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I'm going to Flagstaff, Arizona this week. Can you give me any recommended courses? I don't have any club affiliations.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Not many folks beyond the state lines realize that in a little more than two hours up Interstate 17, you can leave the triple digit temperatures of Phoenix behind for the 75-degree days, 80-foot-tall Ponderosa pines and 7,000-foot elevation of Flagstaff. Unfortunately, the great golf in the area is confined to private clubs, notably at 36-hole Forest Highlands, whose Canyon course is often ranked as Arizona's best and at Pine Canyon, one of my favorite golf communities in the nation.
Basically, you've got three choices for public access golf. First -- and closest -- is Continental Country Club (928-527-7999, continentalflagstaff.com; $43-$69). Formerly known as Elden Hills, it's reverted back to an earlier name and at 15 minutes from virtually anywhere in Flagstaff, it's all about convenience and value. Expect play to be slow, with lots of once-every-six-months kinds of players swinging away on vacation, but the waiting isn't all bad. Roughly half the holes are of your basic meadow/pasture variety, with ill-defined landing areas and water hazards, but the other half are pure pleasure, with a handful framed perfectly by pines and backdropped by the San Francisco Peaks.
Another option is to drive 45 scenic minutes south and tee it up at Sedona Golf Resort in Sedona (877-733-6630, sedonagolfresort.com; $69-$105). It's lower in elevation, 10-20 degrees warmer and features sagebrush edging the holes, rather than pines, but the stupendous red rock scenery, memorably at the 210-yard, par-3 10th, makes it worth the journey. Gary Panks, who authored Twin Warriors near Albuquerque, did Sedona as well.
Finally, you might try a cool time warp 30 miles due west of Flagstaff at Elephant Rocks in Williams (928-635-4935, elephantrocks.net; $29-$54). Panks created nine new, tough, meadowy holes here in 1999, but the old stone clubhouse and the lay-of-the-land, pine-lined holes (1-5 and 15-18) date to the 1920s.