At the onset of the TPC Scottsdale development, there was no question which course was the boss. The Stadium course continues to host the most well-attended party on the PGA schedule, but recent history has shown interest in bringing its companion course, the Champions, nearer to its level.
Randy Heckenkemper’s 2007 renovations were a major part of this push. Although Stadium is big brother, it measures only about 100 yards above the Champions’ 7,100-yard distance. In fact, the longest hole on the property is the 605-yard par five at Champions No. 17.
No doubt that the holes you’ll write home about are a pair of par fours with options from the tee. Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish aren’t necessarily known for drawing on historic templates, but the long par four at No. 5 seems quite the play on Lido’s famous Channel hole, with a risky leftward fairway that will leave players much closer to the green if they dare the long carry over water. Across the pond is a more traditional Weiskopf/Morrish option: a drivable par four that offers a safe route...or a long line directly at the green for those who didn’t learn their lesson at No. 5.
Walking into a TPC course you know what to expect. Conditions will be great and the staff will be friendly. This course has character and I would challenge everybody visiting to play this one along with the stadium. It won’t disappoint.
Companion courses at multi-offering facilities can more often serve as nothing more than a "B" level experience since the "A" listed course often draws more attention.
The Stadium Course has long benefited from being the host site for the annual PGA TOUR foray into the Phoenix / Scottsdale area. The timing of the event during the dead of winter, the number of fans coming to the event, the circus-like atmosphere tied to the par-3 16th and the range of top tier players who compete each year makes for a high-level show.
For too many years the adjoining Champions Course was just the "other" course.
Fortunately, the folks responsible for the property decided to update the property and the results from Randy Heckenkemper are very nicely done.
The opening series of holes is about stretching the muscles and the run of holes from the 2nd thru the 4th follows the same direction.
When you arrive at the par-4 5th the demands intensify in a big-time way. The split fairway hole is a real test of control and power. Those opting for the left side have to contend with water tugging tight to the left and natural desert area to the far right and separating the two closely mown areas.
The stretch of holes from #6 thru #9 weaves you around the far northern portion of the property and the closeness of the off-site properties can take away somewhat from the golf experience.
Things do pick up when you commence the inward side. The routing is handicapped somewhat because the holes basically flow east/west and west/east. The driveable par-4 15th is clearly one to enjoy. The choice for the big tee shot is provided but the execution must be flawless as the hole features a must-carry over desert. An alternative route is also provided for those eschewing the ill-suited risky play.
The ending stretch of holes is good but continues in a westerly direction for the final two. The ending hole is also patterned after the finale at the Stadium Course with water awaiting any shot pulled left.
Overall, the Champions layout has enough holes to keep your interest and for those preferring to dig a little less into one's wallet it's clearly a good bargain to boot.
M. James Ward