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Four Bridges Country Club – Course Review

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Four Bridges Country ClubFor some odd reason I try and avoid courses designed as a part of a housing development. Although many of these courses are nice, I prefer a more secluded and natural golfing experience. However, I never turn down the opportunity to play a new course! Unfortunately, I usually have a negative view of these types of courses, even before I play them. I understand why developers sell housing lots near the course; they are simply trying to recoup dollars spent on building the golf course, or for paying a top named architect ala Palmer, Nicklaus or Norman.  In this case, I think it was to pad the developer’s pockets and to create an affordable country club, mixed-use activity community for the residents and members.

Yesterday I played Four Bridges Country Club north of Cincinnati, Ohio. This course is approximately 6-7 years old and is the center piece of the Four Bridges housing development, an off shoot of the urban sprawl between Cincinnati and Dayton, Ohio.

I was actually pleasantly surprised by this course. As you may know, I played Pineneedles and Mid Pines last weekend, so any course I played after those two had it’s work cut out for itself. I really enjoyed the layout, the fairness and the conditions of this course. About the only things I would do away with, besides the condos and houses, were the sandy waste areas and speed up the greens a bit. Considering that this course was designed out of a piece of flat farmland, it was really fun. This course sports five sets of tees. There were two great risk reward, short par fours, some tough par threes, at least one reachable par five and a few long par fours where you really had to hit two long shots. The ninth and eighteenth holes were mirror images of each other. These holes are also bordered by a huge lake on one side. The green was a huge, extremely contoured “double green” that created the possibility of a wide variety of pin placements for both the ninth and eighteenth holes

 

If you have the chance, try and play Four Bridges Country Club.

The Four Bridges course was designed by Robert Cupp. Course specifics are as follows:

Medal Tees –                        7241  Slope 135 Rating 74.1
Championship Tees –         6792  Slope 130 Rating 72.0
Member Tees –                     6356  Slope 126 Rating 70.0
Intermediate Tees                 5886  Slope 123 Rating 68.0
Forward Tees –                      5122  Slope 117 Rating 69.3

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Open Championship courses you can play (and when the best time to book is)

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The final major of 2024 is nearly here as the top golfers head to Scotland’s southwestern coast to battle for the claret jug at Royal Troon. Golf’s original major dates all the way back to 1860 and has been played at 14 different courses throughout the United Kingdom (yes, this includes Northern Ireland) providing countless memories including celebrations, heartbreak, and unique moments that will never be forgotten (looking at you Jordan Spieth).

With The Open teeing off less than a week from now, we wanted to highlight some of The Open Championship’s finest links courses that should play when you make the journey to golf’s homeland:

Old Course at St. Andrews 

Do we even need to say anything else? The “Home of Golf”, host of 30 Open Championships, the most coveted tee time in the WORLD, there are a million reasons to have St. Andrews on your links golf bucket list. From the double greens, to the tee shot over the Old Course Hotel, to the walk up 18th fairway with the town buildings framing a picturesque scene (especially at dusk), every golfer should make the voyage to St Andrews at least once in their life.

Carnoustie 

Carnoustie – Championship Course

Roughly 25 miles north of St. Andrews lies the devious links of Carnoustie, often recognized by the large white Carnoustie Golf Hotel as the backdrop of the 18th green. While the course has only hosted The Open 8 times, it is considered to be one of the hardest layouts in The Open rota (just ask Jean Van de Velde) although not that long, playing just under 7000 yards from the tips. 

Muirfield 

Located right next to this week’s host of Scottish Open (The Renaissance Club), this fantastic links layout has hosted the prestigious Championship 16 times since 1892. The narrow fairways and penal rough requires precise shots off the tee while avoiding the devious pot bunkers is a must. The course is set away from the coastline so you won’t get the sweeping ocean views, but a round at Muirfield is one the premier tee times in all of Scotland (so make sure you book early – 12-18 months at least).

Royal Portrush 

A view of the new 572 yards par 5, seventh hole designed by Martin Ebert on the Dunluce Course at Royal Portrush Golf Club the host club for the 2019 Open Championship in Portrush, Northern Ireland. © 2018 Rob Durston

Our next stop brings us across the Irish Sea to the northern coast of Northern Ireland and the popular Royal Portrush. Having hosted The Open only twice in its illustrious history, Royal Portrush is a golfer’s dream with 36 holes of pure links golf set against a gorgeous backdrop of the ocean and cliffs. The Open Championship will return to Portrush in 2025 and YOU CAN BE THERE to watch it all in person! 

