Billed as “the greatest show on grass” the WMPO is truly a unique tournament for both the players and spectators alike. Construction of the stands and other venues at TPC Scottsdale’s stadium course start nearly four months in advance. I can vouch for this timeline as I’ve played the course in late October and construction crews had more than begun work, with workers out on a Saturday, assembling the grandstand. It takes construction crews months of ‘round-the-clock’ work to build the “city” at TPC Scottsdale for this one-of-a-kind tournament.
“The People’s Open”—as it is affectionately known—was named the Tournament of the Year by the PGA TOUR in 2019, an honor it has received four times in the last six years (2014, 2015, 2018, 2019) helping the tournament gain legendary status for being perhaps the most lively, if not rowdy event in golf. The most popular spot on the Stadium Course is the 16th hole, a par 3 that, during the tournament, is the only fully enclosed hole on the PGA tour. A 20,000-seat grandstand plays host to fans who typically respond to great—and bad—shots alike with raucous excitement.
The 2020 edition marked the 85th playing of the event (one of the five oldest events on the PGA TOUR) and the 11th as the Waste Management Phoenix Open.
While the WMPO is certainly a treat for golf enthusiasts, a weekend in Scottsdale itself is no consolation prize. There are numerous reasons to visit this part of Arizona in January, February or March—weather being the focal point of course. Nearly 314 days of sunshine per year and some of the warmest year-round temps in the U.S. make this a top desert destination for 8.9 million visitors per year. 51 area golf courses, diverse shopping hotspots, and engaging arts and culture attractions elevate Scottsdale to the top of the must-visit list for anyone in search of warmer weather.
Known as the jewel of the Sonoran Desert, Scottsdale is located on the eastern edge of Phoenix, Arizona, surrounded by sun-drenched mountains and dotted with brightly colored cacti that radiates its natural beauty. The city’s warm climate will come as no surprise, but its desert location might mean you don’t expect to also find world-class food, art, architecture and golf courses that have earned Scottsdale its “Beverly Hills of the Southwest” reputation.
Here’s a quick cheat sheet of where to “Stay, Play and Eat Gourmet” in Socttsdale, AZ.
Where to Stay:
The Phoenician Resort and Spa
Since 1988, Scottsdale’s The Phoenician Resort has been a vast oasis in the desert, a 250-acre luxury property offering guests some of the Southwest’s best in dining, spa, golf and more. In short, it has everything you could possibly want—great rooms, restaurants, a world-class spa, newly redesigned 18-hole golf course and 9 (yes 9!) pools—while unwinding in the desert.
If you’ve been to The Phoenician pre-2016 you might be surprised to know that it has undergone a multi-year renovation, because, quite frankly, it didn’t appear to need one. But great hotels are always evolving. In 2016, the 60 guestrooms in the Canyon Suites, a AAA Five Diamond, Forbes Five Star boutique hotel within the resort, were redesigned as was its pool area and lobby. Also that year, the Phoenician’s main building was renovated, 557 rooms total.
Most of the public areas got a face-lift in 2017, and 2018 brought a new three-story spa that features a rooftop pool as well as a fresh golf course and athletic club.
Perhaps the most impressive asset on their 250-acre property is the pools—a three-tiered complex that features the iconic, hand-tiled Mother of Pearl pool on the lower level; and three separate, recreational-styled pools on the upper level. A newly designed center lounge area offers reserved, family-friendly seating on the north side; and adult-only accommodations with pool and cabanas on the south side. For kids, a variety of imaginative escapades awaits at the premiere treehouse and waterslide, along with the splash pad.
Also impressive is the Phoenician Spa. Called the Centre for Well-Being, the 22,000-square-foot complex offers everything you could want to make your stay just a touch—or a whole lot—more relaxing. Featuring 24 treatment rooms—including a Tranquility Suite for couples—as well as a quiet relaxation room and locker rooms with a vitality pool, steam and sauna, this brand-new, three-story facility allows you to unwind from everyday stresses and feel completely rejuvenated. Enjoy aerial yoga, meditation and cardio classes in the Movement Studio, or work out in the Fitness Center. Or tap into your competitive side with some outdoor tennis, pickleball or half-court basketball action at their “athletic club.”
Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort and Spa
Built into the side of Camelback Mountain (the 900m-high rocky outcrop shaped like a camel’s head that dominates the local skyline) is the upmarket Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort and Spa. While it may not have the pure scale of offerings as the Phoenician—smaller pool(s), fewer dining options and no golf course, it’s about quality over quantity at this relaxation-centric resort, especially if you like a world-class spa. Retreat to ultimate comfort within a spacious casitas, suites or Sanctuary’s exclusive villas, each offering the most spectacular views of the famed Paradise Valley. When all the relaxation has you hungry they have you covered, compliments of Food Network star and Executive Chef Beau MacMillan and his award-winning cuisine. With unrivalled views of the area, an award-winning spa, an excellent restaurant and bar and famous mid-century modern design, it understandably attracts a high-end crowd. Rumor has it that Jay-Z and Beyoncé even honeymooned there.
Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North
With 40 acres of awe inspiring desert scenery as a backdrop, the Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North sits in a prime location between downtown Scottsdale and downtown Phoenix. 210 well-proportioned rooms are spread out over the property in a series of one and two-story casita-style designs. The resort recently completed a $13 million renovation inspired by the natural grandeur of its Sonoran Desert setting. Designed by Whitespace Interiors, all of the resort’s spacious casitas and suites got a makeover. Intended to enhance the luxury desert experience with natural elements set against a subtle earth tone palette the contemporary new furnishings, streamlined décor, and modern artwork capture the warm, peaceful essence of this rocky desert retreat.
Other solid choices: Fairmont Scottsdale, W Scottsdale, Andaz Scottsdale.
Where to Play:
This part is hard because golf courses are very personal in taste. Also, there are literally dozens of great golf courses in Scottsdale—54 to be exact. Here are a few I like. And these also happen to be—purely by coincidence—some of the most popular (if that matters to you).
If Scottsdale is the “crown jewel” of the Sonoran Desert, many might consider Troon North to be the crown jewel of Scottsdale golf courses. Newer courses have taken some of the spotlight away from this desert classic, but Troon North’s two 18-hole courses remain a hallmark of Scottsdale golf. Immaculately groomed fairways, bentgrass greens and exceptional customer service create the renowned Troon Golf Experience. Troon North’s Monument and Pinnacle courses consistently rank at the top of every golfer’s must-play list. Recent course renovations by original designer and British Open Champion Tom Weiskopf have created two new layouts that bring his original concept to life.
We-Ko-Pa Golf Club
Offering breathtaking views of the McDowell Mountains, Red Mountain, Four Peaks and the Superstitions, We-Ko-Pa Golf Club—which opened in 2001—lies on Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation land that will never be commercially developed. With two award-winning golf courses, We-Ko-Pa Golf Club delivers one of the best golf experiences in the Scottsdale/Phoenix area. Scott Miller designed the Cholla Course, while Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw teamed up to create Saguaro. The results have captivated the golf world ever since opening for public play to much acclaim by industry leading publications such as Golf Magazine, Golfweek and Golf Digest.
GreyHawk Golf Club
Established in 1994, Grayhawk Golf Club features two par-72 golf courses—Talon and Raptor—engineered with their own distinctive personalities. Talon offers a desert-style test of golf that skirts thick stands of Sonoran Desert and box canyons on the way to large multi-tiered greens. Raptor delivers more traditional challenges clearly laid out come-and-get-it style with generous fairways and deep greenside bunkers guarding crowned greens. Both of the highly acclaimed layouts at Grayhawk Golf Club are widely considered to be among the best golf courses in Scottsdale. are available to gear up before golf as well as clean up after. If you are heading straight to the golf course from the airport Grey Hawk is a great place to start as the club house is fully loaded with amenities including full service men’s and women’s locker rooms and great food and beverages at Phil’s Grill when you are finished.
TPC Scottsdale (Stadium and Champions Courses)
Surrounded by the stunning McDowell Mountains, TPC Scottsdale boasts two championship courses for players to enjoy—the world famous Stadium Course and the stunning Champions Course. As Arizona’s only PGA Tour property, you’ll experience the standards of quality and service normally reserved for the tour professionals. Home to the Waste Management Phoenix Open, The Stadium Course at TPC Scottsdale has hosted some of contemporary golf’s greatest moments since opening in 1986. The course was designed by Jay Morrish and Tom Weiskopf specifically to serve as the stage for the tournament—what’s now become the largest spectator golf event in the world. Rivaling its famous sister course in both beauty and playability, the Randy Heckenkemper-designed Champions Course offers an ideal desert golf experience. Built on the former site of TPC Scottsdale’s Desert Course, the layout was completely revamped in 2007 to flow seamlessly within the naturally rugged terrain, meandering between natural ravines and through picturesque foothills.
And Eat Gourmet:
Mastros City Hall Steak House
If you only have one night to dine out in Scottsdale and you like red meat, there is only place to go—Mastros. Not necessarily because they have the best steak in town—Scottsdale has a lot of competition in that department—but because it’s simply a great scene (though the steak, sides, appetizers and wine list will not disappoint). The sleek, if not gaudy interior screams American opulence, but in a fun, lighthearted way that is exciting. If that’s not reason enough, the restaurant also just underwent a renovation that encompasses nearly every aesthetic from floor to ceiling of the 12,000-square foot space, along with new menu items. One of the more visually noticeable changes is the wine bottle display that hangs over the bar. It has been adjusted to display on both sides for maximum admiring. A new wine wall displays an impressive collection of reds while temperature control makes it fully functional. As for new menu items? What new menu items could a cavernous steakhouse with a huge menu really add. How about Authentic Kobe beef: The restaurant recently acquired a license to sell the meat coveted for its pedigree, exclusivity and marbling. Diners can choose a 4-ounce portion served in one of two ways: Sliced and served on a hot stone accompanied by jalapeno ponzu, hot sesame mustard and chimichurri sauces; or, a hand-cut steak divvied up in 2-ounce pieces that’s seasoned with coarse salt and cracked black pepper.
