When Troon North Golf Club opened in 1990, overnight it converted Scottsdale, Ariz., from a good golf destination to “must-play” status among traveling golfers. Thirty years later, and it remains the gold standard for the region. And the shine, shall we say, is brighter than ever.
Jabbed into the enormous rocks that blanket the base of North Scottsdale’s Pinnacle Peak, these two Tom Weiskopf/ Jay Morrish creations — the Monument and Pinnacle courses — ribbon through boulders and cactus, hopscotching arroyos and skirting mountain slopes. Perhaps it’s no surprise that in the early 1990s, Troon North’s original course reached the highest rung as one of the most popular public access spreads in history, turning away seven of eight phone callers seeking a prime date on the first tee. More surprisingly, its success was never a sure thing.
Thirty years ago, then-Troon Chairman and CEO Dana Garmany assessed the decision to open a public course at fees that dwarfed the competition. “Risky, but rewarding,” Garmany told writer Bill Huffman. “Basically we spent a lot of money, and were very fortunate to be able to hire the right people who could build in the same quality, as well as to maintain the same conditioning, of a private golf course. Then we turned it around and offered it to the public at a daily fee. We also gave the public an incredible clubhouse facility, one that would again rival the best private courses, and we put an emphasis on service that also was generally reserved for the private sector. In retrospect, everything turned out better than we expected.”
Garmany’s classic understatement notwithstanding, Troon North not only turned out spectacularly well, it served as the incubator for the success formula that would fuel his company’s facility management practices. Ultimately, Troon would grow into the world’s largest golf management company. Its foundation — and flagship — is Troon North. And it all started with nature’s floor.
36 HOLES OF MAGIC
Architect Tom Weiskopf recalled that the Troon North parcel was “such a beautiful piece of property that anybody could have done those courses and had them turn out pretty good.”
Mike Friend, Troon North’s director of sales, agrees with Weiskopf. “What makes Troon North stand out among desert golf courses — what makes it unique — is the piece of land that it sits on,” Friend said. “Obviously, Weiskopf did a beautiful job with the holes. But it’s really the topography of having the elevation mixed in with all of the boulders and rock formations which are part of the design. The scenery helps create a memorable experience.”
Of course, Weiskopf had help, not only from Mother Nature, but from his original design partner, Jay Morrish. Regarded as one of the most talented and likable architects in the business, Morrish teamed with Weiskopf to craft the original 18 in 1990. Six year later, that course became known as “Monument,” when Weiskopf created 18 new holes with a solo effort, called “Pinnacle.” Monument featured wider fairways and softer greens and green surrounds than most of the desert target golf courses then in existence, together with minimal forced carries. Pinnacle sported bigger rocks and bigger drops — more dramatic elevation change — along with bigger, deeper bunkers. It was intended to be the stronger test for the better player.
In 2007, after years of soul-searching, Troon North detonated an explosion worthy of its location on Dynamite Road. While Monument and Pinnacle ranked as Arizona’s top two public courses, the flow of the routing was never quite right. So Troon executives, including Ron Despain, Senior Vice President, Golf Course Development, split up the vaunted Monument layout, pairing its old back nine with the old back nine of the Pinnacle to form a “new” Pinnacle course, with Monument’s former back nine becoming Pinnacle’s new front nine. The “new” Monument is comprised of the old front nines. Original designer Weiskopf resurfaced the greens and reworked the bunkers to achieve a consistent look throughout. One hole was replaced and another added. Gone were the “where-in-the-world-am-I-going?” cart rides that slowed play considerably.
After another 10 years, Monument (in 2017) and Pinnacle (in 2018) enjoyed maintenance overhauls, each basking in new and improved grasses, bunkers, and irrigation, ensuring premium conditions for the near future. From a design/routing standpoint, however, nothing has changed since 2007. Monument now has both of the Weiskopf signature drivable par-4s, the 306- yard sixth and the 299-yard 15th.
Friend is partial to the 7,039-yard, par-72 Monument course, because his favorite stretch of holes on the property is Monument’s 14-15-16. The 7,009-yard Pinnacle is a stroke or two tougher, and par is only 71. Friend observes that it’s a little tighter off the tee and offers more forced carries. Its configuration makes it the more walkable of the two.
Weiskopf cherishes No. 1 on Pinnacle, a 392-yard par-4 called “Mackenzie.” It’s Tom’s nod to his design hero, architect Alister MacKenzie, of Augusta National, Cypress Point, and Royal Melbourne fame. The hole doglegs left over a wash to a pedestal green backdropped by boulders. The putting surface features a false front, a classic MacKenzie design gambit where landing the ball on the green doesn’t mean it will stay there.
Unforgettable is the hole that gave its course its name, Monument’s 566-yard, par-5 third. “The Monument” confronts the golfer with a monumentally large boulder in the center of the landing zone some 280 yards from the green. Go left of it, right of it, stay short of it or possibly go over it; either way, you must deal with it.
Perhaps even more memorable is the 299- yard, drivable par-4 15th on Monument. The hole demands a healthy carry over rocky, cactus-strewn desert scrub. Succeed and you’ll find an inviting slope that funnels shots onto the green. A large pot bunker short-right of the green will snare the pushed drive, however, and any tugged tee shot or overcooked drive is on the rocks. Glorious mountain backdrops soothe, whether you make a 2 or a 12.
Complementing a round aboard Troon North is the caddie experience. Through CADDIEMASTER, forecaddies are available from November through April and required during peak hours, with one per group. “The majority of people love it,” Friend said. “A lot of people who come and play here want the best experience possible, and I think it’s the perfect enhancement.”
What truly elevates Troon North is that its off-course excellence matches its on-course brilliance. Business is booming at the Dynamite Grille, thanks to menu specials, theme nights, and the introduction of live music. Friend lauds Taco Tuesdays, the Smokehouse brisket barbecue on Thursdays, and Prime Rib on Fridays. Beef and Ahi Tuna Sliders are popular every day of the week.
Friend credits Troon for continually improving the product. “The restaurant had a facelift about three years ago,” he said. “The furniture was redone, the bar, the fixtures throughout the restaurant. The pro shop, too, with all new fixtures, flooring, and counters. More recently, we renovated the ballroom, including installing a $30,000 sound system. It’s been great for weddings and corporate outings.”
‘Other recent upgrades have included a facelift to the snack bar and weddings ceremony area, landscaping and lighting at the front entry and parking lot, and more so the facility remains at the very top of the golf game in Scottsdale.
As the foundation for Troon’s worldwide expansion and influence, Troon North has a lot to live up to. Thirty years on, with its combination of off-thecharts service, aesthetics, and facilities, plus two of the nation’s top-ranked, best conditioned public-access courses, it fulfills its mission in dazzling fashion.