Royal Troon 

TROON – JULY 26: General view of the ‘Postage Stamp’ par 3, 8th hole taken during a photoshoot held on July 26, 2003 at the Royal Troon Golf Club, venue for the 2004 Open Championships, in Troon, Scotland. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)

The host of this year’s Open Championship, Royal Troon is home to one of the best par-3 holes in all of golf, “The Postage Stamp.” A downhill 125-yard tee shot to a minuscule green surrounded by bunkers on all sides makes it one of the more challenging holes. Another hole that adds to the challenge is the 601-yard par 5 that used to be the longest golf hole in Open Championship history. This year will be the 10th Open Championship held at Royal Troon, the first since 2016 when Mickelson and Stenson had a battle for the ages in the final round.

Royal Birkdale 

For the next course on the list, we have to head down to the northwest coast of England just outside of Liverpool. Consistently ranked in the Top 10 courses in all the UK, this 10-time host of The Open has hosted many other prestigious events such as Ryder Cups, Women’s Opens, and more! The course is laid out with fairways running through flat-bottomed valleys surrounded by high dunes which provide many blind shots throughout the course. The Open returns to Royal Birkdale in 2026 so it won’t be long before it is back in the spotlight.

Royal St. George’s 

For the final course on our list, we are staying in England, but heading across to the southeastern side of the country to Kent. Royal St. George’s is 4th on the list of most Open Championships hosted with 15 (1 behind Muirfield) the most recent being Collin Morikawa’s victory in 2021. RSG is the only active course on The Open rota in this part of the UK, but two former hosts (Prince’s and Royal Cinque Ports) are within 3 miles of the property. The expansive course is laid out with holes separated by dunes with heavy rough, undulating fairways, and deep pot bunkers to challenge your game. While it may not be mentioned in the discussions of St. Andrews, Carnoustie, and the like, Royal St. George’s is still a Championship layout that is worth the trip across the pond.


With these big-name courses in such high demand, it is important to note that if you want to play them, you need to start planning your trip early. Golfbreaks by PGA TOUR, the world’s #1 rated golf tour operator, suggests planning and booking your trip at least 12-18 months in advance in order to secure a tee time at the courses you want. The UK & Ireland specialists at Golfbreaks by PGA TOUR have the knowledge to help tailor the perfect golf trip for your group so you can play big-name courses and hidden gems you might not have heard of. If you’re ready to start planning your bucket list trip across the pond, make life easier and go with Golfbreaks by PGA TOUR.

Editor’s note: This article is presented in partnership with Golfbreaks. When you make a purchase through links in this article, GolfWRX may earn an affiliate commission.

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Ryder Cup 2025: Crossing to Bethpage – New York State Park golf, Part 1

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The 2025 Ryder Cup matches will be held over the sprawling, bruising, Long Island acreage known as Bethpage Black State Park Golf Course. The course has hosted multiple national championships, most recently the 2019 PGA Championship. In September 2025, Bethpage Black will welcome teams from the USA and Europe to contest the 45th Ryder Cup matches. Team Europe, the defending champions, will be led again by captain Luke Donald. The U.S. PGA has not yet announced the name of its leader, yet all sources and speculations point to a 15-time major champion and an eight-time participant in the biennial event.

Bethpage Black will join Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester (1995) as the second Empire State course to host the event. The Ryder Cup matches were played in the metropolitan New York area once before, in 1935 at the Ridgewood Club, in Paramus, New Jersey. It’s fair to say that metro NYC is due to host this world-stage, golf event. I can’t wait. The USA’s loss to Europe in 2023 adds to the considerable drama.

What makes Bethpage Black an outlier in the world of championship golf, is its mere existence. It’s a state park golf course, one of five on property, each with a colorful name. The Red, Green, Blue, and Yellow join big brother Black as outstanding tests of golf in Farmingdale. Of the five, only the Green was not originally built as a state course. The Lenox Hills Country Club, designed by Devereux Emmet, opened in 1923. By 1932, the club had closed and the land had become property of the state. Its birth date made the Green the oldest of the five courses. New York State began to build on a series of adjacent parcels, guided by the hands of Alber “A.W.” Tillinghast, Joseph Burbeck, and Alfred Tull. The Yellow course, built entirely by Tull, was the last of the five to open.

