By Roger Cox, Editor
Any description of the Phoenician in Scottsdale, Arizona, leaves the indelible impression of a resort that has sailed beyond good taste into the perilous waters of ostentatiousness. Acres of polished Italian marble spread from the lobby down halls and stairs, under Aubusson carpets, and into elevators, with enough left over to fill every one of the baths in the 643 rooms and suites. Museum quality art decorates the public spaces. Yet even guests who arrive expecting to be appalled, as I did, soon end up falling under the Phoenician's spell.
Architecturally self-effacing, The Phoenician blends into Camelback Mountain, which rises immediately behind. Its rooms stand out not only for those marble bathrooms but also for their size—none is smaller than 600 square feet—and quietly elegant decor in muted desert colors. All have lanais, the best with views south across the Valley of the Sun. More spacious still are the one- and two-bedroom suites with travertine fireplaces in villas below the swimming pool.
All the accommodations are an easy stroll from 27 intimidating holes of golf laid out through the desert (signs warn "Beware of Rattlesnakes"), a well-designed tennis center with a grass court, a New Age spa and fitness center, a Funicians Club for kids ages 5 to 12, and eight food outlets, which range from top-floor J&G Steakhouse, part of the family of renowned restaurateur Jean-Georges Vongerichten to sandwiches, tequilas, and craft brews in Relish Burger Bistro to an ice cream parlor. There is scarcely any reason to leave.
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The Phoenician's 11 courts—one of them a sunken exhibition court, another a grass court—fan out through a garden of oleander, palm, and flowering orchid. It's a thoughtfully designed complex with an elegant clubhouse and shade-giving courtside trellises, and the staff makes playing here even more pleasant by circulating through the courts every half hour or so, bringing fresh towels and pitchers of ice water and Gatorade.
Tennis Staff. The head tennis professional is Jason Gerardo. Born and raised in Phoenix, where he became a ranked junior, he went on compete on the satellite tour before turning to coaching. That included a five-year stint with the Bollettieri Tennis Academy, working with all levels of players including touring pros. But he returned to the valley, where he has taught for more than 20 years, including here at the Phoenician under its previous director, where he helped secure a USTA 2015 National Outstanding Facility of the Year Award.
Calling this a "garden" is appropriate. The whole complex backs up to the golf course and its lagoons. It is extensively landscaped with beds of flowers, pots of magenta bougainvillea, and palm trees. The clubhouse contains a full-service and very boutique-like pro shop—well stocked with such brands as Lily's, Bolle, Fila, Nike, and Lacoste, among others—as well as an air-conditioned lounge with comfortable sofas and a television, a small cafe where you can get coffee, juice, Gatorade or have room service deliver anything on their menu. A recent expansion added a room for kids and teens. Between the clubhouse and the sunken court is a broad patio, partly beneath an overhanging roof, furnished with heavy decorative metal chairs with padded seats around tables with marble tops.
Courts & Fees. The Tennis Garden has a eleven courts, which fan out around a sunken clubhouse court. Two of the courts have been surfaced with Rebound Ace, the rubberized surface formerly used at the Australian Open. The clubhouse court has a different type of cushioning, PlexiCushion. While all but one of the remainder are hard courts surfaced with Plexipave. The exception is a grass court, which is also the only one to run east-west rather than the traditional north-south. Court fees: Court fees for the hard courts are included in the resort fee.
Spa & Fitness
Golf Courses. As designed by Homer Flint, the generally tight, 6,487-yard, par-71 course demands accuracy rather than length. The front 9 is relatively flat, but the middle holes of the back 9, which skirt Camelback Mountain, combine elevation changes with the intimidation of desert rough and probably account for a disproportionately high number of golfers seeking relief at the bar of the 19th Hole. The 14th tee is a tiny island of grass in a sea of desert foliage. Though the drive only needs to carry 50 yards to reach the bent-grass fairway, it must thread a narrow alley formed by 30-foot sentinels of saguaro cactus, all of which bear dozens of black, golf-ball-sized scars. A few, in fact, have golf balls embedded in the woody branches of their upright arms. Anything that falls short or veers right disappears into the desert, though not before flushing out the occasional chukkar partridge. The intimidation continues on the following hole, whose elevated tees on the side of Camelback Mountain can only be reached by hiking up a zigzag path past signs warning to "Beware of Rattlesnakes." The 115 yards between tee and green contain nothing but cactus, rocks, brittlebush—and, presumably, the odd rattlesnake.
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Travel Instructions. The resort is a little less than 8 miles from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX).