It's a little hard to fathom that a mere 48 hours ago I was experiencing 80 degrees warmer weather than it is outside right now in Minnesota. What is even harder to believe is that when I arrived in Arizona a week ago it was less than 10 degrees warmer than when I left the Twin Cities!! My Arizona Adventure got off to a VERY cold start, but that didn't stop me from having a great 6 days in the Phoenix area.
My mini-vacation started by arriving in Phoenix, Arizona last Wednesday around noon. The pilot advised us that the winds were gusty but he failed to mention that we were about to experience Phoenix's lowest high temperature in its history on that day! High Temp? 34.
The guy told me that people were still heading over to the course and there was a chance I might see some players practicing...so not having anything else planned, I got on the bus. There were people around in the sky boxes and corporate tents, but not a player to be found. I wandered through the merchandise tent, bought a few things, and then headed back to the parking lot to catch a bus. Bummer!
I was staying about 30 miles northwest of Phoenix for my first 2 nights and my itinerary included at least 18 holes of golf for Thursday. The weather didn't improve much from Wednesday but I was determined to play! The Desert Springs course at Sun City Grand had plenty of openings in the afternoon so I headed out as a single around 3pm. I had played here several years ago and it brought back some great memories. The course was in good condition and the greens were very nice. Overall, for around $40 for 18-holes and a cart (no GPS) I got my money's worth.
I ran into some other players as I was just starting the back nine and was slowed to a crawl as they never let me play through - by the 17th the sun was going down and I could barely feel my hands...but I was not quitting! I had a respectable 79 with my first 2 birdies of 2011. (By the way, Sun City Grand is my dream life...people drive golf carts to the grocery store!)
Friday was WM Open Day for me. But with the continuous frost delays, and enjoying catching up with my friend's Mom, I didn't leave for the tournament until around 11am. The lot was pretty full by the time I got there and the line to catch a bus had about 300 people in it! I eventually made it to the course and I was determined to experience the 16th hole. I stopped along the 18th fairway when I saw Tim Herron (MN guy!) and Jamie Lovemark hitting, but after Lumpy missed the green I decided to keep going towards 16.
There was quite a line to get into the 16th...I think I waited about 15 minutes and finally they let a whole group of people in...since I was solo, I was able to find a single seat on the right side (not really close to the green) but it was great anyway. There was a constant buzz and chatter and I soon realized that the gallery was betting on everything! It took me a minute to figure out there was a whole group betting on which caddie would touch the green first - obviously the caddies knew because Jerry Kelly's caddie made a mad dash to the green and the crowd went crazy (a few other caddies did, too). Then there was which caddie would touch the flag first, how many balls would hit the green, who would go in the bunkers, over/under total score and I'm sure more things. I think I might have had more fun watching the betting guys in front of me than watching some of the shots! The "wave" was started countless times but never made it past the sky boxes. Several players threw balls into the bleachers, and the fans really did "boo" when there was a bad shot. I loved it!
Because of the frost delays, the first groups I saw were still finishing their first rounds...then they started the Friday round and we ended up seeing the very same groups again! It was neat to see Dustin, AK, Rocco, and Tommy Gainey, but I never got to see Phil, Tom Lehman, Davis Love or Freddie Couples. DANG!
Before I knew it, it was 5:30...it didn't look like we were going to get any new players to see, so I decided to head out...apparently about 10,000 other people decided to leave at the same time. The line for the bus was huge...but eventually we got there. As they flagged us out, I could see the road I wanted to get on, but had no idea how to get there! (next time I will get a GPS!) But eventually I found my way and then headed to my hotel.
On Saturday I was headed to a concert, but I had time to golf in the morning...so when I got to the hotel Friday night I hit http://www.golfnow.com/ to see if I could find any golf deals. Greens fees ranged from $29 to $229...yikes! This girl was on a pretty tight budget, so I was hoping not to have to spend more than $70 for any round...I knew this meant I wouldn't be playing Talking Stick, but I hoped to find something. I ended up choosing The Duke, about 25 miles south of Phoenix...I got a round for $39 which was about a 60% discount (I love a sale!). My 8:44 tee time was delayed about 45 minutes due to frost, but a group cancelled so we got off about 9am. I was paired up with Omar, Colin, and Loren...Omar was from Chandler, AZ and hated the cold...Colin was a transplant from Canada and Loren was visiting from Alberta CA...the course was real nice and again the greens were in good condition - several had some nasty slopes in them and position golf was important!
The course was pretty wide open but had its share of bunkers and desert areas...and a little water. Had a couple penalty shots on the front and turned a 42, but came on strong on the back and kept my 70's streak alive with a 37 to finish with another 79. I loved it when Omar and I both birdied the same hole..he gave me the fist bump!
