box first….tee it up! Honors is best reserved for education.
  • If one of your group hits it in the woods… didn’t all hit it in the woods!  Have one person help out (remember there is a time limit to look) while the rest go to their balls and hit.
  • Have a pre-shot routine….just don’t have it include a beer, a smoke, a laser reading, phone call, an audience, and a Sergio Garcia like 16 practice swings.
  • If you take a cart……drop one person at their ball and take the cart to your ball. Don’t sit, wait and watch the first player hit! Also, always take one club more and one less than what you think the correct club will be. Don’t walk all the way back across the fairway to get another club.
  • If you’re having a horrible hole or round…….feel free to pick up your ball on occasion and put it in the safety of your pocket before things get worse. The game is freaking difficult…….this will ease your frustration and keep things moving for all.
  • If you shoot over 80 and/or are aged 40 or over, please do not attempt the Villegas crab (as I recently witnessed on a public course) when reading greens. It’s embarrassing to need help getting up only to be carted off to your chiropractor.

These are but a few of the many things you can do to speed up play, enjoy the game more, save your marriage and avoid a police APB for being gone from sun up to sun down for one round of golf.

Spy on Golf: FedEx Cup Keeps It Short, USGA Goes Long

What’s the golf world talking about this week?

Aside from Tiger Woods, that is?

FedEx Cup logoFor starters, the PGA Tour’s oft-maligned but fairly entertaining FedEx Cup gets underway Thursday with The Barclays. No “Classic,” no “Championship,” just The Barclays. (Yeah, it takes some getting used to.)

Golf also holds its biggest non-professional event this week. The U.S. Amateur, boasting a roster of past winners like Bobby Jones, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods, will crown its 111th champion at Erin Hills Golf Course in the hinterlands of Wisconsin.

Here’s an oddity: The Barclays features a course measuring less than 7,000 yards, while the amateurs must tame a track tipping out at 7,700-plus. More on that in a moment.

As for Tiger, he spent last weekend working with the geek squad at EA Sports, preparing the 2013 version of his immensely popular video game. Too bad the game has a better Q Rating than Tiger himself. One survey reveals that 42 percent of the public view Woods unfavorably – not far behind America’s most disliked celeb, Paris Hilton (60 percent).

Maybe somebody should introduce those two…

FedEx Cup: Uphill climb for some players

Here’s how The Barclays shakes out:Plainfield Country Club

The top 125 players in the regular-season FedEx Cup standings comprise the field; the top 100 in the post-tourney standings survive to play next week at the Deutsche Bank Championship in Boston.

The Tour folks guesstimate that the current top 87 are safe regardless of how they fare this week, leaving 13 spots up for grabs. That means guys like Anthony Kim (92), Graeme McDowell (93), Retief Goosen (103) and Camilo Villegas (109) need to get hot or go home.

More interesting, to us anyway, is how the pros handle Plainfield County Club, a Donald Ross-designed classic in Edison, N.J. At just 6,964 yards, it’s a pipsqueak by today’s standards. It’s also been drenched by rain in recent weeks, meaning the course could be vulnerable to a deluge of low scores.

Erin Hills continues new direction for USGA, American golf

While the pros tackle diminutive Plainfield, the amateurs face the longest course in USGA history. At its max, Erin Hills stretches to a gulp-inducing 7,760 yards, topping by 18 yards the record set in this event last year by Chambers Bay in University Place, Washington.

Both courses were built within the last five years and will host future U.S. Opens (Chambers Bay in 2015, Erin Hills in 2017). And their length comes with a couple of caveats.

For one, ace USGA setup man Mike Davis promises significant changes in day-to-day tee placements, predicting Erin Hills actually will play between 7,200 and 7,600 yards.

Second, the course is conditioned to play firm and fast, allowing drives to run out to what figure to be ridiculous distances. That’s in keeping not only with the Chambers Bay template, but the nascent move toward firmer fairways throughout American golf.

It’s a movement we’re completely on board with for a number of reasons; we’ll discuss those in a future installment.

In the meantime, enjoy this week’s action. Oh, and if you run into Tiger, tell him you know of a girl who’s just his type.

