I’m looking down the first fairway of the newly renovated Mountain Shadows’ “The Short Course” and the view is historic. Camelback Mountain is magnified – along with Mummy Mountain. In early morning and late afternoon the shadows are a photographer’s dream.
It was here on January 16, 1959, Mountain Shadows opened its doors and the executive golf course and hotel, complete with “high diving board” at the old-time lagoon swimming pool, was a hit. Hollywood celebrities loved it along with international globe trotters and locals.
There was even a middle section surrounded by golf holes where 1960s era California ranch-style houses were built with access to hotel room service, the pool and golf. Those homes are still here.
The original golf course built by designer Arthur Jack Snyder had a tee sheet that once included Bob Hope, Burt Reynolds, John Wayne, Sammy Davis, Jr., and James Coburn.
Lucille Ball once landed in a “helicopter cab” from Sky Harbor Airport to attend a function and receive an award. Even Liz Taylor dropped by to have her hair “done” and The Monkees even filmed a TV episode here.
Today’s celebrities are most likely local sports pros like Larry Fitzgerald, Carson Palmer and Zack Greinke.
Mountain Shadows Reborn
Famous developer Del Webb sold the property to Marriott in 1981, but by 2004 it was evident the end of the line was near. Mountain Shadows just couldn’t compete with new resorts like Westin Kierland. After almost 10 years in moth balls the decision was made to bulldoze the hotel and golf course and start over.
Scottsdale’s Westroc Hospitality announced in June of 2015 that it had formed a partnership with Dallas’s Woodbine Development Corporation to jointly redevelop the iconic hotel and its old golf course.
Forrest Richardson, a protégé of Snyder, and a successful local architect was awarded the job to make Mountain Shadows a par-3, 18-hole golf course.
“His work is a hit,” said Tom McCahan, Director of Golf and Club Operations. “Everyone tells me how much fun the golf is, but it’s not easy. There are plenty tough green complexes with swales, slopes and bumps but the conditioning is great. Every Tuesday we have a Skins Game and it is a big hit.”
If you miss a green and find the heavy rough, good luck, it’s easier to hit off the hardpan or decomposed crushed granite that is used extensively in desert golf.
“The objective was to build a challenging yet enjoyable golf course on a piece of property half the size of a traditional golf course,” Richardson said. “Snyder responded by creating one of Golf Digest’s top 10 executive golf courses in the world. The total acreage was less than 40, making the course a truly unique development that was well ahead of its time.
“Today we take for granted the goals of reducing water and providing a venue where golfers can spend less time depending on their schedules. At Mountain Shadows these elements were in place some 50 years before they became popular, making the resort truly ahead of its time,” Richardson said.
The Short Course really gets steamy at No. 4, the longest hole at 193 yards, named Biarritz for the huge swale in the middle of the green. Just try getting it close when the pin is at the very back. Richardson said he didn’t want the bunkers to be the sole defense of the course.
Then the 14th is a “Dell” hole with mounds, trees and a pond to protect par. The layout extends to 2,310 yards with the shortest hole at 90 yards. Talk about a great place to bring the kids and beginners and playing time is greatly reduced from a 7,000-yard golf course.
Other design features include the Double Plateau, Redan, Bottle, Punchbowl and Alps. The design strived for 18 different experiences, yet all linked by a common thread.
“A bonus hole, called the “Praying Monk”, serves as “Hole 17.5” between the 17th and 18th holes says Richardson. “This feature is a par-2 extra hole that players use to settle bets and put in motion the final 18th hole format. The Praying Monk is actually a 200-foot long green with undulations that set up exciting putts or bumps-and-run shots from either of two tee areas. The concept for the Praying Monk is to link the routing between the 17th and 18th and also create a unique extra experience for players.”
Mountain Shadows Resort
The new hotel and condos display the Camelback Mountain scenery with plenty of ground to ceiling glass. Mid-century modernism and contemporary design combined to create spaces that feel open and luxurious. Comfy plush bedding, custom furnishings, awesome showers with abundant natural light make your stay just right. Upgrade to a premium guestroom for balconies, perfect for enjoying the stunning desert scenery.
On May 24, 1961, Paradise Valley officially became an incorporated town. Residents prided themselves on the quality of life and desert scenery. So Hearth ’61 was chosen as the name of the outstanding restaurant to honor the town’s origins by encouraging the community to gather around special food and good times.
Here the cuisine was driven to pair cooking styles rich in tradition. Enjoy craft cocktails, local brews and an extensive wine selection in the open restaurant with a exhibition kitchen. Take in the views of the twilight desert scenery through glass walls inside or on the patio overlooking the pool.
The pool complex is amazing. Palms are abundant next to two 75-foot pools connected by a modern waterfall feature. Chaise lounges, eight cabanas for rent, cocktails and light bites set the tone for a leisurely afternoon. The pools are heated during the cooler months, or enjoy a soak in the hot tub.
Just outside the golf clubhouse is Rusty’s where you can have breakfast before your round or dine after for lunch with the backdrop of Camelback Mountain.
Mountain Shadows hits the mark on all counts. “Short Courses” have emerged recently – there’s one at Wickenburg Ranch (Arizona) named Li’l Wick and another on the Rancho Palos Verde Peninsula of Los Angeles called Terranea Resort with a view of Santa Catalina Island.
If this appeals to you don’t miss all three.
Story by David R. Holland