Ambiente “Up Close” … A Glimpse At The Soon To Be Completed Ambiente Golf Course

Camelback Golf Club’s new golf course, Ambiente, is in its final stages of completion, and is slated to open in late November. Ambiente, which was designed by Jason Straka under the banner of Hurdzan/Fry Environmental Golf Course Design, is the first new golf-course development project in the Phoenix-Scottsdale and Paradise Valley areas in over five years.

“It was a privilege to work with Marriott to create Ambiente,” says Straka.  “I am excited for golfers to experience its tumbling wide fairways, intriguing contours, eye-popping bunkering and wonderful blend of native vegetation.  I believe golfers of all abilities will find a playable, memorable and fun round of golf in an environmentally beneficial setting.”

Here is an advance look at some of the majestic holes that await golfers on Ambiente:

Ambiente Hole #8, #10 and #13

JW Marriott Cambelback Golf ClubAmbiente Course, #8 TeeParadise Valley, ArizonaUnited States JW Marriott Cambelback Inn Ambiente Course, #10 Approach to the green Paradise Valley, Arizona United States JW Marriott Cambelback Inn Ambiente Course, #13 Tee Paradise Valley, Arizona United States

Ambiente Golf Course Receives ASGCA “Design Excellence” Honor For 2013

1 of 12 courses in United States and China cited for illustrating “Value of the Golf Course”

BROOKFIELD, Wis. – The second annual American Society of Golf Course Architects (ASGCA) Design Excellence Recognition Program recipients for 2103 have been named, and the new Ambiente golf course at Camelback Golf Club stands among the honorees. Ambiente, under the direction of Dana Fry, ASGCA and Jason Straka, ASGCA, of Fry/Straka Global Golf Course Design, is one of 12 courses that have been cited for their work with ASGCA members in addressing unique design challenges leading to improved social, economic and environmental benefits.

Begun in 2012, the Design Excellence Recognition Program shines a light on the innovation and problem-solving skills required of today’s golf course designs, whether the project is a “small” bunker renovation or a full-scale 18-hole layout. All of the 2013 nominations were reviewed by a panel of golf industry leaders, including representatives of the Club Managers Association of America, Golf Course Superintendents Association of America, Golf Course Builders Association of America and National Golf Course Owners Association. Congratulations to Ambiente and Camelback Golf Club!!!

Ambiente’s Design Story: Q&A with Jason Straka, golf architect, Hurdzan/Fry Environmental Golf Design

Q: The Indian Bend golf course was heavily tree lined, restricting the mountain views. How will the Ambiente be different?

A: We removed over 1,000 non-native trees to open up the playing corridors and because they required extensive water which was not part of our environmental plan.  However, we are adding over 1,400 native Acacia trees, in mostly out of play areas, as part of our native mix that will include growing a significant number of desert trees and shrubs from seed. The removal of trees allowed us to widen the “in play” areas by increasing landing areas by 20-30 yards.  We also moved center lines away from homeowners, thus making it safer to live on the course as well.  As far as the views go, they will be spectacular with Mummy Mountain, Camelback, the McDowells and the Phoenix Mountain Preserve now clearly visible while playing the course.  This was not possible with the tree layout on the Indian Bend course.

Q:  Will maintaining Ambiente be easier by restoring native desert and grass areas?

A: Yes. By having less turfgrass it is certainly easier to maintain the native desert and grass areas, which will allow us to maintain the overall course at much higher level.  This will result in Ambiente becoming one of the best landscaped and manicured courses in the Phoenix-Scottsdale area.

Q: Why was it important to restore the native desert and grass areas in the design of Ambiente?

A:  This effort is a centerpiece of the Ambiente project. Among the advantages of bringing native desert and grass areas into the design of Ambiente is water conservation; wildlife habitat creation; pesticide/fertilizer and fossil fuel use will be cut in half; and the overall aesthetics of course will be second to none in the Southwest.  This approach will give the course an incredible texture, while allowing us to transition from the high maintenance requirements of turf to native areas that bring so many benefits to golfers, the environment, precious wildlife and the community overall.

Q: Built on the 100-year flood plain, and traditionally a low-lying course, how will the new design of Ambiente work within the flood plain?  Is it designed to drain better?

