Golf at the Marriott's Camelback Inn in Scottsdale, Arizona

FOUR YEARS AGO, Marriott International CEO Bill Marriott was concerned about a potential threat to the future of the company's very first resort hotel and a two-generation family favorite, Marriott's Camelback Inn in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Never mind that the property had again achieved Mobil Five-Star and AAA Five-Diamond status. Or that the full-service Spa at Camelback Inn was gaining celebrity as one of the most extensive and lavish in the Southwest.

The problem: Camelback's aseptic golf facility. Built some 30 years prior, the 36-hole complex was rapidly losing ground to newer, higher-octane target and neoclassic golf venues -- Troon North, Grayhawk, Legend Trail, and The Raven at South Mountain, to name a few -- while rival golf resorts had undergone or were scheduling major expansions and renovations.

The solution: To keep pace with competition, plans were conceived to return the resort to the forefront of Arizona golf, beginning with a $16-million bulldozing and rebuilding of Camelback's Padre Course, clubhouse, and practice facilities.

Opened last spring and christened the Resort Course, the new parkland spread is the creation of architect Arthur Hills, whose career includes 150 original layouts and another 100 major renovations.

"When comparing this course to others in the area, Camelback's park-style landscaping is one of the layout's great assets," says Hills. "Players can hit their drive without worrying about losing it in the desert. It's more like a traditional midwestern layout; virtually the entire course is in play, and I think that's something people like a lot."

Hills's passion for classic architectural themes is in generous supply on the new, longer course. Styling includes square tee boxes; parallel fairways (but no interior home sites); steep-and-deep bunkering; mowed-down bail-out areas; elevated, open-entry greens; and sight-blocking mounding that plays havoc with a golfer's depth perception to the flagstick.

After golf, players can catch the shuttle back to the Inn, which recently completed an eight-year, $70-million enhancement project. Virtually every aspect of the 65-year-old landmark hotel has been upgraded or refurbished to underscore Camelback's western heritage. For example, the 453 guest casitas and suites have been redecorated with wrought-iron tables and chairs, hand-painted headboards, and Native American-inspired artwork. There's also an expansive, new, family-oriented, swimming pavilion and landscaping that's been converted to drought-tolerant xeriscape gardens. If Camelback had been treading water -- and it was -- it's now galloping across the desert.

Marriott's Camelback Inn, 7847 N. Mockingbird Lane, Scottsdale, Arizona 85254; (800) 24-CAMEL.

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