By Tom Mackin | Photo courtesy of JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa
Mark Twain is alleged to have famously described golf as a “good walk spoiled.” Whether he actually said that is up for debate, but what’s not is the fact that golf can greatly enhance a meeting venue. Nowhere is that more true than in Arizona, where not only is there a plethora of superb meeting venues, but also many that come with memorable golf courses as well.
JW MARRIOTT PHOENIX DESERT RIDGE RESORT & SPA (PICTURED)
An $8 million dollar renovation in 2018 has made Arizona’s second largest luxury resort better than ever. The changes included new pool suites, a fresh poolside retreat with its own concierge, 12 private cabana cottages and an expanded fitness center with a new movement studio and yoga lawn. There are also 12 new pickleball courts. What hasn’t changed is the 240,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting space, plus six dining experiences, the 28,000-square-foot Revive Spa and five pools. The resort even has three beehives that produce up to 36 gallons of honey annually—and “Bee Breaks” are available for small, executive VIP groups.
GOLF TO KNOW: The LPGA’s Bank of Hope Founders Cup, which pays tribute to the women who organized the LPGA Tour in 1950, is played in March at the resort’s Wildfire Golf Club. The world’s best female golfers take on a layout featuring nine holes each from the Nick Faldo and Arnold Palmer-designed courses on property. marriott.com
GREATER PHOENIX/ SCOTTSDALE AREA
BOULDERS RESORT & SPA
Interested in taking your next meeting outdoors? The Boulders combines a beautiful desert setting with a varied roster of team- building options that take place throughout the 1,300-acre property. There’s a one-hour nature and wildlife tour, archery classes, outdoor sunrise/sunset yoga classes and boot camps, moonlight bicycling, hot air balloon rides and even a horseback-riding, singing cowboy who can share tales of the historic Old West. The Boulders Golf Academy offers numerous group instruction programs, like Night Glow Golf and Dine & Dash. The latter enables guests to enjoy an epicurean journey around the courses via a golf cart.
GOLF TO KNOW: You’ve never seen rocks like the ones at The Boulders. Ancient and massive boulders are found throughout both the North and South Courses. Be sure to check out the “Boulder Pile” at the tee box on the signature fifth hole and “Rosie’s Rock” on the seventh hole, both on the South Course. theboulders.com
FAIRMONT SCOTTSDALE PRINCESS
The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess basks in the glow of the PGA Tour’s annual winter visit to the adjacent TPC Scottsdale Stadium Course. For meetings, the main draw is the Palomino Ballroom and Conference Center, which offers 55,000 square feet of meeting space. The 65- acre resort also offers six pools (including Sunset Beach, complete with white sand), four restaurants (chef Richard Sandoval’s La Hacienda was deftly renovated in 2018) and the Well & Being Spa.
GOLF TO KNOW: Everyone likes to play where the pros play, and you can do
just that at the TPC Scottsdale Stadium Course adjacent to the resort. (The resort also has an entrance gate to TPC at the 5th tee box.) The venue has hosted the PGA TOUR each winter since 1987, and the par-3 16th hole, encircled by 20,000 fans during the tournament, is world famous. Don’t overlook its sibling course, called The Champions, right across the street, for another fun golf option.
FOUR SEASONS RESORT SCOTTSDALE AT TROON NORTH
Situated in the scenic foothills of Pinnacle Peak, Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North resort completed a renovation of its 210 guestrooms, including 22 suites, as well as its pool, lobby and lounge, late last year. Also new is the resort’s signature restaurant Talavera, which reopened last May as a contemporary Spanish steakhouse. There is 35,920 square feet of flexible indoor and outdoor function space, providing spectacular venues for creatively themed events with up to 430 guests.
GOLF TO KNOW: The acclaimed courses at nearby Troon North Golf Club—the Pinnacle and the Monument—have both undergone renovation work over the past two years. Both are good enough to be among the highest-rated, non-private courses in Arizona. fourseasons.com/scottsdale
JW MARRIOTT CAMELBACK INN RESORT & SPA
This Paradise Valley resort opened a new 15,000-square-foot Paradise Ballroom last year, bringing the award-winning resort’s total meeting and event space to 127,000 square feet. The $16.5 million venue is one of only six ballrooms in the United States with folding nano doors and windows, plus adjustable walls that create up to eight separate meeting rooms with room for 80 to 950 guests at a sit-down dinner, and up to 1,500 guests for receptions.
GOLF TO KNOW: There are two 18-hole courses—Padre and Ambiente—at Camelback Golf Club (a 10-minute drive northeast of the resort itself) but Ambiente is the clear star. Renovated in 2013, the layout is known for tough green complexes. marriott.com
Mountain Shadows in Paradise Valley offers 15,000 square feet of indoor space featuring floor-to-ceiling glass windows/doors in virtually all rooms with views of Camelback Mountain. There’s also 25,000 square feet of scenic outdoor space, accommodating events for up to 500 people. Event options include outdoor group yoga sessions, evening glow golf on the Short Course, cooking demos with Chef Charles Wiley at Hearth ’61, cocktail mixology lessons and a sunset champagne sabering display.
GOLF TO KNOW: The 18-hole, par-3 Short Course at Mountain Shadows is unlike any other in the Southwest. These are legitimate and fun par 3s, ranging in distance from 75 to 193 yards, with challenging greens. There’s even hole 17.5, a par-2 that requires putters only. moutainshadows.com
A multi-year and multi-million dollar renovation process, one that involved virtually every part of The Phoenician, is now complete at this iconic resort, which celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2018. The project included a redesign of all accommodations, four new dining options (The Marketplace, Kalio Kabobery, Mowry & Cotton and The Phoenician Tavern), a new three-story spa and a new athletic club. The 45,000-square-foot Camelback Ballroom Complex, which has a veranda and can be divided into seven distinct meeting areas, bolsters an existing 64,000 square feet of indoor meeting space at this AAA Five Diamond luxury resort.