While Mastros may reign supreme when it comes to history and word of mouth- driven cache, Dominick’s Steakhouse is hard to beat—in any category. From their 28 day wet-aged steaks, to the thoughtfully manicured wine list to their crowd-pleaser sides (corn brulle, shishito peppers) and appetizers (from fresh burrata to a loaded seafood tower) they have everything you want in a steakhouse. But the atmosphere is perhaps its greatest asset—a vibe of sophistication and elegance that even Mastros can’t challenge. With leather embossed walls lined with tasteful artwork and hand-crafted chandeliers hanging from the ceiling the main floor offers guests one of the most luxurious restaurant settings in Scottsdale while the second floor gives diners a modern feel as they enjoy steaks at one of the tables surrounding the rooftop pool.
Virtu Honest Craft
Celebrated as one of the top 20 “Best New Restaurants” in the U.S. by Esquire Magazine immediately upon opening in 2013, as well as nominated by the prestigious James Beard Foundation for “Best New Restaurant” in 2014, Virtù is Chef Gio Osso’s intimate, stylish gathering spot tucked inside Old Town Scottsdale’s charming Bespoke Inn bed and breakfast. Menus feature handmade pastas, premium seasonal produce sourced from some of Arizona’s most celebrated farmers, superb seafood imported from the most notable fish markets in North America and southern Europe, as well as a seasonal cocktail program crafted with fresh-pressed juices and unique spirits.
Chef Shinji Kurita specializes in the traditional Japanese coursing menu with modern twist. In 2012, ShinBay in Scottsdale was a James Beard Foundation semifinalist for “Best New Restaurant”. In 2013, Chef Shinji Kurita was a James Beard Foundation semifinalist for “Best Chef Southwest”. Kurita’s two-hour omakase dinner (Japan’s freewheeling version of the tasting menu) is a fish-centric joyride with one of the city’s great talents, a perfectionist who sources rare, top-quality fish, uses age-old cooking methods and applies the Japanese principle of subtraction (akin to “less is more”) to every dish – painstakingly creating beautiful bite-size masterpieces that honor time and place. In Kurita’s capable hands, simplicity looks so easy.
Once called “the epicenter of creative Arizona cuisine” by Food & Wine Magazine, as well as named “Best New Restaurant” by nearly every major publication in the Phoenix area upon its debut in 2009, FnB has continued to receive acclaim both locally and beyond for its richly flavored, globally accented seasonal menus, continually showcasing the best of Arizona’s abundant farming and agricultural community. Tucked inside the charming and historic Craftsman Court, in the heart of downtown Scottsdale, FnB owes its praise and passion to its owners, Chef Charleen Badman and Front of House Manager and Beverage Director Pavle Milic. Notes the New York Times “Few restaurants have done as much as FnB in Old Town to illuminate the agricultural bounty of Arizona.”
The Roaring Fork’s Wood Fired Cooking captures the spirit of bold American cuisine, creating flavors that crackle with a rugged edge. In the Old West, the best food was prepared on a simple wood fire. This same spirit, freshness and flavor are at the heart of every dish we serve. Select from lamb, chicken, beef, pork and fresh fish entrees all perfectly prepared by wood fire rotisserie, open flame grill or wood oven roasting. Add to this our impeccable service and an atmosphere as inviting as our food, and you’ve got a dining experience you’ll come back for again and again. Roaring Fork’s ideal blend of energy and intimacy has made it a favorite for over a decade.
Mowry & Cotton
Located at the Phoenician, Mowry & Cotton offers modern American cuisine prepared using cooking techniques of fire, coal and smoke. A large, hearth oven stands as the central focal point of the lively, approachable restaurant. Chef de Cuisine Tandy Peterson injects her own signature style and knowledge of international cooking techniques into the eatery’s regionally inspired American dishes. From flatbreads adorned with locally-sourced ingredients to fresh fish, hearty proteins and ample options for vegetarian diners, Mowry & Cotton’s straightforward menu features great fare from one of the area’s top emerging culinary talents.
Also at the Phoenician, located right in the lobby, is The Thirsty Camel—one of most beautiful, relaxing and visually magnificent “lobby bars” you will ever come across. But don’t just take my word for it. They happended to be awarded the Forbes Travel Guide “World’s Best Hotel Bars” for 2019. Thirsty Camel features spectacular panoramic views of the resort and valley beyond, as well as a Sonoran inspired food and beverage menu with diverse and exceptional selections of bourbons, whiskies, premium spirits, and handcrafted cocktails for locals and resort guests alike. Their spicy margarita is spot on perfect.