Featuring dramatic elevation changes and rolling fairways, the Ambiente course at the Camelback Inn Resort & Spa supercedes the original Indian Bend course which Arthur Jack Snyder added to the resort in the late 1970s.
Architect Jason Straka prepared a case study for the Ambiente project, an extract of which appears here:
“The existing course was failing to attract clients due to its lack of visual appeal and strategic quality. Additionally, with its 200 acres of maintained and irrigated turf and non-native trees, it lacked environmental sensitivity to the climate in which it is located and was costly to maintain. The tees and greens were too small and of too poor construction to permit good drainage and maintenance. In addition to all of these issues, the golf course was located in an urban desert ‘wash’, which is essentially a desert floodway. The golf course was so flat that even though it is in the desert, it was unplayable for days after it flooded.
Though remaining in the same development corridor, the course required dramatic changes in routing, contour and vegetation to reduce maintenance costs, flooding effects and safety issues. The wash was lowered two to twelve feet in elevation and the fill material was utilized to raise the new golf holes. All told, 365,000 cubic yards of material were removed from the main wash running through the center of the golf course and then used to raise the playing surfaces.
The effect is dramatic in that there is now more elevation change in one golf hole than was over a span of six or more previously. While ten to twelve foot elevation changes in one hole may not sound like much at first, it is significant when considering the original holes only had maybe two feet to begin with. Further, the raised playing surfaces, with the addition of eight bridges, now means high and dry golf features are able to stay open even during moderate flood events.
In contrast to the preceding course, the remodeled Ambiente only has 90 acres of maintained turfgrass. The remaining 110 acres have been replanted into a native mix of desert riparian plants, upland desert trees, shrubs and grasses, and a palette of native winter and summer desert wildflowers intended to add visual interest and animal habitat.
While the addition of surface contouring and native vegetation has reduced maintenance costs and added visual interest, other new technologies have enhanced the course as well. State of the art irrigation, drought resistant green construction, miles of underground HDPE drainage pipe (and) drought and pest resistant turfgrass have allowed for greatly improved maintenance and wonderful environmental benefits.”
In November 2013, the re-imagined, Ambiente course opened after Straka’s $10 million renovation, where the only constraint was the old fashioned out-and-back routing running along either side of the Indian Bend Wash.
"A good course to seek out if in the area, worthy of a full day out"
The first time I played Ambiente my friend and I had stopped for really good pizza just north of the Boulders (which we had just played). The couple at the next table started chatting with us about golf (because I was still wearing my spikes). The husband was the starter at Ambiente and was telling us about the renovation, how good the golf course was and that they were charging $175 per round. We were intrigued and didn't have a round booked for the next day. When we got home we found a tee time for the next afternoon for $125. In the $100 - $150 range this golf course is great value and wins out over any other course in the same price range.
To start with location - it is just north of Camelback Mountain on the edge of Paradise Valley. As an UBER guy in PHX to golf (so I can have a couple of drinks afterwards) this is a big plus when you are staying inside the 101. It basically plays 10 holes - out and 8 holes - in on either side of the wash. While I hate playing golf "in the houses" the houses here are kind of in play, but not domineering and really frame the golf course fairly. And... the deeper you get into the golf course, the more you enjoy the houses. Some people have money and some people have taste...
The golf course - as a player with a pull-cut having white stakes on the left side and red stakes on the right side for most of the holes puts a premium finding a consistent swing off the tee. The fairways have a nice undulation and skew left-right. The bunkering is wicked - both fairway and greenside. I tend to play from 6,300 - 6,600 yards and the shortest par 3 is 160 yards. All of them are demanding tee shots and the green complexes will test you. Individually, each of these holes is fantastic. I have a soft spot for the 18th, but my favourite hole is the 10th. It is a short par 4 that doesn't demand any precision off the tee as you can push you tee shot way right and still have a 7 iron in, but standing on the tee you (I) can't help but challenge the left side. When it bites you it bites you. Regardless of where your tee shot finishes, your second shot demands that you find the right section of the green. From the wrong side I have seen multiple people 4 putt. Or maybe the same people 4 putt multiple times...I doubt others would tell you they are the highlights, but for my money hitting two tee shots as you envision them (and I think how the architect envisioned how you should hit them) and sticking two approach shots within 20 feet and two putting those two holes in particular is how we want to play golf.
As a testament to the golf course I have multiple times stood on the 14th tee and thought "5 holes, play them 3 over and we will be happy with the scorecard" They are all cool holes and I have never played them better than 5 over. Make hay early and play the last five as they present themselves and enjoy them. Don't hate yourself as you walk from the bar to the parking lot.
PHX is full of the $200+ rack rate golf and you can see all of those golf courses on Top 10 lists (and I have played them all). But there are definitively not 10 golf courses I would rather play in PHX than Ambiente.