State park courses just don’t hold major championships. Private clubs and elite resorts are the typical sites that receive the nod from the world’s golf bodies. It’s a testament to the lovers of Bethpage, the New York state government, and the PGA of America (among others) that Bethpage is as good as it is, and that it continues to improve. It’s a fitting site for the 2025 Ryder Cup matches, but the 2025 Ryder Cup matches need a beginning to their story. I’ll do my best to provide it.

The quintet of courses near Bethpage, New York, is just the beginning of the New York state park golf course system. 19 parks in total offer golf from the tip of Long Island, to the shores of Lake Ontario, through the Catskill mountains, to my home town. I’m a Western New York guy. The Buffalo area has been my home for most of my 58 years on the golf ball known as Earth. I live two miles from the westernmost, state park golf course: Beaver Island. The Beav, as everyone calls it, was designed by William Harries. It opened the year I was born, which means that it is close to 60 years old! Unlike the Bethpage property, where topography is king, the Beav is a flat course, albeit full of enough interest to bring you back for more.

As I considered the magnitude of the state park system, I realized that golfers who frequent those 19 state parks can point to their home course and say, “You know, the Ryder Cup will be at a state park course next year.” I started to count on my fingers, the number of state park courses I had played: Beaver Island, Green Lakes (Syracuse), James Baird (Poughkeepsie), and the five at Bethpage, I realized that I had played eight of the 23 total courses, and had visited a mere four of the 19 parks.

Bethpage is the only, multi-course state park across the Empire State. Other venues range from pitch-and-putt, to nine-hole, to regulation 18-hole courses. The majority occupy nice tracts of land, and feature 18 holes of memorable, enjoyable golf. PGA Tour professionals Joey Sindelar and Mike Hulbert grew up on one of those courses, and Dottie Pepper spent a bit of time on another, near her hometown.

There will be many stories that trace the path to Bethpage and its 2025 Ryder Cup, and I look forward to reading and hearing them. This one is my own, and I’m proud (and a little frightened) to undertake it. I’ll visit each of the remaining parks over the next 16 months, and report in with images and words that tell the story of each park and its golf course.

The Ones I’ve Played

The Bethpage Five

As mentioned above, I’ve played eight of the 23 courses, but the majority of that number is owed to a 2011 pilgrimage to Long Island. The Black had just hosted its second US Open championship, and the ink for the 2019 PGA Championship was not yet printed. I spoke with a Bethpage caddy, in anticipation of the trek. I wrote a series of articles on the courses on my own site, BuffaloGolfer. Down the road of this, current series, I’ll discuss the most poignant piece that I connected with Bethpage. That’s a story for another time. After all, Bethpage is a five-course meal.

It’s safe to say the the Bethpage property is unlike any other, municipal, golfing space in the world (at least, those not named the Links Trust of St. Andrews!) The park encompasses nearly 1500 acres of wooded land and offers much beyond golf to its visitors. As pilgrimages go, Bethpage is it. For a New York state resident, on a weekend, it would cost a total of $257 dollars … to play all five courses. Even for those outside the state, the trip to Bethpage is worth consideration. Each course rambles over uneven, heaving land. Holes carry along falloffs and bend unexpectedly around corners. Greens are benched into hillsides and settled into valleys. All five courses remind you of the others, yet none of them says to you “You’ve played this course before.”

James Baird State Park 

One of the hats that I wear, is high school golf coach. Each spring, golfers from my team travel to Poughkeepsie to play the James Baird State Park golf course. Pronounced “Bard,” the course was opened in 1948, after a middle-aged, Robert Trent Jones, senior, put pen to paper to lay out the course. Jones was about to become a household name, as he would offer renovation advice to many of the country’s classic clubs. He was most famously associated with the Oakland Hills Country Club near Detroit, the host site of the 1951 US Open. You know, the one where Ben Hogan purportedly gasped “I’m glad I brought this course, this monster, to its knees.”

