Best hole of the day may be the 19th - East Valley Tribune: Sports

Best hole of the day may be the 19th

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Posted: Thursday, January 1, 2004 5:59 am | Updated: 4:51 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

No matter how well you played — or in the majority of cases, how bad — most golfers like to end their round with a visit to the 19th hole.

Call it the traditional last stop in the game, a watering hole of sorts where golfers tell about their exploits, pay off the bets they’ve made that day, and tip a pint (or two) with friends and foes alike.

Of course, historians are quick to point out that the original 19th hole in golf was not as we know it today. Instead, "Ye Ole 19th Hole’’ was simply that — a golf hole that was an extension of the first 18 holes.

Before you get your knickers in a bunch over a 19-hole round of golf, it is paramount to understand that the game, which originated in Scotland in the early 1400s, did not in the beginning have an exact number of holes. That’s right, some courses had four holes, while others had dozens.

But in 1764, St. Andrews reduced its Old Course from 22 to 18 holes, and made up the rules that went a long way in establishing an outward nine and an inward nine, or 18 holes as we know it. According to the lore, the Royal & Ancient Club decided that since there were 18 shots in a bottle of Scotch, 18 holes it would be!

The 19th hole, meanwhile, became the "add-on hole’’ used to settle bets should a match end up "halved’’ or "squared.’’ Why, you ask? Well, who was going to buy the ale or a couple of shots of Scotch if there were no losers? And to bring the match to a quick and dramatic conclusion, the 19th hole was usually a short par-3.

But times have changed, and today most bets are settled in the clubhouse bar, which according to Gary McCord’s book "Golf For Dummies’’ is the "true 19th hole.’’ What’s different in Arizona is that some of these 19th holes are the equivalent of fine dining, while others resemble the more smoke-filled, beer-smelling dens of yesteryear.

They also may, or may not, be close to the course’s 18th hole, as golf has spread throughout the neighborhood.

Regardless, through the years the 19th hole has gained a steady and deserved reputation as golf’s great gathering spot. The late comedian W.C. Fields, he of the red nose and imbibing personality, always referred to it as "my best hole of the day.’’ Another funny guy, Bill Murray, said of the 19th hole: "If you didn’t have these moments in the game, you’d quit.’’

Bottom line, most players relish their time at the 19th hole, and only wish there were a 20th hole that followed. To that end, The Tribune has found 10 outstanding watering holes in the East Valley that are guaranteed to wet your whistle in a very good way. (The following establishments were selected according to quality of food, ambience, service and uniqueness to golf and listed in no particular order).

GREENWOOD’S AT GOLD CANYON

6100 S. Kings Ranch Road

Gold Canyon, (480) 982-9449

There is a reason why Greenwood’s Bar and Grill is packed every afternoon with golfers as well as many of those who live in the neighborhood: Happy hour is from 4 to 7 p.m. With half-priced food and $1.75 longnecks, it doesn’t get much better when the shadows set on Dinosaur Mountain.

What’s unusual about Greenwood’s is the name itself, as former head pro Bret Greenwood, who now runs the Duke at Rancho El Dorado, left Gold Canyon Golf Resort years ago. But why mess with a name that works so well? And when it comes to comfort food — spaghetti and meat balls (Monday), meat loaf (Tuesday), roast beef (Wednesday), roasted chicken (Thursday) and a catfish fry (Friday) — Greenwood’s works really well judging from its loyal following.

Actually, the place has a sportsbar feel, with 10 TVs wedged in every corner and six beers on tap, from Rio Salado lager to Bud Light. And if TV does not enthrall you, how about this cultural golf phenomenon? Greenwood’s also doubles as the Gallery George, which features paintings and bronzes created by Gold Canyon artist Matt Bolagorssi.

FOX SPORTS GRILL

16203 N. Scottsdale Road

Scottsdale, (480) 368-0369

If 21st Century techno-chic and "the Scottsdale scene’’ are what you seek following a round of golf, then Fox Sports Grill is "the best damn 19th hole’’ in the Valley. With bigscreened TVs as well as the plasma versions hanging from every nook and cranny, it’s hard not to take in a little tube as you consume.

Still, this enormous bar that geographically resides just a big drive and a 5-iron from the TPC of Scottsdale, has another calling card. That would be a rather large, nine-hole putting green that is located just outside its back door. And it’s a pretty mean little green, so go ahead and work on the part of your game that’s costing you a small fortune in Nassaus.

Fox also sports a cigar lounge, billiard’s room and a secret room for private parties. According to the manager, Kerrylee Harrington, the house speciality is crab cakes ("Our customers tell us they’re better than the ones they get in Maryland’’). But most golfers with a hearty appetite will have a hard time looking past the chophouse burger, prime-rib French dip and filet mignon chili.

BRITISH OPEN PUB

1334 N. Scottsdale Road

Scottsdale, (480) 941-4915

For those seeking a bit of England, Scotland or Ireland, welcome to the East Valley’s best attempt at a European pub, complete with green doors and walls outlined in dark wood. From the Ploughman’s platter to the English stew to the incredible fish and chips, golfers will adore the British Open Pub. Tucked into Papago Plaza on the corner of Scottsdale and McDowell roads, the BOP features old photos from the Open’s course rotation (St. Andrews, Royal Troon, Carnoustie, etc.) as well as many of its past champions — Bobby Jones, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods.

