Course Review: TPC Scottsdale Stadium vs Champions Course
I had the opportunity to play the TPC Scottsdale Champions Course in Scottsdale Arizona on May 9, 2022 and The Stadium Course on May 12, 2022. I am glad I played them in that order. I heard various feedback prior to my visit that some players prefer the Champions Course over the Stadium Course. I didn’t see that at all as I view everything about the Stadium Course to be superior.
As many readers are aware, The Stadium Course is home of an annual PGA Tour stop in early February ~ the Waste Management Open. The Tour does not use a composite course, but uses exactly the same course and routing as the amateurs utilize the other 50 weeks a year. The February PGA Tour event ~ which always ends on Super Bowl Sunday ~ is well known for its huge annual attendance in excess of 500,000 patrons during the four-day event and is also well known for the 16th hole, par 3 “coliseum” which has fully enclosed seating. The 16th hole has in excess of 20,000 patrons just on that hole.
The courses are adjacent to each other and have different histories. I felt fortunate to play both courses in the same week and this review will juxtapose them.
These courses are resort courses and can be played by members of the public.
Both courses use dynamic pricing to set the greens fees based upon time of year, weather, tee time, demand and time of day. The high end list price for the Stadium course is about $330 per player and the Champions Course is about $170 per player. Both courses can be played for well less than $100 during the summer but it is also 100 degrees plus and that is a significant trade off. Our group could not have been more fortunate with the weather as each day we played had a high of 86 degrees and sunny with 15% humidity, while the following week called for at least 100 degrees for each day.
A relatively small part of the equation but our experience here represents a stark contrast between the two courses. We decided to not lug our golf clubs through the airport but instead had them shipped to the Champions Course via ShipSticks. Since we were playing twice on the trip on adjacent courses, it seemed like an opportune time to use ShipSticks ~ especially since I still had a 20% off coupon from the last time we used them and ShipSticks temporarily lost one of our golf bags (they had one job to do and they failed miserably on our last golf trip).
When we checked in with the outside staff at the Champions Course, it seemed that they did not really understand the concept of ShipSticks. He panicked as initially couldn’t find our clubs and was pretty rude to us.
In comparison to the Stadium Course, when we checked in, we were warmly greeted by the outside staff and our clubs were on a cart ready to go. I went into the Pro Shop and we were again warmly greeted. I love to overpack. Even though we were only playing twice, I inexplicably packed three pairs of golf shoes with my golf bag. When I went back to my cart, the golf shoes that matched my outfit that day where on my cart.
There certainly was a difference in the practice facilities. On the Champions Course, we were regulated to hitting Pinnacle practice range balls off of mats while on the Stadium Course we hit Titleist ProVs off of nice perfectly manicured grass.
The chipping areas and putting greens were comparable at both courses ~ large and well-maintained.
On the Stadium Course, there were two PGA Tour professionals warming up together. Oddly, instead of being intimidated, it woke up my practice session because in my mind I wanted to hit the ball like them and be confused with which ones were the professionals! I am sure that didn’t happen but I did have a terrific warm up session ~ in no small part by the inspirational ball striking taking place 15 feet away from me.
The Stadium Course has a very nice restaurant called Toro overlooking the 18th green. We thought enough of it to eat there three times during the weak ~ dinner on Sunday night upon our arrival and breakfast and dinner on Thursday ~ our day of play. The food and service were outstanding. The hotel we stayed at – the Fairmont Princess – provides a complimentary shuttle to the two courses. The Champions Course was a little lower key with a nice sandwich shop that was more than adequate.
I found each course enjoyable to play. There are at least 5 sets of tees (combos as well) on both courses for players of every skill level. This was my first time at these courses so I played them at about 6,200 yards. If I play them again, I would probably choose the circa 6,600 tees.
All golf cars are brand new and equipped with interactive hole / course maps and that was extremely helpful. It is virtually impossible to get lost on either course as the hole routing is exceptionally well laid out. Except for a few holes, I found the greens fairly flat without significant undulation.
On the well-known finishing three holes on the Stadium Course, those greens have increasing amounts of undulation to the point I was not ready for the 18th green and four-putted for a 6. Having played 12 TPC Courses to date, I found these two courses the easiest to putt and the easiest for 3 putt avoidance.
All in all, both courses had exceptionally nice greens and ran similar on each hole ~ I never left a putt long or short because of significant varying green speed.
On The Stadium Course, they are undergoing significant renovations at the turn. They are building a state of the art merchandising center and outside food venue to better support the 500,000 plus patrons that flood the annual PGA tour event.
Course Rating / Slope
According to the scorecards, the courses are very similar in terms of Slope and Course Rating at similar tees. However, there is a dramatic difference for the women. Both courses are a par 71. For the women’s Red tees, the Champions course Rating / Slope is 69.8 / 120 while the Stadium course Rating / Slope is 75.9 / 141.
I found that Champions Course to be in very good condition. I found the Stadium Course to be in immaculate condition.
Overall I am glad that I checked off these courses as ones that I have played but I wouldn’t run out to play them again.
I shot an 85 on The Champions Course and an 83 on the Stadium Course. A couple of poorly chosen lines off the tee cost me a few stokes and kept me out of the high 70’s but I was generally pleased.
1 – there is a perception that there are a lot of rattle snakes on these courses if you veer off the green grass. That is probably overstated but you do want to be aware of your surroundings.
2 – more probable is a “jumping cactus”. If you go into the desert areas they can find you and stick you good (I got stuck twice ~ it does hurt like hell).
3 – As part of the financial arrangement between the TPC and the City of Scottsdale (the land is not owned by the PGA Tour but they do have a 99 year lease that started in the 1990s), the City of Scottsdale asked the Tour to also build a more affordable course for its residents. The result of that agreement was the Champions Course. About 12 years ago, this course was nowhere near PGA Tour standards so the Tour invested $10MM to upgrade the facility.
However, when you are on the range on the Champions Course hitting Pinnacles off of mats and they’re hitting ProVs off of flawless grass at the Stadium Course, you know where the pecking order is at. In my opinion, a much better set up is the one they have at TPC Sawgrass ~ with their marquis Stadium Course sharing all of the same amenities as the secondary course (Dye’s Valley).
I enjoyed both courses. If you need to decide between which one, play the Stadium Course. You will not be disappointed. However, if you can be flexible on your tee time, get online and review the dynamic pricing opportunities. You could save over $100 per player.