A: Ambiente’s design, while challenging due to the 100 year flood limits, will in fact drain better, allowing water to move through the course easier, without gaining velocity or capacity.  Equally important, all main features of the course, including greens, tees, fairways and bunkers, will be out of the water flow, thus allowing us to be open for play more often during flood events and giving golfers the ability to enjoy the course on a consistent basis.

Q: Can you speak to the increase in acreage and square miles for Ambiente, as compared to the Indian Bend layout?

A: While the footprint is basically the same, we added 16 acres of dry, barren land where the new hole number 4 and number 5 tee are located.  This area was previously owned and maintained by a local HOA, but we leased the land for the next 66 years.  As a result, we not only have 13 brand new holes that are in completely different locations than before, we essentially took a dead piece of barren land and turned into 16 acres of beautiful golf landscape.

Q: Can you discuss Ambiente’s green sizes and dimensions, as compared to the original Indian Bend layout?

A: We’ve increased green acreage by about 122,000 sq. ft.  As a result, the new greens have great movement, character and feel.  Visually they seem intimidating, but once on the putting surface they are very fair.  The previous greens were basically flat and round, with no drainage and all sloped back to front. They had very little character mainly due to how they were constructed, so one of our main focuses with Ambiente were to create distinct designs of our greens that were fair but challenged golfers to bring their putting stroke every time out.

Q: How will elevation changes in the Ambiente design impact the golf experience overall?

A: As compared to Indian Bend, there are significant elevation changes course-wide that were not there before.  In fact, there is more elevation on one golf hole now than an entire section of the course had previously.  Ambiente will have rolling fairways with significant drops down into the native wash area.  Many holes even have heroic carries over some of those low areas.   Aesthetically this will be very pleasing to the eye, while presenting fun, challenging shotmaking opportunities for golfers.

Ambiente’s Importance to Camelback Golf Club: Q&A with Rob Bartley, Director of Golf, Camelback Golf Club

Q: Already considered a premier practice facility, how will Ambiente further enhance the reputation of Camelback Golf Club as a place where golfers go to hone their skills?  

A: While Camelback Golf Club is long known for being the best practice facility in Scottsdale and the Paradise Valley, Ambiente not only establishes an unmatched 36-hole golf destination, but it will bring even greater exposure to the existing practice facility.  In fact, practice areas at Camelback afford golfers the opportunity to work on a variety of creative shot making that may be required to play Ambiente.  Our undulating practice greens, multiple sand bunkers, uneven lie areas and countless target greens allow golfers the chance to hone their skills for what awaits them on both the Ambiente and Padre courses.

Q: How will Ambiente complement Padre in re-defining Camelback in the local golf marketplace?

A: First off, Padre is a great, highly respected parkland style golf course, with numerous water hazards, scenic views and golf holes that ensure guests of all abilities focus on the task at hand, not to mention the towering Pine and Eucalyptus trees that will test each golfer’s skills.  Ambiente will present a different type of challenge, where accuracy and a good strategy command the day. While playable for golfers of any skill level, this new course will distract golfers with its natural beauty, while at the same time confronting them with shots that command their undivided attention.  They are two distinctly different golf courses from a playability standpoint, which will help to establish all that is great with Camelback Golf Club.  This will be complemented by two aesthetically beautiful golf course settings that will provide an unmatched entertainment experience for every type of player.

Q: Will the clubhouse at Camelback Golf Club experience any renovations or upgrades as part of the Ambiente project?

A: To complement Ambiente in the Camelback Golf Club portfolio, a series of enhancements are being made to the clubhouse in the form of stylish new hardwood flooring, additional functional seating and tables, a redesigned bar area with large TV’s, improved outdoor offerings and a new-look interior design concept that will warmly welcome golfers upon entrance to the facility.

Q: How will Ambiente’s new tee boxes positively impact today’s “growth of the game” effort and will the new forward tees, with no forced carry, create opportunities for aspiring players, as well as pace of-play proponents?  

