Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

August 22, 2017
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Praising Arizona

A luxurious week of golf in Arizona's Scottsdale

You can keep your winter. This born and bred Canadian would be quite happy if she never saw another snowflake. Maybe I'm overreacting, but after a month or so of winter's gloom, slush, flu and salt-stained boots, I crave sunshine and relaxation. For me, this translates into golf and spa in central Arizona's Valley of the Sun. With more than 330 days of sunshine per year, this valley delivers just what the doctor ordered.

Desert Golf
The Scottsdale area, just north of Phoenix, boasts more than 170 golf courses. The Tournament Players Club Stadium Course is located right next door to my favourite resort, the Scottsdale Princess. The club hosts the PGA Tour's Phoenix Open during the last week of January and is one of the finest courses in the area. On the 16th hole you'll have the chance to duplicate Tiger Woods' famous hole-in-one at the 1997 Phoenix Open.

Arizona's first desert golf courses were studies in contrast, pitting lush green oases, complete with waterfalls, lakes and transplanted palm trees, against the arid desert landscape. Instead of creating courses that harmonized with nature, designers tried to eradicate it. Newer courses display a more enlightened environmental approach. The Stadium Course is one of only three in Arizona to receive certification from the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for its commitment to a natural environment and wildlife preservation. You might spot roadrunners, coyotes, rabbits, hawks, herons and even a few rattlesnakes on this impeccably maintained links-style course designed by Tom Weiskkopf and Jay Morrish. Nestled in the Sonoran desert against the scenic backdrop of the McDowell mountains, the Stadium, with its cactus gardens and undulating knolls, is a visual treat. Woods, no doubt a fan of the course, observed, "You won't see greens like these until Augusta."

The Scottsdale Princess has partnered with several courses in the area, including SunRidge Canyon and Wildfire, to provide packages that include accommodation and golf. "This golf course wasn't built by bulldozers following blueprints," announces the SunRidge brochure. "It was created by wind and water, rock and time, following nature's own course." Nature's course is no walk in the park: the lush fairways wind between steep canyon walls. The front nine are mainly downhill and the starter's advice to use one club more on the up-hill back nine should be heeded. The slope rating on the relatively modest 6787 yards (from the back tees) is a hefty 140.

Arnold Palmer's Wildfire is another conscientiously-designed desert course with mesquite trees, saguaro cactus groves and dramatic views of the mauve-tinged McDowell and Camelback Mountains. "I enjoy designing golf courses that celebrate the sheer fun of golf, and Wildfire is exactly that," said Palmer. Try not to be put off your game by the rattlesnake warnings.

Sanctuary, one of the few courses in Arizona where you can choose to either ride or walk, is the latest Scottsdale course to receive the Audubon seal of approval. Architect Randy Heckenkemper designed an eco-sensitive, 6624-yard course that takes advantage of the natural topography and vegetation. No native plants were destroyed nor were any of the boulders removed during the course's construction. On-site recharge wells repurify runoff water and return it to the ground, replenishing the area's natural water source.

Ménage À Trois At The Spa
Enjoy golf in the cool mornings and reserve your afternoons for some serious pampering at the Scottsdale Princess Spa. I highly recommend the Massage in Symphony, where not one, but two massage therapists work on you in unison. The technique, known as Lomi Lomi, originated in Hawaii and synchronizes the movements -- touch, pressure, speed -- of two masseuses. Maestros Maria Canale and Irma Moreland trained together for three months to master their choreographed massage. At first I tried to figure out whose hands were doing what, but soon I succumbed to the long, flowing strokes and relaxed.

After they had performed their soothing duet over every inch of my limbs and spine, I rolled over and drifted into a sublime state of semi-consciousness, reliving that morning's hot-air balloon ride over the Sonoran desert at sunrise. The black sky turned a vivid blue, streaked with hot pink, while below us, wild boars, jackrabbits and coyotes darted amongst ancient saguaro and teddy bear cacti. Because the balloon moves with the wind you have no sense of motion, just the feeling of floating on a cloud.

The Royal Sonoran Body Polish, a Scottsdale Princess exclusive, is another treat. I was first slathered and exfoliated with a body scrub containing pumice, seaweed extract, shea-butter, glyceril and anti-inflammatory wheat proteins. I then showered and returned to the table to be wrapped in herb-steeped warm towels. While my sun-parched body soaked up the cleansing, calming and rejuvenating herbs, my therapist, Irene, massaged my head and neck before coating me with a citrus body lotion. I left positively glowing, with polished, refined skin.