The Amy Grant & Michael W Smith concert I attended Saturday night was awesome!! Okay, that has nothing to do with golf, but I should note that they are both golfers! And Amy Grant is married to Vince Gill who is a close to scratch player himself.
Sunday was golf day since it was my last full day in AZ...I really needed to get out by 9am in order to get in 36 for the day. Deals during prime time were harder to come by, so I ended up choosing the Arizona Grand Resort course for $49 for golf, cart, and GPS. This time I was paired up with a mother and daughter...Marti and Amy...they were a total blast to golf with! We had all looked at the score card and decided that the women's tees were just a little too short (4600 yards) - the whites were 5400 so we decided to all play those. The starter yelled at us as we drove back to the whites and he even came over to tell us where the "ladies tees" were, so he was a little surprised to find out we planned to play the whites. THANKFULLY we all hit great drives (or so I thought I did!) up and over a big hill in front of us. Unfortunately for me, I didn't realize there was water to the right and my ball ended up wet. But I managed to save bogey so I was happy.
This course had quite a bit of water and some really narrow fairways! I liked it, but poor Marti must have lost at least a half a dozen Pro-Vs (it broke my heart!). I had a few blow up holes, but was still able to card a few birdies. I think I'd like to play the course again just make up for some poor choices along the way.
Since the course was so close to my hotel I headed back there to see if I could find another deal for the afternoon - tee times were a little sparse, but I found 18 holes and a cart for $19 (woo hoo!) at the Foothills Golf Club - it was about 10 miles from me so I headed out for my 3:15 tee time...one wrong turn later and I'm probably going to be late - thankfully they were wide open so I got to play as a single. This was similar in style to the Duke, but it was surrounded by houses all around the course. The fairways were wide but the bunkers were really deep!! My belief is, if you can't climb in and out of a bunker easily, it's too deep!
I cruised around the front in about an hour and was heading to the 10th when I saw a cart with 2 guys coming off the 18th green....they drove up to the 10th tee right in front of me. As I pulled up right behind them one guy got out and said, Oh, we'll be right out of your way...instantly irritated, I said, "were you in front of me this whole time?" The guy almost choked! He said no, but that they were "fighting daylight" so they were just going to go...I responded, "so am I"...the other guy offered that we just play together...so being "Minnesota nice" I said sure. I outdrove them both, hit my second just in front of the green, and then waited for them to hit their 3rd shots from about 50 yards out....since I was already at my ball waiting, one of them told me just to hit so I snuggled it up to about 2ft. The other guy then suggested that it might be best for all of us if I just went ahead...I couldn't agree more!! I never saw them again. Why do some golfers have to be such dorks?
The rest of the round was nice - I caught up to a couple and I could tell the lady was a newer golfer. Since it was so nice out I decided not to push...I hit 2 or 3 balls on every hole and putted a little extra just to keep pace. Needless to say I didn't have a legit score on this round but I hit some good shots here and there. I really didn't want the day to end! Overall, the Foothills was a decent course, but normally I think it costs $70-90 to play...which I thought was a bit much...oh and they charge you $3 for GPS.
So even though I didn't play any of the signature courses out there, I loved each of my golf rounds and I loved getting the deals, too!! It looks like you can get even better deals if you are there during the week instead of a weekend, too.
Monday was going home day and I didn't have time to play before I had to leave so I just watched part of the finishing holes of the WM Open...I got to the first playoff hole before I had to head out...but I hear Mark Wilson won! I was cutting it close to get to the airport after under estimating how long it would take to return my rental car, but I made it!
As I was waiting by my gate, I swore I saw Bill Haas in the line at Wendy's (Terminal 3!) - I'm pretty sure I was staring, and by the time I got up the courage to dig out my pairings sheet and ask him for his autograph, he was gone! If it was him, I sure hope he enjoyed his Frosty!
As I was waiting to get off the plane in MSP, I counted over 60 golf bags being stacked up from our flight, so I wasn't the only sad one coming home.
As I left Phoenix it was 72 degrees...as I pulled in my garage 11 hours later, it was -12. Now there is a reality check! I was thrilled to play golf, to watch golf, and to wear my new Callaway golf shoes (thanks to my friends at http://www.kerplookee.com/!). And I did get to wear shorts one day...woo hoo! I was grateful for the great hospitality, for friendly and fun golf partners, for a nice hotel, for new friends, and for a smooth flight out and back. Here's hoping for another golf adventure some time soon!
Filed under: Cathy Erickson, vacation, Waste Management Open, Arizona