Trent didn’t leave a monster in Poughkeepsie. What he left was something that locals call Baby Bethpage. The James Baird course is blessed with topography similar to its five-course cousin, but it offered a challenge that Bethpage does not: a huge expanse of marsh across the belly of the property. There was not going over nor through it, so Jones simply went around it. He created something that he never, ever did: a short par three. Jones was a fan of the brutish, 200-yard plus, all-carry, par three hole. For the third hole at Baird, he had all of 120 yards, and it was downhill! Jones placed a green in the marsh, connected to the mainland by an earthen bridge. He then turned north for a time, then returned south, outside the marsh. Trent Jones had another stretch of tricky land to navigate, this time, on the inward half. He brought a trio of holes (pars 4-3-5) through a challenging corner of the property, before returning to the open meadow that hosts the majority of the layout.

James Baird is a tremendous golf course, one that prepares our high school competitors well for the next step: the state federation championship at, you guessed it, Bethpage Black. Six golfers move on to compete against other, high school divisions, at the big brother of them all.

Green Lakes

The Baird course came to life 13 years after Trent Jones opened his first, New York state parks course. Originally from Rochester, New York, Trent ventured 90 minutes east to Manlius, near Syracuse, in 1935, to lay out one of his first ten courses. RTJ was gifted the magnificent land that abuts the two glacial lakes in central New York. The lakes are meromictic, which we all know means that surface and bottom waters do not mix in the fall and spring, as happens with dimictic lakes.

Trent Jones placed his clubhouse and finishing greens (9 and 18) in an interesting portion of the property. The ninth hole is an uphill, par five that plays fifty yards longer than its measured distance. Once home to upper and lower greens, the lower has been expanded and enhanced, and the upper is now abandoned. On the other side of the clubhouse, the sneaky 18th moves out of a corridor of trees, into the open space beneath the clubhouse. It’s a bit reminiscent of the 18th at Bethpage’s Green course. It’s not a long hole, yet when you walk off with five or six on your card, you wonder where you went astray.

The front half of the course plays along a vast meadow, above Green Lake, the larger of the two, nautical bodies. The inward side forages among the tree above Round Lake, before finally emerging at the home hole. The apparent contrariety of the two nines is resolved through expansion of fairway corridors on the treed nine, and the constriction of playing paths with bunkers and doglegs, on the exposed side.

If you’re a walker, Green Lakes will make you a fit one. It will also demand all the clubs and shots that you can fit in your bag.

Beaver Island

“Tame” isn’t the proper term to describe Beaver Island, the state park course near my home. I believe that “calm” is a better term. It may seem ironic, given that the 1965 course occupies a tract of land at the southern tip of Grand Island, where the Niagara River splits east and west, before reuniting at the north end. When we think of the Niagara, we think of the mighty rapids and cascades near the brink and bottom of the falls. At the southern split of the river, however, you can throw a canoe in the water and have a paddle. Beaver Island knows that it is adjacent to the river, but you never get the sense that this golf course borders water. I’ve redesigned the park hundreds of times in my head, moving the golf course to the banks of the river, where the trails, beach, playground, and other amenities are currently found. In the end, not every great golf course can, nor should, be built.

William Harries trained under the famed competitor and architect, Walter Travis. Despite this exposure to the master, Harries went his own way with his golf courses. The most striking difference is in green construction. While Travis was extraordinarily creative and daring, Harries was the polar opposite. His greens are routinely flat and easy to navigate.

He designed a number in the western New York area, including Brookfield Country Club. Originally known as Meadow Brook, the club hosted the 1948 Western Open, won by the aforementioned, Ben Hogan. The majority of Harries’ work was in municipal courses, and he designed Sheridan Park for the town of Tonawanda. That course hosted the 1962 USGA Public Links championship.

On Grand Island, Harries traced his layout around three ponds. The massive, western one, comes into play on the second through fifth holes. The middle one plays games with the approach to the eighth green. The final one, on the inward side, forces golfers to carry their tee shot over water, to the 14th fairway. Beaver Island bears no resemblance to the topography of the other locales mentioned previously. There is no heaving, no tumbling, no turbulence, along its fairways. Beaver Island is more St. Andrews in its flattish presentation, which makes it an honest, what-you-see, sort of golf course. It’s an enjoyable walk in the park, a not-too-demanding one.

Part Two: south-central New York-Soaring Eagles, Chenango Valley, Indian Hills, and Bonavista

https://www.rydercup.com/ PGA of America Ryder Cup Trophy

Ryder Cup Trophy @ Bethpage – Photo courtesy of PGA of America

 

 

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The Scottsdale Experience, Part II: Boulders, Troon North, and Camelback

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It’s been four years since my last desert golf trip in Arizona. For an area so rich in good golf, that’s too long to wait for a return trip.

Our last visit to Scottsdale brought my family to the Fairmont Princess during the Christmas season. We just like to visit this time of year because everything is decorated for the holidays. While there, I was able to play at TPC Scottsdale, Grayhawk, and We Ko Pa–all stunning tracks for every handicap level.

For this trip, now four years removed, we wanted to experience two different types of Scottsdale resorts: The first two nights at Boulders Resort and Spa, about 30 minutes north of town, surrounded by (you guessed it) boulders and nature. For the second two nights, my wife wanted to be a bit closer to the city life so we picked the JW Marriott Camelback Inn, minutes from Old Town Scottsdale.

There are many differences between the two resorts, but both somehow maintained the vibe of being in the Valley.

BOULDERS RESORT AND SPA 

The Boulders Resort and Spa sprawls out across an enormous piece of property, which includes two award-winning, Jay Morrish-designed golf courses that both rank well as playable golf courses in the state. When you check in, they give you a map and a flashlight to help you navigate the grounds at night.  The rooms (or casitas) are villa-esque, complete with your own fireplace and wood to burn on cold nights. The place just smells like fresh air and chimineas.

 

The lodge itself is nestled beneath a small mountain with accessible hiking trails along both sides. Behind the main lobby sits a good-sized pool, which was heated when we visited and allowed for swimming in November. Temperatures this time of year are typically pretty chilly, especially for early morning golf, so to be able to swim in warm water was a nice treat.

The two courses are both on the property, making Boulders Resort a truly ‘never have to leave’ type of resort. There are also multiple restaurants on-site, including Bogey’s Bar near the pro shop and 18th greens for both courses. Boulders is home to about 400 golfing membership families but also remains open for public play as well. The members and public alternate courses each day, which apparently works great and keeps a high-season traffic light on both courses. I played the North Course but also walked the South to get a good feel for each.

View from clubhouse over 18 of South Course

Boulders Pro Shop

Number one tee- Boulders North

The North course tips out at 6,959 yards but can play as short as 4900 from the red tees. There are six tee box options in total, which helps on a desert course like this because between the frequently watered green grass come many different varieties of wasteland carries and sandy ravines. With options on tees and course length, many of the challenging shots can be added or taken out depending on skill level.

You can expect a lot of uneven lies at Boulders, as most of the fairways and playing surfaces undulate to blend right in with the surrounding mountains. Saguaro cacti are in every site line, but the predominant feature of both courses is the elephant-sized boulders on nearly every hole. Some appear to teter on their end, ready to roll down into the bunker where your ball is resting.

Of course, like most desert-style courses, errant shots are findable in the sandy soil, but not without risk of being pricked, poked, or bitten. My general rule is that if I can’t see it from the green grass, I’m better off not wandering too far out in search of what might be painful to find. Drop a ball and take my medicine. That proved to be true at Boulders as well. There are many thick areas just off the fairway where man should not be. And a better golfer than myself would only look in that direction to view the beauty of the Sonoran Desert.

Both courses do have a few splatters of water hazards here and there. Most folks I spoke to on the property noted that the South Course has a couple more breathtaking views and elevation changes than its counterpart North, but the North Course provides a wider array of shot-making options for the more serious golfer. I thought both courses were stunning to the eye, but it wouldn’t shock me if, had I played South, I found it a bit easier and more resort-style friendly.

      

Non-member tee times can be booked online or through the pro shop but if you are staying at the lodge, you’re more than likely going to get a better hotel rate to play. In November, which is almost peak season, mid-week greens fees range from around $100-$200 with dynamic pricing throughout the day. Both courses are incredibly walkable and a caddie or pushcart can be available upon request.

              

After my round, I took my son on a hike up the mountain above the lodge for some pretty stunning views of both courses. My wife escaped to the spa for a 90-minute hot stone massage, which was my way of saying thank you for another golf trip for the family. The least I could do. She said it was incredible and unlike any other massage she has ever had in her life. They even put hot stones between her toes, which I suppose feels good.