Hey, You’re Charles Barkley Not Tiger Woods So Play the Correct Tees

Maybe my biggest pet peeve in golf is amateur golfers who insist on “playing from the back”. You’ve seen them. Without checking the yardage or course slope and rating they automatically take their ego inflated selves to the far reaches of the back tees. There they proceed to take out their Pro V1’s and smash it an amazing 200 yards……right off the fairway. Why play Pebble Beach from the back tees when you can't break 80 on your local muni?

What’s up with that? Please take your stylish clothes, un-needed top of the line equipment and your weekend warrior swing up a few tee boxes and help all of us enjoy our day at the golf course a lot more. Shooting 100 from the tips during a five hour round cannot be enjoyable for either you or the groups behind you who are ready to remove your playing privileges after the first hole.

If you are a scratch golfer then feel free to play from 7,000 yards. If you are good enough to break eighty then maybe 6700 yards. For the rest of us, drop the masochistic tendencies and get your butt up to a more comfortable yardage. We’ll all feel better if you do.

Course Design

Let me explain why playing from the correct tees is important. A well designed course has certain features based on distance. For example, a short 380 yard hole is designed with the idea that players will be playing a very short iron, with lots of loft, into the green. There are no openings to “run the ball up” onto the green. Any lack of hole length is compensated for with well trapped, small and unforgiving greens.  So, if you only hit it 200 off the tee and are hitting long irons to a tiny green meant to hold only wedge shots then you are in for a very long day.

If you played that same hole from the proper tees for your ability then you too would be hitting wedge into the green. You not only will score better and have a more enjoyable day, you will get to understand and appreciate all that goes into a well designed course.

Thank You

So please, keep the logo’d shirts, fancy pants, too good golf balls and spit polished shoes if you must. But leave the oversized ego at home, move up to where you belong, and everyone on the golf course will have a  more enjoyable, and shorter, round of golf.

Golf Claps & Silent Treatment: Wyndham Championship

“D’oh!” – Homer Simpson.

“Dough!” – Webb Simpson.Webb Simpson

That’s dough, as in a $936,000 check the latter collected for winning the Wyndham Championship in Greensboro, N.C. Cash is sure to keep rolling in for the talented 26-year-old, whose victory looks like the first of many.

Simpson – Webb, that is – had been building up to his moment all season. He carried a pair of runner-up finishes and a slew of top-25s into the event, which he calmly won with a bogey-free 67 on Sunday.

He’s now earned more than $3.6 million in this, his third full season on Tour. Something tells us he won’t be working at the nearest nuclear plant any time soon.

On to our weekly round-up of those we applaud, and those who left us appalled:

Golf Claps

  • Elongated putters: Here we go again. By using a belly putter, Simpson became the third consecutive winner relying on a flat-stick that doesn’t fit traditional dimensions. Long putters were once considered a last resort for aging pros with shaky hands and achy backs; not anymore. Simpson (26), PGA champ Keegan Bradley (25) and WGC-Bridgestone winner Adam Scott (31) are a long way from the Champions Tour.
  • Carolina golfers: Simpson was raised in Raleigh and played college golf at Wake Forest. Third-place finisher Tommy Gainey hails from the “other” Carolina – Bishopville, S.C., to be exact. Carl Petterson, a Swede who played at North Carolina State, tied for fourth while Tar Heel State standard bearer Davis Love III posted a solid T12. Nothing like a little home cooking.
  • Ernie Els, Padraig Harrington and William McGirt: Your final qualifiers for the FedEx Cup are a pair of three-time major champs and… Some other guy. McGirt is a Tour rookie with just one top-20 all year, but he slipped into the 125th and final spot with a T52 showing in Greensboro. By the way, McGirt is from Fairmont, N.C.

Silent Treatment

  • Ernie Els: Yep, the Big Easy lands on both lists this week. The silence is for Els’ final-round 72, a 2-over dud that dropped him from contention to a tie for 30th. Gotta say, we miss watching that Sinatra-smooth swing when things get tight on the weekend. Here’s hoping Ernie regains his form soon.
  • Justin Leonard: The longtime stalwart played his way out of the FedEx Cup with a bogey on the 72nd hole. Good for McGirt, bad for Leonard, a 12-time winner who missed the playoff series for the first time since its 2007 inception.
  • The two-gloves look: Sorry, Tommy Gainey, but the only thing worse than watching a pro wield a long putter is watching one wear a pair of gloves. Looks like you’re about to grab a hot pan from the oven.

