Category: Phoenix

March 22, 2013

Ask Travelin' Joe: Undiscovered gems in Phoenix, best San Francisco spas and more

Posted at 11:32 PM by Joe Passov

QuinteroDear Joe:
In April, my buddies and I are heading to Phoenix for our annual golf trip. We've played the Scottsdale trophy courses, so this year we want to add an undiscovered gem that's also a good value, and we'll drive up to an hour. Any ideas?
—Roger McManus, Surrey, B.C.

The Valley of the Sun is full of terrific second-tier tracks that deliver top-tier value. Southern Dunes ($49-$199; 480-367-8949,, a Schmidt-Curley creation (with Fred Couples consulting) in Maricopa, 30 minutes south of the Phoenix airport, is a muscular 2002 design with sprawling bunkers, fescue-framed fairways and nary a weak hole. Once private, it's now a public-access amenity of the nearby Harrah's Ak-Chin Casino.

A 45-minute westward haul is Quintero ($75-$225; 928-501-1500,, a potent Rees Jones design that stimulates the senses with dramatic climbs and drops and a pristine desert environment (Pictured).

I also enjoy Gold Canyon's Dinosaur Mountain ($49-$199; 480-982-9090,, a Ken Kavanaugh product 50 minutes east of Phoenix in the heart of the Superstition Mountains.

Hi Joe:
My husband and I are looking for a golf resort and spa in the San Francisco area. Do you have a favorite?
—Lois Bauer, Shaker Heights, Ohio

From resorts to crackers, I love anything with "Ritz" in the name. Along with superb service, the Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay (650-712-7000,, 45 minutes south of downtown, has the Ocean Course ($160-$205, 650-726-1800,, a Pebble-like layout along the Pacific.

For a warmer, inland splurge just 90 minutes from San Francisco, try CordeValle, a Rosewood Resort (408-695-4500, The hilly, vineyard setting is a sublime backdrop for the property's Robert Trent Jones Jr. design ($195-$225, plus caddie fee), which hosts the PGA Tour's Open.

Hey Joe:
What are the "can't-miss" courses in the greater Tampa area? We're eight guys, and we prefer tough courses. Bring it on!
—Ed Schultz, Reading, Pa.

While many quality layouts await on the Gulf side of central Florida, "can't miss" implies something more memorable. Start with Innisbrook's Copperhead ($140-$245; 727-942-2000, It has unusual (for Florida) elevation changes, towering Carolina-style pines and propped-up greens fortified by sand and water. It's stern but fair. Its watery sibling, the Island, was a strong enough test to host the 1990 NCAA Championship, won by Phil Mickelson. Add two more respectable 18s and a resort that's perfect for buddy trips and you've got an ideal spot.

If you're up for a day trip, drive 90 minutes north to World Woods ($69-$79 for April; $39 twilight); 352-796-5500, or 90 minutes east to Streamsong ($115-$225; 863-354-6980,, two of the greatest 36-hole public complexes in the country.

Dear Joe:
I'm planning a long weekend getaway with the family. Priorities? Great golf for me and fun distractions for the kids. I'd prefer a half-day drive or less. What say you?
—John Tucker, Greensboro, N.C.

John, I say this: Take thy brood to Williamsburg, Va., roughly a four-hour drive from Greensboro. The Gold course at Colonial Williamsburg's Golden Horseshoe Golf Club ($65-$169; 757-220-7696,, which celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2013, serves up four simply fantastic par 3s from Robert Trent Jones Sr., while Jones's Spotswood at Golden Horseshoe, a nine-hole, par-31 delight, is a terrific value at $39.

Next door, your kids can experience the unparalleled history experience that is Colonial Williamsburg, amid cobblestone streets, 18th-century taverns, and artisans and character interpreters clothed in period dress.

Minutes away is Kingsmill Resort, which was home to the PGA Tour for more than 20 years. Three excellent courses await, including the Pete Dye–designed River course ($70-$190; 800-832-5665, You're also next to Busch Gardens, a 383-acre amusement park with more than 100 rides and attractions.

(Photo: Courtesy of Quintero)

January 05, 2013

Course Spy: TPC Scottsdale (Stadium)

Posted at 9:24 PM by

TPC Scottsdale (Stadium)

Scottsdale, Ariz.
7,216 yards, par 71
Green fees: $63-$299

While the front is forgettable, the back nine is a blast, with that wonderful 3-hole finish.

As expected for a TPC operation, the service was excellent, from bag drop to exit. When a staffer noticed our spy carrying a shirt and slacks on a hanger, our man was escorted to the locker room — and given Bo Van Pelt's locker! Talk about being treated like a pro.

Pace of Play
Paired with a deliberate, if self-deprecating, threesome from Texas who call themselves "The Traveling Grinders," our forecaddie helped us keep our round to four hours, 30 minutes. Not too shabby for a challenging, high-end course in prime season.

While the front nine is less than memorable, the back is a blast, with lots of variety, that wonderful three-hole finish, and mountain views. And conditions were so good, they could have held the Waste Management Phoenix Open that very day.

