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Phoenix Golf Vacation

It takes a special group of guys to make a golf vacation work. As my friend Ian said, as long as everyone knows that the priority is golf, the rest falls into place. The guys that I met in Phoenix know the drill. It’s golf first, golf second, and golf third. Aside from eating some great food and taking down a few drinks, we spent our time on the links. It’s perfect!

Four years ago, my friends Phil, Ian, and Bryan started the PIB Classic (the PIB is the first letter of each of their names). That was the whole reason for the trip. I wasn’t involved in the one-day tournament the first two years, but I did play for the first time last year and I won the championship. It’s a competitive tournament, but it’s more about having fun than anything else.

Before the golf started, I had to make the flight to Phoenix. The first leg of my trip took me to Salt Lake City. As I was waiting for my flight to Arizona, I noticed a guy that looked like Jerry Rice at the gate as well. I wasn’t sure if it was him at first, but when the plane was boarding it became obvious that it really was him. Some people came up to shake his hand. I expect to see celebrities when I go to Las Vegas, but I don’t expect to see them in the Salt Lake airport. Many of my Twitter followers wanted me to talk to him or get a picture with him. I was going to possibly ask for a picture at baggage claim, but my friends met me outside of security when I got off the plane. We stood around talking for 15 minutes or so before we went to get my bags. By the time I made it to the baggage carousel, Rice was gone. I’m not sure I would have pestered the dude anyway. He is a normal guy trying to live a normal life. 

After the posse got into Phoenix, we stopped by a little neighborhood bar. Jokingly, we thought we had another celebrity sighting. Sitting across the bar was Wilford Brimley (or at least an old man with a handlebar mustache). I think we were all a little dazed by the travel and the Drunk Palmer shots we took.

NOTE: I’m not really sure what the name of the shots are that we took. It’s very simple…Jim Beam and lemonade. I figured Drunk Palmer was a good name as a spin-off from the Arnold Palmer made up of iced tea and lemonade. It also didn’t hurt that it was a golf trip.

On to the most important part…GOLF!

The first place we played was Troon North Golf Club in Scottsdale on Saturday. It was our warmup round before the PIB. There are two courses, but we only played the Monument Course. Believe it or not…it lightly rained on us in the morning (it quickly cleared up and heated up though). I got a quick reminder about how different desert golf is than other golf. If you don’t hit the fairway (let me guarantee that Troon North doesn’t make it easy)…you’re in trouble. Finding a ball among the brush, different types of cactus, and wildlife is almost impossible. If you’re lucky enough to find your ball, you usually don’t have a shot and have to drop out of the junk. Your score adds up quickly. I was lucky enough to putt for eagle twice (proof that you can play well if you keep your ball on the course) during our round (both wound up being birdies), but I also logged several eights (or worse).

Many people avoid golf in Arizona in June. It’s downright hot. We had temperatures near 100 or in the 100s every day we were there. Maybe I have a high tolerance for heat, but it really isn’t too bad. It will wear you down a bit, but they provide plenty of water to keep you hydrated. As for the courses themselves, some are taken care of better than others. Troon North does a great job of keeping its property in playing shape. It was definitely worth the $45 we paid to play (we received a twilight rate even though we teed off at 2:12pm).   

We ate dinner that night at a great Mexican restaurant called Aunt Chiladas. Aside from having the best tortilla chips (they were light and fluffy) on the planet, they also have good margaritas and bocce ball. There’s nothing better than a mix of good food and good atmosphere. I suggest taking advantage of warm summer nights by sitting on the patio.

Sunday brought the PIB Classic. The event was played over 36 holes this year. The tournament took place at Grayhawk Golf Club. Phil Mickelson is one of the course’s PGA Tour Ambassadors (he apparently has a Grayhawk logo on his golf bag), so there’s ”Lefty” memorabilia all over the place. It sounds like Mickelson, Peter Kostis, and Gary McCord frequent the course. It’s also where they played the 2009 Frys.com Open. That means I had no business playing there.

We played the Talon and Raptor courses. They both equally kicked my butt. I registered scores I haven’t posted since I was 10-years-old. To help you understand…the best score I put together over nine holes was 47 (the back nine on Talon). It would have been lower had I not blown up on the last hole. My friend Phil played the most consistent golf all day and that’s why he won the championship. He definitely deserved it, but Ian also gave away the title with a true Tin Cup moment on No. 17 on Talon (our 35th hole). As you can see on the link, it’s an island green. Instead of dropping on the green, Ian put three shots into the water before he landed one two feet from the pin. He just wouldn’t let the hole get the best of him. I would have done the same thing.

You can’t go wrong playing Grayhawk. It only cost us $90 ($45 each) to play both courses. It was worth every penny. I think it was one of the best courses I’ve ever played.

Phil needed to fly home on Monday afternoon, so we were up and golfing early in the morning. We played at Las Sendas in Mesa. It was very easy to see the difference between the first two places we played and Las Sendas. To start, the clubhouse was under construction so they were using a trailer. I know that they can’t really help that, but the property as a whole just wasn’t taken care of like Troon North or Grayhawk. The people weren’t as friendly either. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a very nice course, but we were spoiled the first two days. I didn’t play very well again, but I still had a blast.

When we were done with our round, we figured out that we played 72 holes in 46 hours. That’s even more impressive when you figure the 46 hours included two nights of sleep. Like I said, our priority was golf, golf, and more golf.

The final round we played was at SunRidge Canyon in Fountain Hills. I think it’s safe to say that this course is probably much more attractive in the fall and winter than it is in the summer. Of all the courses we played, this one was the least taken care of. They even plugged the greens a few days before we got there as well (making putting nearly impossible). Apparently everyone else got the memo but us. We were one of two groups on the course all day. Anytime the ball hit the ground it bounced like it was launching off a cart path. Needless to say, it was very dry and firm. The bartender at the restaurant even asked us why we decided to play the “sh!++y” golf course. With that said, we only paid $27 to play some great holes and check out some spectacular views.

In the end, we played 90 holes in four days. It’s amazing how inexpensive it was as well. We paid about $200 each to play some awesome golf courses. Every round included golf (18 or 36 holes), a cart, and range balls. That’s pretty hard to beat. You only get the great deals in the summer. If we played the same courses in the fall or winter, we would likely pay around $760 (one round at Grayhawk is $225 alone).

I didn’t walk away with a title (I actually finished third in the PIB this year), but I came home with some great memories. My back and hands hurt from all the golf, while my abs ached from all the laughing. I’m already looking forward to the trip again in 2011.

I just want to remind you that you can reach me several different ways. You can contact me via email at tim@timlewissports.com. You can also follow me on Twitter @TLKREM2 or join the “Fans of Tim Lewis” page on Facebook as well. I look forward to hearing from you!

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