New Technology, Obsolete Courses and Phil Mickelson Did What?

Have the rest of you noticed how far the ball is going these days? It’s no longer just with the driver but every club in the bag. I think even putters are being used from 100 yards out.

Sure distances have been creeping up over the years. But the last few years have wrought extraordinary damage to the game as we know it. We all recognize that some of this new found machismo is the result of better conditioned athletes. But most of it can be attributed to new technologies.

The PGA Championship 2011

Were you watching the recent 2011 version of the PGA Championship? Did you happen to notice the course was over 7400 yards AND was only a Par 70? I wager this is nearly 1000 yards longer than the courses most of us play while also being 2 strokes less than the typical Par 72’s. Did you happen to watch Phil Mickelson play a 450 yard Par 4 by hitting 5 iron and 5 iron? That’s right! He hit 5 iron off the tee of a 450 yard hole. Ridiculous.

There was a time when the professional game had some relation to the game the rest of us play. We might have hit a 7 iron 150 yards and the pros would do the same with an eight. Now they hit a sand wedge 150 yards while we maybe hit an eight. The average golfer can no longer relate in any way to the game the pros are playing.

How long will it be before more storied courses such as Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill, Shinnecock Hills, etc are no longer considered suitable for tournament play because they do not have the room to lengthen them to keep up with today’s technology? What about the great golf course in your own area that has become outdated only because of their inability to add length?

Caddies Agree

I just finished watching the David Feherty show and his guests were caddies “Fluff” Cowan and Jim “Bones” Mackay. Fluff is a lifelong caddie having carried for Peter Jacobsen, Tiger Woods and now Jim Furyk. Mackay has been on Phil Mickelson’s bag for Phil’s entire career. Both of these legendary caddies took note of their players being 3 – 5 clubs longer since they began their careers as caddies.

It is time to de-tune the equipment. We need to keep the professional game relevant to the amateur game. We need to stop the demise of the classic courses that have been sacrificed to modern technology before it is too late. Hitting 5 iron – 5 iron to a 450 yard hole benefits no one and in fact only serves to drive the proverbial wedge between the pros and the rest of the game.

Sundara – World Class Spa in the Wisconsin Dells

Heaven on earth may be hiding in the Wisconsin Dells, disguised as Sundara, a luxury destination spa. An area long known as the water and amusement park capital of the world now offers a first class retreat for discriminating adults.

Sundara is part of the Wilderness Resort family of properties. It lies concealed in the woods just north of the main Wilderness Resort and shares the site with a championship golf course, Wild Rock. The secluded setting is the antithesis to the normal Dells experience.

The resort is comprised of a luxurious main building and stand-alone villas. The main building contains the spa, a 3 story dining rotunda and  luxury suites. Suites feature a fireplace, king size feather bed, writing desk, Sundara bath products and Kohler fixtures which rain, mist and shower you in water.

The Spa itself occupies most of the main floor. Upon checking in, a staff member will take you on a brief tour of the facilities. You will be assigned a locker for the day and if it is your first visit to Sundara, they will explain the bathing ritual to you. After the tour, I returned to the locker room to begin my day of rest and relaxation. Separate women’s and men’s locker rooms have private showers and changing areas, complimentary bath products and an endless supply of thick, cushy towels.  From there, the ritual begins.

Step One: change into your bathing suit and step into the Purifying Bath Ritual area. This intimate, cathedral-like room leads you through the multi-step ritual. In the center is a large whirlpool bath. Shower enclosures and a steam room occupy the perimeter. Step Two is a warm rinse in one of the small shower alcoves where you polish your skin with exfoliating sand. Step Three, the steam room, to cleanse your pores and relax. Step Four, another rainfall shower to rinse clean. Step Five offers you a choice: a dip in a cool water pool or a hot water whirlpool. Whichever you choose, the idea is to alternate between them for the best effect.

If you plan to stay awake or care to nap, the Quiet Room and the outdoor pool area are next. In the Quiet Room you can enjoy complimentary coffee and juice along with fruits and trail mix while you doze or read while overlooking the pool just outside. The outdoor area is the perfect place to sun, swim and nap. The infinity edged pool appears to flow into an adjacent water feature. Small alcoves built into the pool offer locations for rest and quiet conversation. A large whirlpool is located on the pool deck. Completing the space is an outdoor bar serving lunch and snacks, and a gas firepit for evening gatherings.