A: The (5) five sets of tee boxes will allow golfers of any level to enjoy the course.  The course is designed to be much more open from the forward tees, while presenting a difficult challenge for those teeing off on the back tees.  Not only does each tee going forward have less length, but the carries are shorter and the angles into landing areas are easier.  Thus, we will encourage golfers to play from the proper tees based upon their handicap and this should greatly aid pace of play, thus adding to the prestige of this new golf course and the Camelback Golf destination overall.

Q: How will Ambiente compare against other courses in the area with regard to competitiveness for the better player?

A: Based on input from several experts who have toured the course in its construction phase and who have reviewed the blueprint, the one constant that comes back about Ambiente is that this new course will, without fail, challenge the very best golfers to bring their “A” game … if they want to shoot a good score.  While some courses have a few holes that allow for easy birdies, there are no gimme holes on Ambiente.  Every hole forces the best players to focus on every shot.

Q: Upon completion, how will Ambiente be rated against the top area golf courses?

A: Ambiente, upon completion, will be an extremely competitive golf course that is placed in the mid-upper level daily fee operations in the Phoenix-Scottsdale market, versus such notable courses such as Kierland, Talking Stick, TPC, WeKoPa, Phoenician and Marriott’s own Wildfire.

Q: How will Ambiente compare aesthetically with other area courses?

A: Ambiente will have a completely different look and feel than traditional desert style courses in the area.  Although it’s still target golf with only 85 acres of turfgrass, the native grasses, shrubs, smaller trees and wildflowers will give the course a more northern desert look than the area’s traditional Sonoran desert layouts.

Ambiente’s Importance to Local Golf and the Phoenix-Scottsdale Community: Q&A with Jim Rose, General Manger, Camelback Inn Resort & Spa

 Q: How important is Ambiente in enhancing Camelback Inn Resort & Spa as a major 36-hole golf destination?  

A: We expect Ambiente to be considered a premier course in the Paradise Valley.  This, combined with the Padre Course’s longstanding reputation as a top level course, truly positions the resort as a golf destination, both for leisure/golf packages and group golf.  The development of Ambiente was critical to positioning the resort as a place to enjoy authentic service, majestic accommodations, distinctive food offerings and an unparalleled ambiance that has come to define Camelback Inn & Resort. 

Q: How important is Ambiente to the Tourism Industry in the Phoenix-Scottsdale Market?

A: As the only new golf course to hit the market in over 5 years, and based on its unique layout and design features, we expect golfers en masse to flock to Camelback to play Ambiente.  More importantly, in tandem with the Padre Course, and based on the marketing prowess of Marriott, we expect golfers throughout North America to descend on Camelback as golf’s newest premier destination in the Southwest.  This will be extremely positive for the tourism industry in Phoenix-Scottsdale.

Q: Do you expect home values on the perimeter of the Ambiente course to increase with this new project?

A: Without question.  We are replacing a course (Indian Bend), which was largely considered a Paradise Valley municipal course, with the Ambiente course.  Ambiente will be acclaimed for its design, the challenge, yet enjoyable experience it presents to golfers of all levels, and the overall aesthetic and environmental qualities it brings to the community.  Thus, we are giving homeowners an unparalleled new look and feel in a championship golf course that we believe will be considered the best new course in the state, and in their backyards.  And, it comes at to no cost to a single homeowner.

Ambiente Means Environment!

Environment is a significant part of the story of Camelback’s new course, which is slated to open in the late fall of 2103.  In fact, it was the basis for the course name, as Ambiente in Spanish means environment.

The Ambiente golf course environmental story centers on water conservation, wildlife habitat creation and an overall 50 percent decrease in pesticide/fertilizer and fossil fuel use, which is a direct contrast from former Indian Bend golf course. The design and layout of the course will be highlighted by 100 acres of new native desert and grass areas that will feature a mix of acacias, jojobas and sagebrush among many other desert shrubs and grasses, as well as an eye-catching collection of both summer and winter desert wildflower mixes.

These native areas, which will require one-third less water than Indian Bend, will be complemented by 85 acres of hybrid turf grass that also requires significantly less water, while reducing the daily labor and machinery intensive maintenance of traditional Bermuda grass. Overall, the combined native areas will give the course a more Northern desert look compared to the area’s traditional Sonoran Desert layouts, making it a must-play Southwestern layout in Paradise Valley. From an Audubon standpoint, Ambiente is designed to cater to wildlife, which is part of Marriott’s overall role as a steward of the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary program. By removing over 100 acres of turf grass and replacing it with native desert and grass areas, bird inventory, as well as the local mammal population, will increase substantially.

