Back in 2004 my wife and I went out to Scottsdale, AZ where she was to attend a conference. I was going to vacation while she worked…but we both took time to go play a lot of golf.
When it came time to schedule the golf we were going to play while there I called my friend at the PGA to get his advice on where to go. Being a friend of few words, he provided me with one word that said it all. Little did I know that one word would be all I needed to know.
I told my friend what was going on and when I got to telling him where we were going all I got out of my mouth was ‘Scottsda…’ and he said ‘GrayHawk’… Stunned a little, I said ‘But…’ and he said ‘GrayHawk’ and when I said ‘then…’ he said GrayHawk… So, I waited a second and said ‘GrayHawk?’ and he said ‘Talon!’. I said OK.
So sitting there for a second I quickly realized that GrayHawk must be really special so I asked, ‘Now…’ and he said ‘Raptor!’. Realizing that we were playing some sort of word association game I started to get in the pattern. So, I said ‘Cost’ and he said ‘doesn’t matter’.. I said ‘where else’ he said ‘no place else’. I said ‘give me a break’ and he said ‘great martinis’. And he won.
Of course we did talk normally once I got the point that there was no need to ask him for other places in Scottsdale, and yes, he had played them all so when he told me GrayHawk I could trust it was going to be a great place.
But back to GrayHawk… Now there are two courses at GrayHawk, the Talon and Raptor. We scheduled our first round to be played on the Talon course.
When we pulled up in GrayHawk’s parking lot I knew we had come to a very special place because we were greeted by another Texan (yes, we are everywhere and when we run into each other it is like to long lost friends..) who was going to be our ‘Caretaker’(the guys and gals who greet you are called caretakers there because they take care of your every need, unlike an assistant or a bag boy who assist you, these guys hang around with each group until they tee off…way cool).
Plus, there was a big ass sign hanging over the entrance to the clubhouse saying “Congratulation Lefty for Winning the Masters” . I looked over at my wife who was already grinning from ear to ear and I said…Wow!. We had not been told that Phil was a member there…but we quickly got into the swing of things epically when we walked through the door into Phil’s Grill’ to have breakfast.
After walking around the clubhouse I started jacking with the pros in the Pro shop about Phil where I was provided a few stories about Phil and what he has done for that club and community. What a great guy and what Phil, and his wife, have done for that community.
I then strolled out to the carts to find the practice area…. (I know I will have to write another article just on the practice range at GrayHawk, what a facility.). At the practice area they have piped in Rock Music. The piped in music kinda fit since the Peter Costis and Gary McCord Golf School was on the other side of the putting green. I could picture Gary showing you his shots while AC/DC was playing in the background. What a facility. It really set the mood for the morning.
But it was time for me to get to work. I broke out my wedge to work on short game and promptly made my obligatory ‘bladed’ pitch shot of a brand new Pro-V1. It went over the green and into the edge of the desert. Well, I wasn’t going to let that new ball get away so I mossied off the edge of the practice green and step out amongst the cactuses to find that ball.
To my wonder there were a half dozen or so other balls all scattered around on the ground. This was going to make finding my ball a chore. I reached out with my wedge (this is standard procedure to use a club to rake your ball up in the deserts since the rattlers are everywhere) and flipped one of the balls up . It was Pro-V1 with a Black #1. Thinking that was my ball I quickly inspected it and there was a GrayHawk logo on it. So I thought I had better look closer for my ball since it did not have a logo on the ball I hit. After four or five balls with logos I finally found my ball and headed back to the practice green with a pocket full of brand new Pro V1 logo balls and my ball.
My wife had not made it out to the range yet so I was there alone to gawk at my findings. I dropped one of the balls on the green and was lining up a putt. When I got up over the ball and looked down I noticed that there were two letters stamped on the ball I did not see when I picked them up out in the desert. I picked the ball up to inspect the letter closely and there were the initials ‘PM’. I quickly pulled out all of the balls in the pocket and they all had ‘PM’ stamped on them.
About that time one of the ‘caretakers’ that was assigned to us came and seeing the look of shock on my face asked if everything was OK. I held out one of the balls and before I got ‘Is this..’ out he said ‘Oh you found some of Phil’s practice balls’.. With a quick comment the caretaker remarked,’ they must be yours now.’.
He went on to explain that Phil flies out at several times a month to practice and play a few rounds with his close friends there are the club. And (at that time) Titleist furnishes him with all the practice balls he wanted to use. So when he calls them to say he is coming in they put his balls out on the practice range where he will be warming up.
The caretaker went on to tell me the story about the Lob Contest Phil always has with his buddies. Phil usually beats them on how far they can hit their lob wedge and some of his balls end up in the desert…
Smiling like I had discovered gold I gleefully walked over and shoved the balls in my Jewelry Pouch of my golf bag because I didn’t want them to get all scuffed up in my ball pouch.
About that time here comes my wife with another one of our ‘Caretakers’ She pulled out her putter and came over to where I was wondering if I should go back out to see if I could find more of Phil’s practice balls. She said we only have five minutes before our tee time, so that ended that thought.
As we rode over to the first tee with our caretakers I was jacking with my wife telling her how great this place is and the service we were getting was far the best we have every gotten. I said ‘Even Phil stopped by to provide me with a few pointers while I was at the practice range’. She looked at me with this Yaw, Right look. So I said, ‘I knew you wouldn’t believe me so he gave me one of his balls to prove it’ and I handed her the ball with the ‘PM’ where she could see it.
If I could have gotten a picture of the look on her face when she said, ‘You mean to tell Phil was at the practice range and you did not come get me?’ But I didn’t have the camera out so this article is just my way of remembering that morning at GrayHawk.
The entire day was a memory that will stay with me for the rest of my life. What a great facility and what a great course. Every hole has a different challenge and tests every shot you have in your bag. And even some you have to invent on the spot. Every tee box provided a spectacular view and all of the Par 3 were landscaped like back drops for postcard photos.
I have played a lot of the major golf courses around the country and it is my mission to play every more before I can’t play anymore (which is a long time from now). If I was to be asked ‘If I could go back and play only one course I have played, which would it be?….my answer would be like my friend and have one word…GrayHawk.
I am sure I will find better golf courses as time and opportunity provide, but I will always chose GrayHawk not just for the quality of the golf course, but the quality of the service…which to me, if you did not have someone to take care of you from the parking lot to the tee box, then you are really having to do a lot of work to get to the golf part of the facility.
So, kudos’ to the management of GrayHawk, and to Lefty for winning the Lob Contest at GrayHawk.