Spa services are abundant. I opted for a massage. The service was excellent. From choosing your own scent for the oil, to the level of massage pressure, this was a blissful time of relaxation. After a full day of bathing, napping and massage it was time to go back to our room.

On this trip we stayed in a private villa. Our unit had over 900 square feet that included a high-end kitchen, separate sleeping room and an amazing vaulted spa room overlooking the Wild Rock golf course.

The kitchen featured stainless appliances, slate floors, cherry cabinets and granite counters complete with dishes and utensils. Next, a modern and spacious sleeping room. It was large and beautiful with curved wet bar, flat screen TV and the most comfortable feather bedding you could imagine.

French doors led to the best surprise yet, an even bigger room that resembled a modern day beach hut. This oasis had a barrel vaulted cedar ceiling with walls of windows in all directions. The highlight? A 2 person whirlpool with underwater mood lighting. For good measure, throw in a writing desk, bistro table and two cushy chairs with ottomans.

Sundara has set a new standard for Wisconsin Dells luxury accommodations and pampering. I can’t wait to return and in the mean time, I am thinking of keeping this gem as my own little secret.

Spy Review – Cleveland CG4 – Game Improvement Irons

The Cleveland CG4 Irons are definitely game improvement irons for the beginner golfer and the mid to high handicappers.

The clubheads have a progressive off-set, lower center of gravity and high moment of inertia which works well in getting the ball high and fast at impact.

The large head has a huge sweet spot, and the cavity back design and CMM (Carbon Matrix Material) should help reduce the vibration by absorbing the shock when you hit the ball.

Greg Hopkins, president and CEO of Cleveland Golf said, "These new CG4 irons will now give players of all abilities the same opportunity to enjoy the benefits experienced by our tour staff." He should know, with Cleveland being one of the top producers of golf clubs and accessories on the professional tour.


  • High moment of inertia – good elevation and speed at impact
  • Improved distance and feel for the player
  • True Temper shafts
  • Wider sole, larger sweet spot


  • Carbon metal mix (CCM) doesn’t absorb vibration for misaligned shots
  • Like many other brands, beware of knockoffs/fake

What players are saying about the Cleveland CG4 Irons

  •  “The feel of the head is buttery soft at impact, mushy with softer balls, harder balls improve distance.”
  • “I’m not seeing the distance benefits, possibly it’s the shaft not my correct fit.”
  • “I like the small club head, not clunky oversized.”
  • “These are fairly forgiving, make for a good swing.”
  • “Consistent, slightly longer, more game improvement than traditional blades.”
  • “Felt the vibration when I miss-hit, but the distance and direction of the ball doesn’t suffer
  • “I don’t hook the ball anymore. These are relatively easy to shoot.”
  • “My shots now seem laser guided with the CG4s.”
  • “They hit unbelievably soft even on most off-center hits. The feeling of a dead center hit is the best of any game improving iron. They hit straight if you want and, curve when you need it to.”
  • “I usually shoot mid 80's to mid 90's. These are 10+ yards longer than my present clubs.”
  • “I've been looking to upgrade my beginner set to a set that I can grow into as I get better…this is the best priced, best feeling, best forgiving and best distance all around irons.”


Complete previously owned sets can be found online from golf retailers like Golfsmith for $228 to eBay for $150 plus shipping.

Additional Features:

Head: Carbon Metal Matrix
Grip color: Standard Black
Shaft: Graphite or Steel
Dexterity: Right and Left Handed
Player type: Men
Shaft Flex: Regular or Stiff
Originally Retailed $799.99

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The following is an non-sponsored post from Jeff at FindTheBest.  To find out more about how to write a guest post for SpyGolfer send us a message via our contact page.

With Tiger dethroned from the clear number one spot, new up and coming golfers have been winning majors. While playing with a handicap and the occasional mulligan might not get you a shot to become the new number one, there’s no reason why you can’t beat your friends and colleagues on your local course.

Using the new golf course comparison tool from FindTheBest, players can find the perfect course for their skill level, location, and wallet. This golf course database contains over 10,000 courses which include every course in the US as well as some major international courses that can be sorted by course name, city, state, expert ranking, and several other options.

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