As I was driving toward my motel in the Phoenix area last night, I think it was fitting that I drove right past the University of Phoenix stadium–where so many big “kickoffs” have happened in recent years (Super Bowls, Fiesta Bowls, etc.). After all I was kicking off my own trip.
I hit the road right after work last night. I was able to avoid any major traffic jams as I made my way east. Some slow spots as expected, but not bad. So I was able to get to my destination by about 10:30 pm, which was nice.
NIGHT ONE: 369.2 miles
Fortunately, today featured much less driving. In fact, today should be the day with the least amount of driving on this entire trip. I purposely made the first few legs a little less grueling, so I could ease into it. By the middle and end, though, it will get tougher.
Anyway, onto day 2, which was chock full of golf action. To “kickoff” this Golf Nomad tour was a visit to Troon North in Scottsdale. Both of these courses are always highly regarded and the Pinnacle Course is generally one of the top-ranked public courses in the entire state of Arizona. So needless to say, I had to check it out for myself.
I got over there around 6:30 am. My time was 7:15. With two courses to manage, the staff was very organized and everything seemed to go pretty smoothly. They were getting all the groups off on time despite a general feeling of chaos around the starter’s area.
The course was excellent and definitely lived up to the hype. It was a really fun layout with a ton of beautiful desert scenery. Saguaro cacti are peppered throughout the course. There are a bunch of big boulders framing a number of holes. Desert wildlife was everywhere, especially quail. Saw a few roadrunners and lots of lizards, including one pretty big one that was about 2.5 feet long and multi-colored. Pretty cool, but I didn’t get a picture.
Troon North is a top-notch desert complex. I haven’t played much out in this area, so I don’t have much to directly compare it to. I was impressed overall with the quality of the course. Overall, I found the fairways to be pretty forgiving (at least at my driving distances). I was putting extremely well this morning, so I really liked the roll of the greens. Just had a good feel out there today!
The course was in pretty nice shape. Fairways were pretty lush. A few bare spots here and there and a few soggy spots from a lot of overnight watering. Rough was cut pretty tight, so it really didn’t penalize you much. The greens were pretty firm and it wasn’t easy to hold shots. They rolled a bit slower than I might expect, but it worked out for me so I can’t complain.
Pace was great. After the first couple of holes, our group didn’t see the guys in front of us at all and the guys behind us weren’t pressing us either. The round was still about 4.5 hours, but it was a nice relaxed pace all morning.
Great course. Touchdown #1 today!
Some pictures from Troon North (Pinnacle):
The plan for today was to stay in Flagstaff, which is just a couple of hours north of Scottsdale. I did that because I was really hoping to squeeze in an extra “bonus” round. I could have played the other Troon North course or gone over to TPC Scottsdale where the PGA’s Waste Management event is held every year. But I had another destination in mind: Sedona.
If I was going to play twice in Arizona, I wanted to play something a bit different than the Phoenix/Scottsdale style course. A couple of weeks ago, I was reading some reviews on Greenskeeper.org about courses in the Flagstaff/Sedona area. One that really caught my attention was Seven Canyons in Sedona. I read some really positive reviews. I looked at their website and saw some spectacular pictures. I was very much intrigued. So much so that I even considered making this my “one” AZ course for the trip. Instead I decided I would try to play 36 today.
I had lunch at The Good Egg somewhere along the I-17. Had a great southwest grilled turkey sandwich with green chiles. Delicious. I should note that when I take my big Nomad trips, I like trying new places. Either local restaurants in the areas I’m visiting or chains that can’t be found where I live in SoCal. So I will report on some of the places I’m eating at along the way.
I called ahead to Seven Canyons since I did not have a tee time set. The girl there made it sound like they were really crowded and wouldn’t be able to get me out until after 4:00. Either way, they said “come on out and we should be able to get you out on the course.”
I took my timing driving into Sedona, stopping at a couple of the obligatory vista points for some pictures…
It was slow driving through the roads of Sedona and then getting to Seven Canyons is even further off the beaten path. It’s pretty far out there! It’s a gated community, so I checked in at the guard gate and he let me in without much hassle. Then it gets interesting at Seven Canyons. I got to the golf course parking lot and it was pretty empty. Driving in, I passed a few holes and didn’t see hardly anybody out there, so I was wondering why they made it seem so difficult when I called.
The check-in process at Seven Canyons is something else. By the parking lot, the bag boys are there waiting and get you on a cart. Then they have you drive your cart down to the clubhouse, which is about a mile away on a long and winding path all around the complex. The practice area is over by the clubhouse. Then, you check in at the clubhouse and they send you out to the first tee, which is back over by the parking lot! Anyway, the let me head out right to the first tee. Another single had checked in around the same time as me, so we joined up and played the round together.
Funny thing is he happened to tell me he was from Kansas City, where I will ultimately be heading on this trip. I’ve also been having a hell of a time deciding on which courses to play out there (one on Missouri side and one on Kansas side). So he gave me a bunch of good feedback and ideas, so that will help as I get closer to KC and solidify that part of the trip.
Despite the crazy start at Seven Canyons, the rest was pure bliss. This is easily one of the most scenic courses (if not the most scenic) I’ve ever played. Every hole was filled with photo opportunities. The course is set in a valley with different red rock formations framing the course in every direction. So whichever way you looked, you saw something spectacular in the background.
The course itself is a fun design. Good mix of long and short holes. Some funky hole designs. There are a number of blind shots and angles that look super tight, but it’s more forgiving than it looks. I really enjoyed it out there, even though I was more preoccupied with getting pictures half the time instead of focusing on my play.
The course was in solid shape. Fairways nice and fluffy for the most part. Rough a bit deep, but not horrible. Greens firm and medium speed. A lot of hidden breaks on the greens that were fooling me all afternoon. I was in way more sand traps than I would have cared to be, and overall they were pretty thin and crunchy.
As far as the course design and conditions go, this is a really nice course. Not spectacular in these terms, but nice. However, when it comes to the scenery, it is truly something special. When you are there, you don’t care about the little things. I was pretty euphoric all afternoon out here. Maybe it’s the magical Sedona vortexes at work, but it was an incredible experience out there. Truly beautiful setting for golf, so I highly recommend it. If you are in the area, it’s a must-stop!
Some pictures from Seven Canyons:
On the way out of town, I had some pretty good Mexican food at Angel’s in Sedona. And after I checked in here in Flagstaff, AZ, I walked across the street for some dessert–a frozen custard sundae at Freddy’s!
DAY 2: 205.2 Miles
I’ll be heading off toward New Mexico early tomorrow morning.
Next Day: Black Mesa (NM)