Loyal readers of this column -- hi, Mom! -- know that two of my passions are for
high-end golf and
midcentury modern furniture.
If eBay ever listed a wooden driver designed by Herman Miller, no doubt I would be maxing out my credit card.
So for me Scottsdale, Ariz., might as well be Shangri-La.
That this desert town boasts as many great private and public courses as anyplace west of the Mississippi will come as no shock to serious golfers.
On the private side, there is Desert Highlands, Estancia Club, the Golf Club Scottsdale and Whisper Rock (Phil Mickelson's old place, and home club to umpteen PGA Tour pros), never mind the six -- yes,
-- Jack Nicklaus-designed tracks at Desert Mountain. For people who know people, these are all top-notch, if unnecessary, options, given the breadth of resort and daily-fee play.
Anyone with deep pockets who wants to be close to all the great shopping -- retro or modern -- that Scottsdale and neighboring Phoenix have to offer should stay at
The Phoenician, the majestic, venerable resort in the shadow of Camelback Mountain.
It's as luxe as all get-out but also relaxed and personable, with amenities coming out its cacti (and the Funicians Kids Club means Mom and Dad can indeed make time for themselves). The on-site 27-hole course is one of the most charming, old-school layouts in town, not the aerial-focused "target golf" generally associated with desert-area designs.
If you should happen to fire a career-best score, you can celebrate at the remarkable T. Cook's restaurant at the Mediterranean-styled
Royal Palms Resort and Spa, just a quarter-mile down the road and the place where President Bush stays when he's in town. The food is so superb that I bet Senator McCain even meets him there.
The Phoenician puts you close by many other excellent courses, especially the 27 holes at the
Westin Kierland Resort & Spa, where the renowned husband-and-wife teaching team of Mike and Sandy LaBauve ply their trade.
For a more Southwestern, nature-centric vibe, the obvious lodging choice is the
Four Seasons Scottsdale in the foothills of Pinnacle Peak, with lovely, spacious adobe casitas and incomparable scenery.
This base of operations will put you down the road from the most famous, and maybe toughest, of public-access Scottsdale golf clubs,
Troon North. This is home to the Monument and Pinnacle courses, the first designed by former British Open champion Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish, and the latter by Weiskopf alone.
Advanced players will welcome the severe challenges on offer; lesser sticks are advised to bring dozens of balls and a glass of milk to wash down all that humble pie. Regardless, the high-desert views will stir one and all.
My wife, Lorraine, and I chose to have our bruised egos -- and everything else -- kneaded back at the Four Seasons' spa, with its side-by-side duo massage. (Note to husbands: When the masseuse asks you, "How does that feel?", don't murmur, "Ooh ... fantastic." Try "Um, nice." That said, Lorraine told me she forgot I was even there five minutes into the rubdown.)
Other top-shelf area courses include the
TPC Scottsdale, home to the PGA Tour's always wild-and-crazy FBR Open, and the two Bill Coore/Ben Crenshaw-designed courses at
Talking Stick, which, on tribal land, have no houses lining the holes.
All these layouts are well familiar to veteran visitors.
Here's two that aren't: the Saguaro course at the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation's
We-Ko-Pa Golf Club and
Vista Verde Golf Club.
We-Ko-Pa's Cholla course already graces most national Top 100 Public Course lists, and its wonderfully varied and graceful new sibling, by Coore-Crenshaw (who built the legendary Sand Hills in Nebraska, as well as the Plantation Course at Maui's Kapalua Resort and too many other gems to list), has already won several meaningful "best new" plaudits since its December unveiling.
It's a delight for shot-makers and navigable for less-accomplished golfers, too, thanks to an absence of forced carries.
Vista Verde's architect, Ken Kavanaugh, is known only to golf wonks, but he has done excellent work in the Southwest before, and this course, which will eventually become a private facility, only burnishes his reputation.
Unlike too many desert tracks, it's not claustrophobic, lilypad-to-lilypad golf: A sharp mind is as useful as sharp ball-striking.
Off the Fairway
Scottsdale is worth a trip for the golf alone, but unless you're a 36-holes-a-day masochist, you'll have time for its other attractions -- which in my case meant shopping for mod.
Maybe the most fun stop on my all-too-quick shopping spree was
Retro Redux, which mixes fast-selling Knoll, Eames, McCobb and Nelson pieces with oodles of look-alikes and kitschy items, too. It's a browser's delight.
Nearby you'll find the funky
Go-Kat-Go, which leans even more toward vintage apparel and accessories, but where Lorraine spotted a chic Oriental clock from the '60s for a mere $95.
We never made it two other high-end mod meccas, D.A.'s Modern ((602) 252-0001) and
Phoenix Metro Retro. But we did find the new location of veteran dealer
Red Modern Furniture and were blown away by the quality of its merchandise, from seating to storage to lighting.
Sadly, our bargain-filled dreams were just that: owner Jonathan Wayne knows what he has, and what it's worth. Although he swore that New York prices were five times as expensive, it felt to us nearly fully valued. If only the stuff was priced in 1950s dollars ...
We consoled ourselves with a few cool, small gifts -- a bracelet and a pocketbook from the vintage boutique within the store -- for my hip sister-in-law. We also took Wayne's recommendation to have dinner at his brother's Spanish restaurant down the street, Lola Tapas ((602) 265-4519).
Its nondescript bungalow housing doesn't sell the place from the street, and the menu is limited -- but thankfully, to sensational food only. We met a friend there, and our trio ordered eight of the nine small-plate dishes available. We left blissfully sated. The communal seating isn't conducive to canoodling, but the place is enjoyably lively.
I hadn't found a Herman Miller driver in Scottsdale, or even a killer pair of lamps; still, the hunt is the thing. Throw in all the great golf and memorable meals, and like skinny ties, I'll be back to Scottsdale again soon.
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Evan Rothman is a freelance writer living in Staatsburg, N.Y. A former executive editor at Golf Magazine, his work has appeared in The New York Times, Sports Illustrated, Esquire, Men's Journal and other leading publications.