We wrapped up our stay at Boulders with a fantastic dinner at Palo Verde, located at the resort headquarters. We were able to sit outside under the stars with the help of a few closely placed heaters. With the golf, the restaurants, and the natural activities available, Boulders proved to be a wonderful spot to relax and get some swings in. If your partner is a fan of spa days and calm settings, this is the golf resort in Scottsdale to stay at. The food, drinks, and lodging are all upscale.  I would say it is a perfect couples’ getaway resort. We didn’t see any other kids so there may be better places to stay if you’re bringing the little ones along, though. With kids, I’d stay closer to town (see below) and head up to Boulders for a round of golf only.

Palo Verde dining room at Boulders

TROON NORTH

The next morning, I took an Uber just a few minutes away to the Troon North campus for a round at the Pinnacle Course. Troon North is home to two tracks, both designed by Tom Weiskopf and both immaculately maintained year round. The Pinnacle course is more links-style than its sister, the Monument Course, which is widely considered the signature course between the two.

The clubhouse is first class, with a well-stocked 2,200 square foot pro shop, and a legitimate locker room for public use. And the logo is fantastic.

Troon North offers a membership plan as well as public play, and daily fees are dynamicly priced. 

    

Pinnacle course plays over 7,000 yards from the back tees but provides seven different tee boxes allowing you to play the course as short as 4831 yards. Though more links style than Monument, the course still provides a very Sonoran desert feel and carries over thorny brush on nearly every hole.

Both courses were ranked in the “Top 10” best courses you can play in Arizona by Golfweek.

I thoroughly enjoyed my round at Troon North. The facility is about 35 minutes north of the Phoenix airport so it’s a bit closer to downtown Scottsdale than Boulders. It is also closely connected to the Four Seasons should you be looking to stay nearby.

The course felt pristine and special. You can tell the place pays attention to detail and takes great pride in the condition of the courses. The layout has some elevation changes so it may not be the easiest to walk. The routing never really brings you back to the clubhouse until the 18th hole, either, but there is a comfort station out there and beverage carts making the rounds.

     

The bunkering is fair and not very deep, but they are strategically placed right where you don’t want them to be. The par 71 has only one par 5 on the front nine but boasts a 609-yarder on the back that plays every bit as long as it reads. The par threes are scenic but lengthy as well, generally playing around 200 yards from the backs except for the short 140-yard 16th.

 

The fairways are bermuda grass and the greens are bent. Overseeding is done in the fall but the schedule is posted online to help avoid any unpleasant rounds. There are valley quail all over the course that walk in front of you on fairways and tee boxes like schools of fish.

The course is just so scenic and first-class. The mountains are in view the entire time and the course provides a wide array of options and shotmaking opportunities. I played early and alone and I genuinely enjoyed my time on the course. It was my favorite round of the trip.

The 18th green is huge and it blends into the practice green near the clubhouse, snaking around a giant rock to protect the practice green from shots gone long. It is a very unique site from both the clubhouse and the 18th hole but adds some character to the facility.

             

CAMELBACK INN RESORT AND GOLF 

The JW Marriott Camelback Inn is an incredible hotel. I am not really sure how else to describe it. Being there feels the way an in-city Scottsdale hotel is supposed to feel. You’re surrounded by Camelback mountain on one side and Mummy Mountain on the other. The adobe buildings feel like they have been there forever and yet are still perfectly maintained. There are sitting areas near fireplaces around every turn and the landscaping is quintessentially desert floral.

We heard from more than one person that the Camelback Inn is Mr. Marriott’s favorite hotel within his entire company and he spends one month there every year. That is saying something!

Our room was standard size but wonderfully located just a hundred yards or so away from the main lodge and restaurants. Between us was a green space with lawn activities for guests of all ages. There is a playground and putting green on site and several pools (some heated) for swimming year-round. And the views are just spectacular. To be only minutes away from Old Town while still being able to hike up multiple mountains of your choosing is one of the most special things about Scottsdale.

We ate breakfast, lunch, and dinner at Rita’s Cantina and Bar…simply because the menus change for each meal and the outside patio seating is so incredible. Hoppin’ Jacks at the pool is another dining option but the Lincoln Steakhouse and Bar is the upscale dinner spot…and the gem of the dining options.

