AZ Big Media Phoenix Country Club continues to evolve ahead of Schwab Cup

Lush greens, breathtaking views and a historic, competitive course are just some of the benefits the venerable Phoenix Country Club offers its members and the PGA Tour Champions finale, the Charles Schwab Cup Championship.

The club will host the season-ending event for the world’s largest golf tour for men 50 and over Thursday through Sunday.

The top 36 players on the Charles Schwab Cup points list will face off on the famed 18-hole Charles Schwab Cup Championship golf course, but this year’s closing tournament is a two-man race between Steven Alker and Padraig Harrington.

Alker, who has four Champions Tour victories this season, holds a 617,980 point lead over Harrington and expects to feel right at home on the Phoenix CC layout.

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“I just like the routing and just the flow (and) the different types of holes,” said Alker, who leads the Charles Schwab Cup money list with $3.33 million in earnings. “From the moment I got here, walked onto the course and saw the golf holes and the routing, I loved it.”

The Phoenix Country Club is a course that has hosted golfing royalty over the years, including Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and, last year, Phil Mickelson. All have won at Phoenix CC in the Charles Schwab Cup Championship or the Phoenix Open.

In fifth place in Schwab Cup points is 66-year-old Bernhard Langer, who won the TimberTech Championship last week. While he can’t pass Alker with a Schwab Cup championship win, he could add his name to Phoenix Country Club’s illustrious list of winners and make history while he’s at it.

Langer is one win away from tying Hale Irwin for most wins ever (45) on the 50-plus circuit. However, he has never won a PGA Tour or PGA Tour Champions tournament at Phoenix CC and TPC Scottsdale.

Founded in 1899 on Roosevelt and Third Street, the original Phoenix Country Club was just a nine-hole course. The club moved to its present location in 1921, where architect Harry Collis designed a new 18-hole layout which featured oiled sand greens.

The new course gave many members their first opportunity to play on grass covered fairways, which were a feature of the Collis design. Eventually, the more traditional “park” style course of Phoenix CC evolved into a pristine central Phoenix layout that stands in stark contrast to the many “desert” courses that reside in the Valley.

Phoenix CC hosted the PGA Tour Phoenix Open from 1932 until the tournament moved to TPC Scottsdale in 1986. Still, the club needed an upgrade soon after the Phoenix Open left .

Eighty-two years after the club moved to its current location at 7th Street and Thomas Road, former professional golfers Tom Lehman and John Fought and their design teams renovated the course.

“All of the features (of the Phoenix Country Club) had basically — I wouldn’t say they fell apart — but they were in bad shape,” said Fought, who described the revamp as a “total rebuild.”

Golfers praise the Phoenix course, in part because it doesn’t punish them by being too difficult to walk, but the club has encountered issues, such as overgrown trees and oversized lakes. The design teams at Lehman and Fought took advice from members of the Phoenix Country Club, including “the father of the Phoenix Open”, Bob Goldwater, to better understand how the course has been played and changed over the years. year.

To improve the experience for club members, the design teams at Fought and Lehman lengthened the holes, improved drainage and rebuilt the greens, tees and bunkers. They deepened the bunkers to better suit modern golf and added depth to the greens with patterns such as long and sloping patterns.

“When you think back to the historical significance of these old clubs, it’s so important to keep that in mind when working on the golf course,” Fought said. “If you don’t respect that, you’re really doing the club a disservice.”

The design teams improved the style of the park and filled it with an abundance of grass and trees, such as Aleppo pines. The year-long process has revitalized the course, which has won honors from Golf Connoisseur magazine and Platinum Clubs of America, for longtime members such as Arizona Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill and former player and manager of the Philadelphia Phillies Ryne Sandberg.

“The greens are phenomenal,” said Tiffany Nelson, executive director of the Charles Schwab Cup Championship. “Every year a handful of players say these greens are as good as Augusta (National, home of the Masters), which is a testament, one, to the Phoenix Country Club and presence in the Valley.”

The work will continue beyond the Schwab Cup championship. Phoenix Country Club plans to undergo further changes.

Andy Staples, Owner and Principal Architect of Staples Golf Design, will begin planning and working with club officials this year to address new issues such as day-to-day course conditions and sustainability, while trying to make the course more accommodating. for beginners and family members with children. .

The club has hosted the PGA Tour Champions Final since 2017 and its tennis facilities have hosted the Arizona Tennis Classic since 2019. In addition to the Phoenix Open, it also hosted the 2004 US Women’s Open qualifier.

Alker, Harrington and Langer highlight the Charles Schwab Cup championship champ who will try to add their names to this esteemed list on Thursday.

“This is what the year is coming to,” Nelson said. “It’s the season finale, and that’s what they’re looking forward to.”

Toya J. Bell