GOLF TO KNOW: The Phoenician unveiled a revamped golf course last November when an existing 27-hole layout was transformed into a very playable 18 holes, complete with some memorable views of the Phoenix skyline. Architect Phil Smith, in his first solo effort after working with Jack Nicklaus and Tom Weiskopf for many years, oversaw the project. thephoenician.com
SHERATON GRAND AT WILD HORSE PASS
It’s hard to beat the Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass when it comes to location. Just a short drive south of Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, the resort blends the heritage and culture of the Gila River Indian Community with contemporary amenities, including Kai, the only AAA Five Diamond/Forbes Five Star restaurant in Arizona. There’s 100,000 square feet of indoor conference space plus the Aji Spa, horseback riding and even a High Performance Driving Course nearby.
GOLF TO KNOW: How good are the Cattail and Devil’s Claw courses at Whirlwind Golf Club? They have hosted the Final Stage of the Web.com Qualifying School for the past two years. Mountain views from both courses can be very distracting—in a good way. wildhorsepass.com
WE-KO-PA RESORT & CONFERENCE CENTER
We-Ko-Pa’s scenic location is only minutes northeast of downtown Phoenix. Views of the Red Mountains and Sonoran Desert pair up well with the 25,000-square-foot Wassaja Conference Center, which can host up to 2,000 guests at a time. Outdoor activities include Jeep rides through the surrounding desert, horseback riding and kayaking on the Salt River, or, try your luck indoors at the Fort McDowell Casino.
GOLF TO KNOW: The adjacent We-Ko-Pa Golf Club has two award-winning courses, the Saguaro and Cholla, that offer a pure golf experience. No homes line the fairways, and mountain views are a constant throughout. Both layouts are very, very good: Saguaro was ranked No. 1 on Golfweek’s 2018 “Best Courses You Can Play” in Arizona, while Cholla ranked No. 10. wekoparesortand conferencecenter.com
HILTON SEDONA RESORT AT BELL ROCK
At almost 5,000 feet above sea level, the Hilton features over 20,000 square feet of meeting space, two ballrooms, two outdoor patios and six conference suites. Activities here are as endless as the views: shopping, themed dinners, hiking, horseback riding, hot air balloon rides, night sky stargazing, a Verde Valley Railway Tour, wine tours and ATV adventures. The resort is also home to the Sedona Athletic Club & Eforea Spa.
GOLF TO KNOW: Natural beauty is all around the Sedona Golf Resort, but most notably on the iconic par 3 10th hole, which features a dazzling backdrop provided by Sedona’s famous Red Rocks. hiltonsedonaresort.com
CASINO DEL SOL
It’s no roll of the dice to hold your next meeting at the Casino Del Sol, just west of downtown Tucson. An 18,000-square-foot Grand Ballroom can accommodate corporate events from 30 to almost 1,900 guests, and a 7,125-square-foot pre-function space is an ideal spot for receptions and breaks. There’s also more than 100,000 square feet of flexible indoor/outdoor space that includes a conference center terrace, pool deck and gazebo. The PY Steakhouse is a multiple Forbes Four-Star and Wine Spectator winner, while headliner acts entertain outdoors at both the AVA Amphitheater and indoor Event Center.
GOLF TO KNOW: The adjacent golf course is named Sewailo, which means “land where flowers grow.” The course—home to the men’s and women’s golf teams at the University of Arizona—has hosted both U.S. Open qualifying tournaments and the Pac-12 Women’s Golf Championship. casinodelsol.com
JW MARRIOTT TUCSON STARR PASS RESORT & SPA
In addition to 14 event rooms, 26 breakout rooms and 80,768 square feet of event space, the JW Marriott Tucson Starr Pass Resort & Spa also offers guided meditation and yoga sessions to begin or end meetings, guided sunset/sunrise hikes, a tea sommelier, tequila infusion classes and a cocktail team-building event at the historic Mission Garden west of downtown Tucson.
GOLF TO KNOW: The facility (which hosted a PGA TOUR event in the early 1990s) offers 27 holes—the Coyote, Rattler and Roadrunner nines—designed by Arnold Palmer. This is challenging, desert target-style golf, so bring some extra golf balls. marriott.com
LOEWS VENTANA CANYON RESORT
Loews Ventana Canyon Resort, a 398-room resort located just north of downtown Tucson, features over 37,000 square feet of flexible function space, with 25 meeting and banquet rooms. The latter includes the 10,800-square foot Kiva Ballroom and the 8,875-square foot Grand Ballroom.
GOLF TO KNOW: Golf course architect Tom Fazio, perhaps best known for his work at Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia and Shadow Creek in Las Vegas, designed two 18-hole courses at The Lodge at Ventana Golf Club. The Mountain Course features the iconic third hole, a 107-yard par 3 with a backdrop of the towering Santa Catalina Mountains. The Canyon Course is no slouch either; both layouts feature challenging greens. thelodgeatventanacanyon.com
Scottsdale resident Tom Mackin is a former senior editor at GOLF Magazine and a frequent contributor to AZ Golf Insider Magazine, PHOENIX Magazine’s Waste Management Phoenix Open Field Guide, and other regional, national and international golf media outlets.