As you fly into Phoenix Airport, you can’t help but notice the iconic Camelback Mountain just to the north. It was on the other side of that mountain where we spent two days of sheer enjoyment at Mountain Shadows Resort in Paradise Valley, a tiny community next to Scottsdale.
It is the shadow from Camelback Mountain and Mummy Mountain that garnered the name of this iconic resort that was first opened in 1959. Each afternoon you watch the sun dip below the mountain and watch the temperature drop. It’s not bad, however, when the temperature is a warm 70 degrees in December while the sun is shining as it does over 330 days per year.
Mountain Shadows has a rich history of Hollywood celebrity visits and the property served as the location for television shows including a Monkees episode. Since it was one of the few properties that were open year-round, it became a great dining and entertainment place for the locals who began moving to this arid and warm climate from other parts of the country.
The original golf course was designed by Jack Snyder and built in1961. It was a short course, par 56, and worked its way up towards the mountain and then back down. It quickly became a favorite for those Hollywood celebrities and socialites who were drawn to its seclusion, challenging greens and unique desert setting.
The property had changed ownership quite a few times, but the purchase of the property by Westroc Hospitality and Woodbine Development Corp. in 2014 brought about major changes. The golf course was redesigned to make it a par 54 Short Course that is challenging and fun with holes ranging from 75 yards to the fifteenth hole that measures 180 yards from the back tee. The seventh is the one that measures 75 yards, but most of the yardage from the tee to the green is a pond.
We saw many couples playing the course, and also many juniors. It is not easy. The tees are well designed and the greens and green surrounds are well manicured, but many of the holes have desert waste area in between the tees and greens.
We were able to speak with Forrest Richardson who was mentored by Snyder and did the redesign work. Said Richardson, “Having 18 par-3 holes is a real joy. The player has an opportunity for a hole-in-one at each and every tee, which is the magic of the par-3.
The goal was to create holes that could be set up for success, but also with tee and hole locations that could test the most skilled players. I think we succeeded with greens that can be attacked with ease on many days, yet when the timing is appropriate you can set the hole in some diabolical spots.
The defenses of one-shot holes are the greens and their surrounds. With 18 par-3s it is essential that the greens have variety. When you play Mountain Shadows you experience everything from a Redan to a Biarritz, and I created some fresh green concepts as well. One example is the 16th with its thumbprint dimple just off-center within a large and flat plateau surface.
“A lot of people ask about the par-2, which I created between the 17th and 18th as a bonus hole. I first wrote about the par-2 in 2001, offering up the idea that it could save space and be a whole lot of fun. The opportunity arose at Mountain Shadows, and I am very proud to have finally managed to build one! If I were to give up one word to describe the Short Course it would be ‘fun’ — I think Jack Snyder would completely agree. We need more fun in golf, and we need people to have successes, score well and finish their rounds with a smile on their faces, said Richardson.”
“The course is challenging, but not overpowering,” said Chris Ohm, assistant pro at the resort. “The course is fun, entertaining, convenient and takes less that 2 ½ hours to play,” Ohm added. Club rentals are free for those staying at the resort that has 180 rooms that have all been redesigned.
For those looking for a larger challenge but still wishing to stay at Mountain Shadows, the resort has special pricing and preferred access to Camelback Golf Club’s two championship layouts that are located less than two miles away.
Our stay was very enjoyable. The property is a completely new build on the former site. We stayed in a Garden Premium King room. It looked right over the golf course with a comfortable veranda, and some rooms even have private cabanas. The rooms are bright and modern contemporary as the ceilings show the concrete and our room had a huge rain shower stall near the center, almost as a showpiece.
The food is excellent and the huge bar had a large contingent of guests and locals enjoying libations. Mountain Shadows is 15 minutes from the airport, and is very easy to get to and close to the many attractions in Scottsdale. For more information you can visit www.mountainshadows.com or call 855-485-1417.
Bruce Vittner is a member of the Golf Writers Assn. of America and the Golf Travel Writers of America and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.