Environmental consciousness has long been a hallmark at Marriott, and we believe that Ambiente is a perfect example of the Company’s commitment to protecting wildlife and natural resources, while continually serving as a leader in eco-friendly business practices,” said Jim Rose, General Manager, Camelback Inn Resort & Spa. “Upon completion, we expect golfers in the community will find that Ambiente stands alongside the premier golf landscapes in the Phoenix-Scottsdale market, while we expect the course to redefine the destination golf experience for group and leisure customers visiting the Camelback Inn.”

JW Marriott Camelback Inn Resort & Spa Officially Announces New $10 Million Ambiente Golf Course

The JW Marriott Camelback Inn Resort & Spa has announced that it will unveil its new Ambiente golf course at Camelback Golf Club in the fall of 2013. Spanish for the word “environment,” Ambiente, which is designed with a detailed eco-friendly focus, will become the first new golf course development project in the Phoenix-Scottsdale and Paradise Valley areas in over five years, and one of a select group of new courses to be built nationwide.

The completion of the $10 million Ambiente golf course will culminate a seven-year, $70 million Marriott renewal project at Camelback Inn, designed to blend reverence for the past with relevance for the future. From preserving the resort’s 1930s adobe brick to the stylish renovation of the Inn’s 453 casita-style guestrooms, and from a new 20,000 square-foot, hi-tech grand ballroom to the debut of BLT Steak, Laurent Tourondel’s modern American steakhouse, the renewal project involved virtually every aspect of the historic resort. Today the new-look 125-acre Camelback Inn, set on its Sonoran Desert surroundings in Paradise Valley, strikes the perfect balance between showcasing the best of the resort’s storied past, while setting a visionary course for the future.

Adding to the lore of Camelback, Ambiente is expected to gain golf industry-wide acclaim for its distinct design, the challenging, yet enjoyable experience it presents to golfers of all levels and the overall aesthetic and environmental qualities it brings to the Phoenix-Scottsdale area. In concert with the popular Padre golf course, Ambiente will help to establish a one-of-a-kind 36-hole Southwest golf destination, for both leisure and group golfers, within the enchanting resort atmosphere of the Camelback Inn.

“Ambiente is more than just a new golf course, for it represents the final phase in Marriott’s unmatched commitment to reinvigorate Camelback Inn for the future, while preserving its history and the unique Southwestern style that has made it a favorite for generations of travelers,” said Jim Rose, General Manager, JW Marriott Scottsdale Camelback Inn Resort & Spa. “While Ambiente is sure to distract golfers with its natural beauty and breathtaking views of Mummy Mountain, Camelback, the McDowells and the Phoenix Mountain Preserve, our golfing guests will find a friendly test of skill and shotmaking that will redefine the golf experience at a resort long known for its exceptional service, palette pleasing food, luxurious accommodations and spirit of adventure.”

The launch of Ambiente, which replaces the old Indian Bend golf course, will create a uniquely different golf experience than the Padre course, which today is regarded as a great parkland style golf course that, while scenic, boasts numerous water hazards, towering Pine and Eucalyptus trees and 18 golf holes that will test every golfer’s ability. In contrast, Ambiente, which was designed by notable golf architect Jason Straka on behalf of Hurdzan/Fry Environmental Golf Design, will present a distinct challenge where accuracy and a good strategy command the day, as every hole will force even the best players to focus on each and every shot. Golfers will find the eye-catching elevation changes, as well as rolling fairways with significant drops throughout the course, are among its most striking features.

Ambiente will also feature five sets of tee boxes, designed to positively impact today’s golf industry “growth of the game” effort. The new forward tees have no forced carries and offer easier approach angles, which create opportunities for aspiring golfers to enjoy regardless of their playing ability. One of the most golfer-friendly features of Ambiente is the creatively shaped greens. The overall green acreage, which stands at about 122,000 square feet, offers great movement, character and feel. Visually intimidating, the putting surfaces are very fair, but will challenge golfers to bring their best putting stroke every time out.

