(Day 1) October 25, 2013 – From Den To Desert
It was less than ten minutes drive to the parking lot at Raven Golf Club but, as often is the case when you travel, things don’t go according to plan.
Accompanied by Flagstick Golf Magazine Publisher Jeff Bauder, we did what we could to make it out of Phoenix’s Sky Harbor airport and off to the nearest golf course for our 1:51 tee time but there was a problem. The people, well, they were too nice. Politely tolerating their extremely warm welcome to the Valley of The Sun at every turn the result was that we rolled in a half hour later for the opening tee time of our annual Fall Road Trip. Continuing the precedent set at the airport, Manager Derek Crawford and player assistant Riff had us on the course in no time. It was easy to see why the facility once won the title of “Best Service in America.”
While the 10th tee of the Gary Panks/David Graham design was welcoming us, we still weren’t sure we were ready for it. The clock read 2:21 here in Arizona, meaning we’d already been up for nearly 13 hours. It’s not a quick trip to the Sonoran desert but by the time the evening sun tucked in past the mountains here, we knew it had been worth it.
This was year fourteen for the annual trip that Jeff and I make together – an end of the year ritual or a couple of friends and work colleagues to unwind and check out a destination. As I lay in his basement den in Ottawa this morning trying to answer the bell for our early flight, I had a flittering thought – there was no chance of a hurricane for the next week.
Yes, it was an unusual one but if you read our Road Trip tale from last year you’d understand. Hurricane Sandy had rudely interrupted our South Florida journey, just as her sister storms had done so in prior years during Autumn journeys along Americas east coast.
Turning our on focus on Phoenix/Scottsdale was the solution to avoiding that.
That choice paid off on the tee at The Raven as we soaked up the 27 Celsius weather tempered by the slightest of breezes. It made it easy to forget the frosty mornings that had set in back home.
Tucked away in the shadow of South Mountain, Raven is a little slice of golf heaven. It’s ribbons of green grass starkly contrast the urban surrounding that, for the most part, are hidden from view.
The ample fairways make it a suitable first stop for any Phoenix area golf trip or the site of that last quick round before you hop on a plane back to reality.
We whizzed through hole after hole at Raven – partly because we are playing alright and also with anticipation of wearily moving on to our stop for the night.
A fivesome of what appeared to be young mini-tour players (the area is bursting with them) playing for a little money (which means slowly) impeded our second nine at Raven. Our solution was to skip around them and two short holes that we did not believe would affect our opinion of the layout. We had already developed a liking for it, particularly the hole settings and course conditions.
Within minutes of holing out on our last green we were diving into the traffic on the 101 Arizona loop, joining the throng of cars headed north to the Scottsdale area. Gradually our views turned from rather bleak open landscapes to the mountainous appeal of the Pinnacle Peak area a half hour away from our start. Even in the fading light of late evening you could recognize the splendour of the foothills where the Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North was waiting for us.
We had but one thing left on out very full daily agenda set up so nicely by Megan Neighbour and her local Convention and Visitor bureau colleagues, and it was not to disappoint.
The patio at the Talavera Grill, located right in the resort boasted a haunting view of the twinkling lights in the valley below, accented by the silhouettes of mountain peaks. The culinary delights to follow were just as pleasing.
It had been a long first day of our desert adventure. But after a first fulfilling taste, we’re eager for more.