“Swing as hard as you possibly can.” Whenever someone asks me for a hot golf tip that is always the advice that I offer. It’s not too serious and it usually makes people laugh. However, when attending the Ak Chin “Smash in the Sun” World Long Drive event in Maricopa, AZ, that is the only advice that makes sense. You are gonna need everything you got as these competitors routinely hit the golf ball over 400 yards.
Fortunately, for the Pro Am we would have these competitors on our side. The night before the main event, we paired up with the professionals and squared off against other teams in a “most yards wins” scenario. Press LaBrie was our pro for the team competition and we got right to slamming the long ball.
My plan for distance was a simple 4 pronged approach.
Untuck my shirt for maximum flare and rotation.
Scream like I was being murdered.
Sell the follow through like it’s going 600 yards.
Swing as hard as I possibly can.
In a shining moment of long ball greatness, I was able to put one out on the grid 319 yards away from where I hit it. That particular drive was good enough to put our team over the edge. and we would be crowned the Smash in the Sun 2019 champions. I rank this victory slightly behind my Cinco De Mayo Scramble triumph at Diablo Creek back in 2008. We received a complimentary “Mexican fare lunch” instead of prize money.
The futility of our long drive attempts became apparent the next day when the big guns came out firing. The World Long Drive events future both a men’s and women’s division and the Golf Channel cameras were there to catch all of the action. With the sun was shining and the wind blowing, we settled into our seats to watch the golf balls fly.
First up was the women’s division and it’s no joke, people. Each one of these women can pound it farther than 99.9% of the male golfing population. That fact was clearly evidenced when Phillis Meti hit her golf ball 413 yards to win in the finals against Alexis Belton. No, she didn’t launch her golf ball out of a cannon, she hit it with a golf club. That drive set a new record for the longest drive ever recorded in the Women’s Division at a World Long Drive competition. 413 yards.
With a record already in the books for the women, the men’s division had their work cut out for them. Tim Burke would deliver in stunning fashion when he hit a 474 yard bomb down the left hand side of the grid to win the event. 474 yards. To help put that into perspective…
Tim Burke’s drive was over 1/4 of a mile. He literally hit that thing a quarter mile.
The USGA’s current yardage guidelines for par 5’s are 471 to 690 yards.
Tim’s drive covered approximately 40 yellow school buses lined up back to back.
If you laid the Empire State Building on it’s side, Tim’s drive had it covered by several hundred feet.
The Ak Chin Smash in The Sun was the first of six televised events in 2019 with the season culminating in September at the Volvik World Long Drive Championships. If you manage to attend one of these events, you will find a fun party atmosphere like no other in golf. They pump up the crowd in between sets and even hand out noise makers to the spectators. If you can’t catch the WLD in person, you can always watch live on the Golf Channel.
With the long drive behind us it was time to take in some of the excellent public golf that the Phoenix area has to offer. We had 3 delicious courses lined up for the visit.
Ak Chin Southern Dunes
Troon North’s Pinnacle course
Ak-Chin Southern Dunes is easily one of the best public tracks in the Phoenix area. However, it’s about 45 minutes away from the golfing center of Scottsdale and doesn’t always get the attention that it deserves. Created by the architecture team of Schmidt-Curley Design and the help of golfing legend Fred Couples, Southern Dunes is a wonderfully routed championship test of golf. Our group gladly took on the course on a sunny day and returned for dinner as a storm rolled in. The result was a fantastic double rainbow situation.
A visit to the newly renovated Phoenician was up the following day and before the golfing commenced we got a tour of the AAA 5-Diamond resort. Not only was the tour of the resort amazing, our group was also treated to some first class male model poses.
The Phoenician is a Luxury Scottsdale, Arizona resort and it is clearly one of the finest in the Phoenix area. Featuring an upscale spa, fitness center, and top notch dining, the resort has a lot more to offer than just golf. There is an expansive pool complex, tennis, shopping, and more activities than I can even list.
We even scored accommodations in the luxurious Canyon suites on the property. Now, a Canyon Suite is not your normal hotel suite. These rooms have rooms within the rooms, it’s more like a canyon complex, I got lost several times looking for the bed. These suites are also good enough for Hollywood types as I passed David Spade in the hallway as I returned to my room. I excitedly blurted out “Spade!” and he calmly replied with a “What’s up man.”
Completed in 2018, Architect Phil Smith transformed the previous 27 holes at The Phoenician into a much more cohesive 18 holes of golf. Gone are the blind hazards and unwelcome surprises and the result is a course that flows much better. Golf purists will be drawn to the back nine as it is a much more cohesive unit set into the Sonoran Desert.
The tag line Troon North Golf Club in Scottsdale is “Pure. Desert. Classic.” I decided to do some investigating on each of these words to assess their validity. After several visits and double bogies, I have reached the conclusion that each word rings true. I like to imagine the marketing meeting where each one of these words was discussed in detail. Words like cactusy and rattlesnake would have been casually dismissed. But pure, desert, and classic do an excellent job of describing both golf courses at Troon North.
Our leader for the day at Troon North was Emily with Experience Scottsdale, but I was in charge of picking the team names for our 2 v 2 showdown in the sun. It was Emily Lawrence and Art Sticklin on “Team Cartpath” vs Brian Gifford and I on “Team Viper.”
They wanted “Team Tempo” but I strategically downgraded them to “Team Cartpath.” By establishing an opposing and powerful team name, I had heavily stacked the odds in our favor. They would never recover from the psychological blow.