The beers also embody that Old World feel — from Guinness to Bass to Harp to Fuller’s to John Bull Amber. There’s even a Dry Blackthorn bitter, if you like such stuff. Adding to the flavor, steel-tipped darts are aimed at bulls-eyes nightly, and there’s also a pool table, seven TVs and the 2004 version of Golden Tee. Lots of different types of Scotch, too. Also very pub-like, special offerings are listed daily outside the front door on a chalkboard, but be sure to check out the entire menu. Otherwise you will miss such delicacies as English sausage rolls, Wallys (dill pickles fried in beer batter), bread pudding and English sherry truffles.

There’s even a box of "Haggis Helper’’ on the bar with the accompanying gag line: "Just add sheep guts.’’ But here is the real kicker to the British Open Pub — the food is much better than what you would get if you actually made the journey across the Big Pond. No wonder it’s a hot spot for transplanted Euros.

LONGBOW GOLF CLUB

5601 E. Longbow Parkway

Mesa, (480) 807-5400

To truly understand how good this brand-new, open-air facility is, you have to go back a year or so to the old 19th hole at Longbow: slab of cement; couple of tables; seated 25 people. Literally, one-tenth of what Longbow offers today: 5,000-squarefoot patio (4,000 covered); lounge chairs and tables spaced for intimacy; massive outdoor fireplace open to four sides; outdoor kitchen and barbecue pit; tournament bar; suspended TVs; mister/heater systems; seats 250 people. Wow!

The food also has come light years ahead, as a dynamic duo from Scottsdale Culinary Institute — chefs Tim Rogers and Genevieve Mattis — takes turns preparing the fare. That doesn’t mean that Longbow has lost its Budweiser roots. It hasn’t, as Amber Bock and Bud are on tap inside the clubhouse, and Bud Light and Michelob flow outside.

As a result, Longbow is doing about 10 times the tournament play it did in 2002. That’s because the price is right, and it’s hard to beat Longbow’s half-pound burgers, jumbo dogs and 12-inch bratwursts imported from Sheboygan, Wis.

BERNARD’S AT OCOTILLO

371 S. Clubhouse Drive

Chandler, (480) 917-6660

The maitre d’ is a rare bird in the golf world, and the man in charge of the tasty food and weekend fun at Bernard’s is an even more rare species. That’s because Carlo Ventura was born in the culinary capital of Bari, Italy, and therefore understands the subtleties as well as the principles of intimate dining. Ventura hustles from table to table in the evenings spreading joy, and his diligent staff tries to keep up with him.

Whether it’s filet mignon and a glass of Ferrari Carrano, or a charbroiled Angus beef burger and a schooner of Bass, Carlo always finds a way to make his patrons feel more than satisfied — the secret to any great restaurant. Bernard’s, which is named after Ocotillo owner Bernie Hoogestradt, also boasts an outstanding chef in Kevin Glowacki, who did his apprenticeship at Desert Mountain. Even though the eatery is stately for a 19th hole — Texas limestone and copper lined with large beams of Douglas fir — the atmosphere at Bernard’s can range from fine dining to a Friday night party to just a few beers at the bar.

Ocotillo also leads the Arizona golf industry in weddings, which sheds further light on Bernard’s elegance. And for those who can’t get enough of this Water World (23 of 27 holes feature wet stuff), a pristine patio nestled into several garden-like waterfalls awaits.

PHIL’S GRILL AT GRAYHAWK

8620 E. Thompson Peak

Parkway, Scottsdale

(480) 502-1800

Even though he moved to southern California a couple of years ago, PGA Tour star Phil Mickelson still represents Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, which is why the name of its most popular watering hole remains Phil’s Grill.

There is a lot to like about Phil’s place, especially the prime-rib sliders, blackened chicken caesar, spicy chicken wings and Barn Burgers, which come with a haystack of fries. Slightly pricey (hey, it’s Scottsdale!), the best thing about Phil’s Grill — besides chef Jeff Storz — is its spacious ambience, which features lots of wooden beams, leather, big windows, fireplaces, patios and TVs.

Among the offerings on tap are Mick (Michelob) Lite, Four Peaks Kilt Lifter and Mirror Pond Pale Ale, with a fairly extensive wine list that features everything from Cellar No. 8 to Berginger Private Reserve. There’s also a rather large (22-ounce) Grande Margarita, which is mixed up on a 6-inch-thick slab of shiny juniper that serves as Phil’s bar.

You’ll never run out of look-sees, as Lefty’s old Ryder Cup bags, action photos, magazine covers and family pictures of the wife and kids adorn the walls. Yes, it’s see or be-seen place, as such celebs as Kevin Costner, Larry David and the golf nut Murray have popped in on occasion. And, McCord and his CBS sidekick, Peter Kostis, are "regulars.’’