Bunker named director of golf instruction at Camelback

Craig Bunker

The JW Marriott Camelback Inn Resort & Spa today announces the addition of Craig Bunker as the director of golf instruction to its team of experience golf professionals.

A Class A member of the PGA of America for 34 years, Mr. Bunker will oversee all aspects of golf instruction at the Camelback Golf Club, which offers 36 holes of championship golf as its Padre Course and Indian Bend Course, reopening in October 2013 following expensive renovations.

Mr. Bunker began his career as a golf professional working at various country clubs throughout the U.S. before settling in Arizona in 1991, where he worked as the director of Instruction at John Jacob’ Golf Schools in Mesa. 

It was here that he was recognized as one of the 50 Best Teachers in America by Golf Magazine. Most recently, Bunker served as the General Manager of the Hillcrest Golf Club in Sun City West.

“Craig Bunker’s many years of experience as a golf professional, both managing as well as instructing, make him a valuable addition to the team,” said Jim Rose, general manager of the JW Marriott Camelback Inn Resort & Spa.

The JW Marriott Camelback Inn’s Indian Bend Golf Course is undergoing a complete overhaul, including creating a new course typography, restructuring individual holes, alternating tee locations, and re-configuring golf cart paths. The project will create a new 150-acre, 18-hole course designed with a Hurdzan Fry Environmental Golf Design.

– Article featured in Paradise Valley Independent Newspaper

Update from the Architect

CGC01_before_web(Before construction began)

We are pleased to report that the earthwork and rough shaping have been completed on holes 7 through 14 and construction has moved into several new phases on the north end of the property over the last few weeks. Specifically, finished bunker construction, greens construction and cart paths are nearing completion on several holes.

The sand bunkers of the new Indian Bend are quite dramatic and are far different in style and construction from before, and from the bunkers on the Padre course. The construction crews have created the hard edges of the new bunkers on holes 10, 11 and 12. Golfers will encounter an older style bunker with varied edges as opposed to smooth lines. This varied edge fits in more with the naturalized character of the new course. In a different twist the fairways will be mowed straight into the bunkers so that no rough will exist between the bunker and the play areas. Native vegetation will hang over the lips of the bunkers where they meet the out of play areas. But to get to this final look the construction crews will next install interior drainage on the bunker floors as well as spray an adhesive or tackifier onto the bunker faces to stabilize them from the forces of erosion. This will also help ensure that the sand will stay clean for a longer period of time. Quickly following the spraying of the tackifier sand will be installed in the bunkers just prior to the beginning of the planting phases.

In concert to the final bunker construction crews are diligently preparing the cart path sub-base and have already poured concrete paths along holes 10, 11 and 12. Rolled curbing has also been installed along all the tees and greens of those holes to keep carts on the paths so as to protect the greens and tees from unwanted cart traffic. While the paths will assist in inclement weather and aid the movement of maintenance and beverage cart traffic golfers will appreciate that they have been well hidden from view and are not in immediate play corridors.

Green construction is also continuing to move along quite rapidly. Subsurface drainage, a gravel layer and 12″ of highly tested USGA specified rootzone material has already been installed on holes 8 through 13, with progress being made on holes 7 and 14. The greens will be temporarily covered with tarps for protection against wind and water borne silt contamination until the bermudgrass planting season begins in late May.

We are also pleased to report that the seeding of the native secondary roughs will commence in the next few weeks on Phase I holes. Further, earthwork and shaping has begun on Phase II and is on target to be completed sometime near the end of February. Please stay tuned for more architectural and construction updates on the new Indian Bend golf course!


Jason Straka
Golf Course Architect

Please keep off the Grass!

For your safety and the safety of others we would like to remind you that the course is an active construction site.  Please be respectful of our signs and do not bike, jog, run or walk the dog in the construction site.  Paradise Valley officials will be notified of any infractions.  Please contact me directly if you have any questions. 


Rob Bartley
Director of Golf Operations
JW Marriott Camelback Inn Resort & Spa

7847 N. Mockingbird Lane | Scottsdale, AZ  85253
Phone: 480-905-7985


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.