Swing a nine iron anywhere in Scottsdale, Arizona and you’re bound to hit one of the nation’s top-rated golf courses. Scottsdale is, and has been, a golfing mecca since sometime late in the last millennium, back in the days when Chamblee was still a cowboy. So it’s no surprise that to stand out in this town of a thousand fairways takes more than a unique layout with a few auxiliary luxuries thrown in. The fevered interest and cool mystique that Scottsdale National Golf Club (SNGC) has garnered in Scottsdale and the golf community at large, takes a vision well beyond the status quo, a ground up attention to detail, and the means to see that vision realized. VUENJ recently sent its publisher, Jason Underberg, to play SNGC’s three renowned courses and stay at the club’s world-class Villas. “As someone who’s traveled the world and played on the most prestigious golf courses,” said Underberg,” I’ve never had such an experience as I’ve had with PXG at Scottsdale National.”
In 2014, Bob Parsons, founder of Godaddy.com and Parsons Extreme Golf (PXG), purchased The Golf Club of Scottsdale and renamed it The Scottsdale National Golf Club. By 2016, the course was overhauled and reborn as Parsons’ brainchild, which boasts 45 holes over 700 beautiful acres of desert. A wilderness preserve that surrounds the club provides a natural buffer of undeveloped land and ensures the club’s characteristic sense of seclusion will remain for tee times hereafter. The horizon line, gilded by The Mcdowell Mountain Range, offers a generous helping of spectacular views while never ending emerald turf carries the fortunate player from tee to green. The SNGC has become the royal testing grounds for the PXG brand, its philosophical headquarters, a genuine golfer’s Shangri-La.
Of course, such a campus doesn’t spring from the desert sands of its own accord. For the rebirth of the course, Parsons hired, then 5-year-old design firm, Jackson Kahn Design to overhaul the campus and create the two newest courses, mirthfully entitled: “The Other Course” and “The Bad Little Nine”. The attention to detail on these world-class links carries through all aspects right down to the entirely native Sonoran Desert landscaping.
Jackson Kahn Design’s website describes the Bad Little Nine as “the hardest par 3 in the world”. A sentiment that seems to follow the course’s name wherever it’s mentioned. As the story goes, at Parsons’ request, the course was philosophically themed after a marine obstacle course. Parsons, himself a marine veteran, wanted the links to be as humbling as boot camp. In fact that’s the name of hole #1 and, with the other holes bearing titles such as “Ambush”, “Stinger”, and “Shotgun” it doesn’t take long for the hapless player to realize he’s not getting out of this with his scorecard unscathed. “Bob will give anyone $1,000 who breaks par,” said Underberg, adding, “not many have taken his money.”
And while the play of the course is no easy friend to the visiting golfer, the breathtaking views and the proximity of the holes offer a unique sense of shared misery as players search the bunkers together and learn how the links have earned their namesake. David Kahn, who, along with Tim Jackson are the engine of Jackson Kahn Design, says, “it’s hard not to fall in love with the Bad Little Nine because it’s one of a kind in the world of golf. If I had to pick a favorite scene it’d be the 5th and 6th hole on the Bad Little Nine. That to me is one of the most surreal and fun settings in golf.”
And while the unique challenges of the Bad Little Nine often take the lion’s share of tales told after a visit to the SNGC, The Mineshaft and The Other Course are what make the club so idyllic. “The Other Course” (whose name makes an intentional, tongue-in-cheek, oversight of the course’s world-class layout), is in truth, the club’s bread and butter. Kahn explains with succinct esteem that, “the detail, the strategy the aesthetic we put into [The Other Course], that was very special.” And Kahn still enjoys playing SNGC of which he says in no small praise, “it’s honestly like Christmas morning every time I get to go up there. Every time I drive through the gate I don’t want to leave.”
A 3-Day Offering
The club’s three-day package, aptly named “The Xperience”, is an application and invitation-contingent offering, starting at $30,000. The first day of The Xperience offers a custom club fitting by the PXG onsite specialist, as well as a PXG apparel fitting, followed by a sumptuous dining experience with curated courses by the club’s world-class chef. Visitors end the day in complete comfort at one of the club’s five luxurious 4-bedroom villas. The second day at SNGC is one of unforgettable golf beneath the Sonoran Sun at each of the club’s three world-class courses, followed by an evening in the Villa Fitness Center, the club’s state-of-the-art spa. The third and final day is the client’s day to make their own, without schedule or reservation, nothing but fresh air, sunshine, and the nation’s top courses at your doorstep. Underberg commented in stark admiration that, “The villas are absolutely spectacular and the restaurant is 5-star quality. This is a place for them to showcase what they love to do, which is golf.”
Beyond Parsons’ vision for a world class facility peopled with the most friendly and knowledgeable staff, is the club’s unique and bold “One Rule” philosophy. The importance of the club’s divergence from convention here, can’t be overstated. The only rule to the Scottsdale National Golf Club is, “No member shall impinge upon another member’s enjoyment of the club,” and yes, it’s just as simple as that. Parsons made a point to do away with the arbitrary rules and criteria ubiquitous in prestigious clubs, which he believes make guests “too nervous to even take a divot, let alone enjoy themselves.” It’s beyond evident that members and guests here are given an open fairway to complete enjoyment. The One Rule philosophy serves to create an environment where everyone can have fun, and it seems to work exceedingly well.