When The Phoenician was built in the mid-1980s, the Phoenix resort was a place to behold, though the 27 holes of golf were somewhat pedestrian. The Phoenician eventually lost its luster as a resort and the unmemorable golf was further buried by growing number of other playing options. In 2016, though, The Phoenician began its resurgence.
Since 2016, the iconic Phoenician has undergone a complete transformation in the Valley of the Sun, virtually from the ground up. The luxury resort was built at the base of Camelback Mountain in Phoenix in 1985 and featured 27 holes of largely unmemorable golf.
But now that there are more than 300 courses in the greater Phoenix area, the Phoenician’s owners thought that the golf – and most of the rest of the resort – needed a substantial facelift to bring the entire property up to date and keep its reputation as the No. 1 resort in the valley.
In 2016, the 62 rooms in the Phoenician’s Canyon Suites were completely renovated. The following fall, all 585 rooms of the main resort were re-done, including most of the public areas. And in 2018, the 27-hole golf course was completely re-built into 18 holes on the same piece of property.
◼ Fun Meter: The Phoenician Golf Club
The Phoenician, a part of the Luxury Collection under the massive umbrella of Marriott, opened its new course on Nov. 1 and you wouldn’t recognize the place. Before, the course was narrow and there were tricky holes in places. Today, the Phoenician features generous landing areas off the tee and its completely new greens look friendly enough but can jump up and bite, given the right hole locations.
“We wanted a cohesive design on the golf course that from the first hole to the 18th, it felt like a continuous experience,” says Mark Vinciguerra, the Phoenician’s general manager. “Now, the golf course is right out in front of you. There are no trick holes. That was first and foremost. We didn’t have the real estate to build 27 holes in this manner, so we ended up deciding to do 18 good holes.”
The resort chose architect Phil Smith for the re-build. He lives in the Phoenix area and has worked for Jack Nicklaus and Tom Weiskopf on a number of courses in the southwest and Mexico. Smith hung out his own shingle and Vinciguerra believes he was the right man for the job.
“We knew we would get a really good product,” Vinciguerra said. He knew the footprint he had to work with. He just modernized the golf course. I think what we have here is a good resort course. But what he did was built the greens to the point where we can experiment with them to make the course a little tougher, should we decide to do so. It’s an excellent design. It’s a great course visually.”
While building the new course – which only took 10 months, start to finish – much of the landscaping was altered, especially on the back nine, so that views are now readily had of downtown Phoenix and much of the mountain-scape in the area.
At its peak, the Phoenician did 55,000 rounds a year. Vinciguerra hopes that groups, which have been 25 percent of the resort’s business, will increase significantly with the opening of the new course.
“Golf is one of our three big amenities here,” Vinciguerra said. “While everyone talks about how golf has lost its popularity over the last 10 years or so, it’s still important. Guests love it. In order to be the No. 1 luxury resort, we knew we had to have a great golf course. We took what might have been a weakness and made it a strength.”