HACKER’S BAR & GRILL

10321 N. Scottsdale Road

Scottsdale, (480) 609-9777

There is a bit of confusion about what makes Hacker’s click. Is it a "upper-class dive bar’’ or a "golfer’s paradise?’’ Both descriptions seem to fit.

Either way, Hacker’s is located in a shopping center on the corner of Shea and Scottsdale roads, and among the patrons over the years are PGA Tour pros Tim Herron and Billy Mayfair, and former NBA icons Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley (a real hacker). If that’s not enough, Tiger Woods once watched the Super Bowl at Hacker’s, according to a photo on the wall. With authentic flags flying from the ceiling from such fabled links as St. Andrews, Spyglass, Oakmont and Kiawah, and front-page photos of Arnie and Jack seemingly everywhere, you know this is a "real 19th hole,’’ complete with McCord’s personalized photo hanging from the wall.

Even though all the beer is bottled, the food is fabulous if you don’t mind the cigarette smoke, which at times gets heavy. According to the bartender, what’s different about Hacker’s is, "all of the items on our menu are named after our regulars, most of whom are golfers.’’

MERITAGE AT WILDFIRE

5225 E. Pathfinder

Scottsdale, (480) 293-3939

For a 19th hole, there are few more opulent than the Meritage, which awaits golfers who have just played a round on the Faldo or Palmer courses at Wildfire.

Elegant yet casual (a tough theme to accomplish), the Meritage is separated by booths for intimacy and a beautiful bar for revelry. It also has a terrific array of foods and a smash wine list to match any establishment — on or off the course — in the East Valley. With a Phoenix zip and a Scottsdale area code, Meritage, which refers to a wine, is part of the massive JW Marriott at Desert Ridge Resort. For those needing a reality check (no, you haven’t stumbled into the resort’s most elegant eaterie, Blue Sage), Meritage overlooks the golf courses, and boasts two outdoor patios. Flat-screened TVs tuned to The Golf Channel also help remind golfers that this is a 19th hole. Really! But the menu is so diverse — Black Angus steaks, Maine lobster, sushi stacks, baked oysters, raspberry cheesecake, chocolate praline ganache — you have to keep telling yourself: "I just played a game; I’m not on vacation.’’

After all, where else can you enjoy a steak offered in degrees of "black and blue’’ and "extra rare,’’ which comes in the form of "diane,’’ "oscar’’ and "aupoivre’’?

As you might expect, it takes a great chef to prepare such creations, and Meritage has one in Joshua Amoson. Despite all the trappings, Meritage still offers great bar food, with steakhouse hamburgers, prime-rib shooters and spicy buffalo wings. There’s also Mirror Pond Pale Ale, Bud Light, Samuel Adams, Fat Tire and Foster’s to go with such expensive bottles of vino as Duckhorn and Silver Oak.

THE GRILL AT THE TPC

17020 N. Hayden Road

Scottsdale, (480) 585-3939

When it comes to the most highly acclaimed 19th hole in the Valley, the honor goes (as it does every year) to The Grill at the TPC. From Wine Spectator to Playboy, to every publication in Arizona, the consensus on superb steak is the TPC, which is actually managed and serviced by the nearby Fairmont Princess Resort.

Several things make this so, including dry-aged steaks that list in the $40 range and fabulous fresh fish (flown in daily) that go for market price, meaning they also are quite expensive. And while The Grill offers such brews as Kiltlifter, Bass, Guinness, Fat Tire and Michelob Ultra, it is the wine list featuring over 190 bottles that remains the restaurant’s signature hole. Where else can you buy a magnum of Opus for $799, or for that matter, a mere bottle of Penfolds Grange for $425?

Relax, there is plenty of wine for under $100, and the primerib steak sandwich, Black Russian Reuben and seared ahi are a mere pittance by comparison (and almost as good). Of course, such epicurean delights oftentimes need guidance, which is why it’s good to know The Grill’s sommelier, Erich Wagner, and executive chef, Susanne Hansen.

THE GRILLE AT

EAGLE MOUNTAIN

14915 E. Eagle Mountain Parkway Fountain Hills, (480) 816-1248

Wine tastings, champagne brunch, picnics, beach parties, weddings and a happy hour called the "Border Disorder’’ . . . there’s always something new and unusual on tap when you visit The Grille at Eagle Mountain. According to the locals, much of the credit goes to chef A.J. Carlott, whose creativity can be traced down the hill to his roots at the Scottsdale Culinary Institute.

Eagle Mountain also has several other key connections working for it, like John Komen of the nearby Inn at Eagle Mountain, who happens to run a vineyard called Flora Springs in northern California. Yes, that’s Flora Springs underneath that Eagle Mountain label.

With Fat Tire and Widmer Brothers Hefeweizen flowing, and perhaps the best chicken (buffalo or blackened) sandwich around, it’s easy to see why Carlott & Co. pack ’em in every Wednesday (4 to 8 p.m.) for their Border Disorder, which serves as an eclectic, all-you-can eat buffet for $6.50.

But the truth is, there is always some type of special event involving food and drink teeing off on the Mountain, which is why they have a large readership for their newsletter.

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