A Scottsdale Adventure Part 1: The Ultimate Buddies Trip

By local contributor
Stina Sternberg

Destination: Fun

Matt Lemman and Chris Carnahan live and breathe golf. As founders of the golf bag company Jones Golf Bags, golf is literally their job, and the onetime college pals’ personal passion for the game they’ve both played since childhood permeates everything they do. So when the Oregon residents and their best friends, Jordan Sweet and Gregg Hubert, searched for an epic buddies trip destination, they wanted a place that would offer them a chance to play championship golf at some of the best courses in the country, while satisfying their list of off-course buddies-trip must-haves such as great  food, unique culture and diverse activities. “We were looking for a spot that was easy to get to and that would allow us to pack our schedule with a plethora of exciting stuff,” says Matt. It didn’t take long for the group to settle on Scottsdale and the Sonoran Desert, which checked off more of their bucket-list items than any other destination in America. 

Single-digit-handicap golfers, there was no question Matt, Chris and friends would kick off their trip at one of Arizona’s most heralded resorts, We-Ko-Pa Golf Club. This unique 36-hole complex sits on tribal land owned by the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation, which makes it the only golf facility in the area free of development and full of dramatic desert and mountain views as far as the eye can see. We-Ko-Pa’s two award-winning layouts, Cholla and Saguaro, set up the perfect one-two punch of golf for diehards like our Oregon group, who could trek the walkable Saguaro in the morning and ride the more undulated Saguaro in the afternoon.


Lounging in Style

Scottsdale is known for its long list of luxury resorts that house some of the best spas in the world, and Matt, Chris and friends chose one of the area’s most legendary hotels as home base for their trip. Built in 1956, the perpetually hip Hotel Valley Ho is a fully-renovated mid-century modern oasis in downtown Scottsdale’s Arts District that once played frequent host to Hollywood royalty from Bing Crosby to Zsa Zsa Gabor, and every aspect of its original charm—from doorknobs and bathroom faucets to the grand lobby and poolside cabanas—has been preserved in the hotel’s décor. With meticulously appointed rooms, two spectacular pools, a full-menu spa and the award-winning ZuZu Restaurant, Valley Ho offered our four buddies the perfect place to relax between excursions while feeling like they’d stepped right into a decadent episode of “Mad Men” at every turn.


Eat, Play, Love

After satisfying their golf habit, the Jones Golf Bag team set out to explore the dining and activities scene that makes Scottsdale one of the most versatile vacation destinations in America. An afternoon spent cooling off at the Westin Kierland Resort and Spa’s FlowRider pool introduced the northwesterners to an exhilarating new sport—flowboarding—that uses its own, small board and combines boogie boarding, surfing and snowboarding into one thrilling, non-stop ride. And since no Arizona adventure is complete without a proper Mexican dinner and tequila tasting, they also made their way to the famous La Hacienda restaurant at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, voted the No. 1 Mexican restaurant in Arizona by Arizona Business Magazine. There, a designated “tequila goddess” served up flights of tequila from a menu of 200-plus varieties on a special rattlesnake platter while our friends sampled sumptuous lobster tacos and chorizo empanadas.  

Scottsdale’s eclectic nightlife has earned it the nickname “South Beach in the desert,” and there’s an endless list of hot spots to hit while enjoying the city’s culinary delights. Matt, Scott and friends are music fans, so they made sure to schedule a dinner at Hi-Fi Kitchen & Cocktails, where  music-inspired décor includes fascinating rock n’ roll art, lounge-style seating and vinyl records covering the walls. And to cap off their final Arizona evening, the group sampled the legendary nightlife at the destination bars and clubs at The W Scottsdale in the heart of the Scottsdale Entertainment District. The W’s Living Room Lounge & Bar offers an impressive martini menu as guests relax on comfort-able sofas to live music on Fridays and Saturdays, while the Shade Lounge & Bar bring visitors a slice of the Mediterranean through its European-inspired drinks, DJs and décor.


Taking the Wheel

The highlight of the four friends’ Scottsdale buddies trip was an exhilarating off-roading tour through the Sonoran Desert with Green Zebra Adventures. Green Zebra sets visitors up with military-grade Tomcar dune mountains, punctuated by momentary sightings of bald eagles and wild horses. From the world-class golf and dining to the warm hospitality and inimitable off-course activities, “Scottsdale gave us the buddies trip of buggies (the exact kind used by the Israeli army) and sets them loose in the desert. Matt and Scott’s group got to experience the adrenaline rush of their lives as they circumvented tower-ing cacti and sped along the Verde River. The spine-tingling natural roller-coaster ride was made even more memorable by the breath-taking desert views of the a lifetime,” Matt exclaims. “We’re definitely coming back again.”