We knew it the first time we visited the “historically hip” Hotel Valley Ho, just a few blocks from the heart of Old Town Scottsdale. The inviting vibe oozed everywhere — from the central pool area packed with vacationers young and old to the mid-century-modern rooms to the colorful and classically stylish ZuZu’s restaurant with its indoor-outdoor seating and eclectic menu. This was the place for us. Whenever a trip to the greater Phoenix area was in the making, the Hotel Valley Ho would be “the place to stay” for an essential destination experience.
We’ve called it our Hotel Valley Ho(me) multiple times since that first visit, and it never disappoints. It’s old-world meets modern-luxury. You feel like a ’50s starlet every time you take those first steps into the lobby, stake your claim to a lounge chair in one of the cool outdoor hotspots or sit down for a memorable meal (Pork Belly Mac ’n Cheese and a ShowStopper Shake are vacation highlights all their own), and yet at the same time Hotel Valley Ho tends to all the details discriminating travelers have come to expect in the Year 2018 and beyond.
It’s the essence of desert vacation life, and we never thought we’d venture anywhere else. But then Westroc Hospitality went and did something crazy. They built another.
And this time they added a golf course.
Coming off the highly successful 2005 restoration of Hotel Valley Ho (which dates back to 1956 and has seen more than its share of celebrities over the years), the next chapter for the hospitality group was to acquire yet another mid-century resort — Mountain Shadows out in Paradise Valley, which had been shuttered in 2004 — and start a new renovation project aimed at creating another unique experience for travelers. And, more importantly this time, traveling golfers.
Opened in 2017, Mountain Shadows offers all the wonders of its sister property, Hotel Valley Ho, with one exceptional addition: The Short Course, an 18-hole (actually 18 and a half holes) par-3 track designed by golf architect Forrest Richardson on land surrounding the hotel where a par-56 course had been built back in the 1960s.
At a time when shorter golf courses that can be played in less time are making a comeback (from Bandon Preserve in Oregon to Sand Valley’s Sandbox in Wisconsin to The Cradle at Pinehurst in North Carolina), The Short Course at Mountain Shadows is a fun experience for golfers of all skill levels (even the best players in the world sometimes) that deserves to be mentioned as an industry leader in this welcomed and growing trend.
Richardson uses mounds, hollows and multilevel greens to make every hole on The Short Course stand out, sometimes through the use of famous templates (there’s a Biarritz green on No. 4, an Island Green on No. 7, a Punchbowl on No. 10), and asks shotmakers to do more than just fire at the flag, instead providing multiple ways to play the ball off banks and over ridges while testing your putter (nowhere more diabolically than the two-tiered No. 12).
By mixing the bones of classic short-hole golf architecture with a bit of whimsy, Richardson creates a complete golf experience. Simply put, you walk off The Short Course at Mountain Shadows wanting to play it again. And again. But, more importantly, feeling like you’ve played 18 holes of golf — and if you’ve taken advantage of the Forrest Wager bonus hole (a tricky putting green after the 17th used to settle bets) you might feel like you’ve played more than 18 holes.
And the fun doesn’t stop after the 18th hole, either. There’s a great pool table inside the Pro Shop, and outdoor seating at Rusty’s Grill (overlooking the putting green) where the Breakfast Burrito (with scrambled eggs, Schreiner’s Chorizo sausage, pepper jack cheese and fire roasted salsa) will power any golfer through a round and the lunch menu offers a twist on many clubhouse favorites.
Over in the resort, Mountain Shadows offers more mouthwatering temptations. In the Hearth ’61 dining room, wood-roasted prawns and polenta will get you started, but the Niman Ranch Tenderloin of Beef might steal the show (with arugula, Bleu cheese, pear, herb crouton and smoked shallot vinaigrette). It’s a most-memorable dining experience at a most-memorable resort, which includes everything you could ever want in a destination experience, from comfortable and well-appointed rooms to a pool area that rivals Hotel Valley Ho but with a much different look — long multi-tiered pools topped by a powerful hot tub (perfect for soaking after a day of golf) and with a fitness center and juice bar overlooking the entire complex.
So the conundrum is real, as we discuss in this Episode 111 of the “Talking GolfGetaways” podcast: How does one choose between Hotel Valley Ho and Mountain Shadows? It’s a nice dilemma to have, and co-hosts Mitch Laurance and Darin Bunch might have just the answer — simply spend a week in Scottsdale-Phoenix and stay a few nights at each amazing property. Problem solved.