Course Review: Talking Stick Resort by George Fuller
It’s exciting to see a place you know well from a completely new perspective. Standing on the deck of Orange Sky restaurant, high atop the new Talking Stick Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona, delivers exactly such a thrill. You’re 15 floors skyward, with the resort’s two golf courses extending into the expansive desert below, and long views of the distant mountains in every direction. The town of Scottsdale, which until now you’ve only seen from ground level, spreads out to the north and west.
As exciting as they are, Talking Stick Resort delivers in far more ways than the stellar views. Opened in 2010, and owned by the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, the 497 rooms and suites here are chic, spacious and so well designed that your notions of Indian casino hotel accommodations (plain and functional) may change forever. The cuisine in Orange Sky is as extraordinary as the 360-degree views—fresh ingredients, creatively prepared by chef Ron Dimas—and the restaurant’s wine list was given an award of excellence by Wine Spectator.
The two courses at Talking Stick were fashioned by the renowned design team of Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore. True to their traditionalist beliefs, the dynamic duo moved a minimum of dirt when constructing the course, and used the natural land formations to create the playing characteristics. The North Course is more target-oriented than the South, and often favored by better players. With its fairways crossing frequent washes and arroyos, the North has a “desert links” feel. The South, on the other hand, is a lot of fun to play for groups and higher-handicappers, with wider, tree-lined fairways and a pleasant, parkland style.
“The South Course is the more scenic and forgiving of the two golf courses, and has become a true favorite for locals,” says Scott Heideman, general manager of the golf operation. “Its straightforward approach, tree-lined fairways and memorable water holes make the South Course a refreshing experience for golfers looking for something other than target desert golf.
“The North Course,” Heideman continues, “is preferred by golfers looking for a more challenging test of their game, and has been ranked as the #1 course in Arizona by Golfweek magazine. Its broad, angular holes reward thoughtful play and offers many options according to one’s level of skill. Its low-profile, slightly crowned greens and close-cropped approaches encourage running as well as aerial assaults.”
After golf, players staying at Talking Stick can get back on the elevator and push floor 14 for a top-of-the-valley spa experience. The Spa at Talking Stick is a 13,000-square-foot, open-air facility, where treatments are offered with sweeping views of the valley, including a Pro-Sport massage that is perfect for tired golf muscles.
“I consider a stay at our property to be a total experience, as we have so many options for a first-class experience: beautiful rooms, multiple dining and lounge options, two golf courses, a 14th floor full-service spa and a full gaming experience,” says Robb McCreary, hotel director. “Guests often ask us why no one told them not to rent a car!”
McCreary proudly gives property tours, but gets particularly enthusiastic when showing off the guest rooms and the Orange Sky Restaurant on the top floor. “The guest room design, oversize bathrooms and recessed entry doors are all relatively unique to this area,” he says. “And the unmatched views, décor and quality of materials and finishes used in Orange Sky makes a visit a special event, even before ordering food or drink. Plus, our Scottsdale location, with its close proximity to so many additional experiences, is yet another positive contributor to a memorable visit.”
With all the resorts in the area, why should a guest select Talking Stick Resort to stay and play? In addition to the amazing views that span the horizon in all directions, Talking Stick is literally within minutes of Scottsdale’ plethora of shopping, sporting events, nightclubs and dozens of outstanding restaurants. The newly opened Salt River Fields, which is Spring Training home of both the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies of Major League Baseball is situated just across the highway from the resort, and also owned by the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community.
For a fascinating look at who the Salt River Pima-Maricopa people are and their long history in the region, take some time to wander through the resort’s Cultural Center, located in the hotel lobby. Here, a collection of Native American art, pottery and jewelry are displayed, including an authentic talking stick, an implement that allowed its holder to speak his sacred opinion when in traditional council gatherings, and from which the resort draws its name.
If this writer had the talking stick in his hand, his offered opinion would be that anyone who chooses to stay and play at Talking Stick Resort would be a wise man indeed.