 

Service With A Smile
"Our philosophy is to exceed guests' expectations in pampering and wellness," says Jill Eisenhut, spa and recreation director at Scottsdale. The staff at The Princess exceeded my expectations the moment I arrived. I was greeted at reception with a hamper filled with bottles of icy spring water and the inviting whiff of mesquite wood burning in the fireplace. In no time, my luggage and I were whisked off in a golf cart (yes, this is a large resort) to my casita, resplendent with terracotta tile floors, handsome Southwest furnishings, gas fireplace and balcony. I was tempted to crawl into bed, order room service and stay put.

I remembered the roast suckling pig on the menu at La Hacienda, and I took a stroll through the gardens, following my ears to the Mariachi band. The only Mexican restaurant to garner the Mobile Four Star and AAA Four Diamond rating in North America, La Hacienda is decorated like a Mexican ranch house and features authentic specialties.

Two evenings later, when I was dining at the Grill, overlooking the 18th green of the Stadium Golf Course, I was greeted by Chris Cruz, the same hostess who had seated me at La Hacienda. "Good evening, Ms. Draycott," she smiled. "Would you like to start with a glass of Clos du Bois?" She had not only remembered my name, but also which wine I had ordered. The food was outstanding, particularly the caramelized seven-onion soup with onion crisps and cheese crumbles and a sesame-crusted filet of ahi tuna with a ginger-tomato sauce.

With a plethora of recreational facilities (three pools, seven tennis courts, daily fitness classes, weight training, squash and racquetball), five restaurants and its own shops, you might never leave the resort. But once you've immersed yourself in Southwest style, you'll probably want to head to downtown Scottsdale and browse through the boutiques. Every Thursday evening you can join the free ArtWalk and enjoy refreshments and artist demonstrations at numerous galleries on the main streets.

Head to Cowboy Ciao on East Stetson Drive for innovative food and wine. If you're in a wine-tasting mood, try one of their wine flights -- three, three-ounce glasses of a particular grape variety, California Chardonnay, for example. The signature mushroom pan fry -- cremini, button and oyster mushrooms in ancho pepper cream over polenta with grilled portobello mushrooms, avocado, tomato and cotija cheese -- certainly lives up to its reputation.

Sedona Side Trip
Sedona, a two-hour drive north of Scottsdale, is well worth a side trip. Once you turn off the main highway you are engulfed by the spectacular red rock formations of Oak Creek Canyon. For many new agers, channelers, psychics and healers, Sedona is a sacred place. The area is home to several vortexes -- electromagnetic energy fields that emit upward from the ground -- that are purported to energize and inspire visitors.

In the Center for the New Age, I discovered a world of healing, past life regression, vortex water journeys, new moon celebrations and whole brain integration. Albeit intrigued, I decided my psyche would be best served by a round of golf at the Sedona Golf Resort. I was making cynical remarks about the new agers (while secretly hoping those electromagnetic forces might add a few more yards to my drive) to my golf companion, a local hotelier, when he shared an "only in Sedona" story. He'd been saving up to buy some pricey new Callaway clubs when one day he found exactly what he wanted, a three and a five wood, lying at the bottom of a construction site near his office. Now he visits his "vortex" regularly, hoping for a Callaway driver.

Vortexes or not, the Sedona Golf Course is jaw-dropping in its beauty, with an ever-changing play of light on the famed red rocks. Tuck your camera into your golf bag for a trophy shot of the signature par 3 10th hole with its rolling green framed by the spectacular Cathedral Rock.

I decided to splurge on a bon voyage treatment for myself at the Ridge Spa, next door to the Doubletree Sedona Resort. Checking in, I wasn't surprised to learn that Pam, my therapist, was a vortex devotee. She drew me a map to her favourite one, Cathedral Rock, and wrote down the website address of her Indian spiritual advisor. My Ultimate Red Rocks Retreat, billed as a renewing experience for the body, mind and spirit, started with a soak in a Jacuzzi filled with my choice of bath salts. I opted for the revitalizing sweet orange and patchouli combo. Next came a massage and a cleansing facial and clay mask. The finale was a gentle, stimulating face massage. Pam did have a soothing touch.

Sufficiently renewed in mind, body and spirit, I left the Southwest with new-found verve to face the snow and cold back home.

This article was accurate when it was published. Please confirm rates and details directly with the companies in question.

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