The Camelback Golf Courses, Ambiente, and Padre, are not on site, but the resort provides you with a free shuttle service for your tee time. The ride is only about five minutes and they start at 7:00 am.

The clubhouse is large with a spacious golf shop. The Camelback logo, while a bit cartoony, is pretty fantastic in a 1960s Bob Hope Classic kind of way.

I played the Ambiente course, which I was told has a bit more character than the Padre. Ambiente goes straight out for 3 miles, following along a gulch on your right the whole way, and then turns around and comes right back to the clubhouse for the back nine. If you are walking, make sure you’re in it for an entire 18-hole round. There’s no stopping after nine if you are on foot and three miles away from the clubhouse.

These courses are more parkland than desert. That’s especially true of the Padre course. But even Ambiente, which translates to ‘environment,’ is not very ‘deserty’ in comparison to Troon North or Boulders. There are a lot more grassy rough areas off the fairway and very little cactus. The gulch, which is seen on nearly every hole, feels more native and marshy than anything I saw in my previous rounds. It’s a gorgeous course, but not what you imagine when you think of Scottsdale golf.

The course itself, with its unique straight-out, straight-back routing, lengthens out to 7,225 yards from the tips and 5,538 from the forward tees. The par 72 Jason Straka design is not an easy course. Many of the holes require precision tee shots and a bit of course knowledge doesn’t hurt as the driver is not always proper. The par threes play long, with the shortest being 185 from the back tees. The 8th hole can stretch back to 241 yards and then number 15 goes even longer to 245. Of course, you don’t have to hit back there unless you’re a glutton for punishment.

    

The bunkering is deep in certain areas, which you realize as early as the greenside on the first hole. Playing this course after the other desert layouts I have played made me wonder if this is the true ‘nature’ of the area and perhaps the other desert courses are a bit more…manufactured. Ambiente feels native. I think I enjoy the other desert style aesthetics of the other courses more, but from a pure golf perspective, Ambiente at Camelback is a real deal course.

  

SCOTTSDALE LIFE

The beauty of Scottsdale as a golf destination is that no matter which courses or resorts you decide to enjoy, you are still always within 30 minutes of a fantastic city center, with great shops and world-class restaurants. Old Town is only one little pocket of what Scottsdale has to offer, but because of the neat stores for our kiddo and walkability, we spent most of our time away from the resort here.

Like any great city, anyone who has visited will be able to give you a list of their favorite places to play, shop, and eat.  For us, we loved going to Popstroke, the Tiger Woods-designed miniature golf course, as well as Mavrix for bowling and laser tag. When you’ve got a five-year-old, you do what makes him happy too. We also went to Isabella’s Kitchen for lunch on one of our days, which overlooks the McDowell Mountains and Grayhawk Golf Course. The food is always delicious and it’s a really fun location for the kiddo to run around while mom and dad can have a margarita.

We went to The Montauk in Old Town for our only dinner outside of the resort and it did not disappoint. It’s a really neat atmosphere and the menu was a mix between The Hamptons and Southwest tastings. They had live music and friendly staff. It doesn’t get much better.

And if you find yourself out and about for breakfast, you need to stop in at the Daily Dose for some Cinamon Roll Pancakes or Breakfast Nachos. We made a quick stop here on our way to the airport and didn’t need to eat for the rest of the day!

Having been traveling for golf for some time now, people always ask my opinion on my favorite courses or favorite city to go to for a golf trip. My answer always starts with “It depends on who you are going with…”

If you are heading out for a golf trip with your family, I don’t think you can pick a better city than Scottsdale. The travel itself (airport, rental car, etc..) is always a breeze. The resort options (and spas) are plentiful and offer a variety of different setups for couples or kid-friendly atmospheres. And there are hundreds of golf courses to choose from. All the while, Scottsdale has one of the best restaurant and entertainment scenes in the United States.

I’m sure I will keep getting the question. But if you are thinking of a golf trip with the family, the answer is Scottsdale.

If you want help planning your next golf experience or just have any questions about some of mine, reach out to me on Twitter or Instagram and shoot me a message. And feel free to check out my other golf experience articles. I look forward to hearing from you!

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