Given the course's high profile as a Tour host, along with the exceptional service and fine conditions, our $200 fee was definitely worth the money. Just one 19th hole quibble: $15 for a glass of Sauvignon Blanc? You may want to slip your flask into your bag.

If you can spare a couple of Benjamins — or have an expense account — the Stadium course is a memorable round on an iconic Tour track. A special shout-out to our looper, who whooped it up on the par-3 16th, giving us the full Phoenix Open experience.

(Photo: Evan Schiller)

Beautiful and blissful, We-Ko-Pa has matured into a modern classic

Posted at 9:04 PM by Joe Passov

Choosing one course above the rest in the winter desert haven of Phoenix/Scottsdale is harder than a flop shot off hardpan, but We-Ko-Pa's Saguaro course fits the bill.

Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw's effort debuted in December 2006 to instant acclaim. As with its 11-year-old sibling, the Scott Miller–designed Cholla course, Saguaro's sloping fairways feature blissful isolation, framed by stubby desert trees, namesake cacti and thorny underbrush. It's the rare modern desert course that's designed to be walked, and one where "run-up" approaches succeed, which makes for a splendid day for fans of traditional golf.

It's also a strategic treat that demands superior course management, even as it delivers some of the widest fairways in the desert. Wallet watchers, take note: In February and March, if you book eight to 90 days out, it's $195, compared with up to $100 more for other trophy tracks in the area. Playing 36 will run you $300. That's not cheap, but for a dazzling course with an inspiring Coore/Crenshaw design, it's the hottest deal under the sun.

(Photo: Lonna Tucker)

January 29, 2009

Ask Travelin Joe: Phoenix, Palm Springs and Miami

Posted at 8:29 AM by Joe Passov

If you want to ask Travelin' Joe a question, e-mail him at

Dear Joe,
We're coming down to the Phoenix area to catch the FBR Open, and we're staying to play golf for a week. My group is mostly low handicappers, between 3 and 10, and we've got a few top courses lined up. We've got one free day and would like to fill it with one more round. Do you have one hidden gem -- quality and price -- that you can recommend?

Sandy Laird
Englewood, Colorado

The best new course you can play in Phoenix isn't new -- but it is newly public. Southern Dunes Golf Club (480-367-8949,; $49-$119) in Maricopa, 25 minutes south of Phoenix's Sky Harbor International Airport was a private men's club for its first six years of existence, where members included major championship winners Mark Calcavecchia and Steve Jones.

Unfortunately, it's an hour from Scottsdale, on the "wrong" side of town, so the business model didn't hold up -- but the course sure did. This big, bold layout might be the very best work that Lee Schmidt and Brian Curley have done, with broad, sweeping, fescue-framed fairways, deep, artfully contoured and strategically placed bunkers and masterfully crafted undulating greens.

Toss in unobstructed mountain and desert vistas, Troon Golf management and a green fee that's less than half of some of Scottsdale's trophy courses, and you have what I consider to be Arizona's best value.

Hello Joe,
I live in the Seattle area and I am planning a trip at the end of January. I'm kicking around Palm Springs or the Dallas area. Is there something in either of those areas that is both nice and economical? We're a group of six and looking for a package similar to what you would find at the Robert Trent Jones Trail in Alabama. We did that last year but ran into some unfriendly weather. However the tracks and unlimited golf were incredible. We're all low handicappers and looking for a challenge if there is one. I'm also considering Horseshoe Bay in the Austin area.

Jeff Jones
Seattle, Washington

Intriguing options, indeed, but let's break it down. First, you won't find anything remotely resembling the Trent Jones Trail anywhere -- it's one of a kind, even among other Trails. Now, if weather is an issue and you guys are good golfers, I'd forego Dallas and Austin this time around and stick with Palm Springs.

You'll find plenty of affordable, quality public golf in both Texas destinations, but in late January, you're looking at average daytime highs in the upper 50s in Dallas, lower 60s in Austin. Pay the freight and enjoy the 70- to 75-degree sunshine that Palm Springs has to offer.

One option is the Golf Package at Hyatt Grand Champions Resort, Villas and Spa (760-341-1000,, which includes golf at Indian Wells Golf Resort, lodging, full breakfast, a sleeve of logo balls and yes -- a GOLF Magazine subscription. Both Indian Wells courses are once and future Skins Game hosts, and you can't go wrong picking either the Clive Clark-designed Celebrity Course or the John Fought-crafted Players Course, each a sturdy, gorgeous test. Package prices start at $331 per person, per night, through February 28th.   

Dear Joe:
We are going to Miami in March. Where would you recommend we play? We played Doral Blue last time.

Chris Kennedy
Omaha, Nebraska

Nothing like starting at the top and working your way down. Fortunately, it's not much of a stumble. Doral's Gold course (800-713-6725,; $175) features strategic bunkering, flat fairways with landing zones shrunk by March winds and water on 16 holes -- in other words, a similar experience to the Blue -- for roughly half the price.

For the ultimate in pampering, check out Fairmont Turnberry Isle Resort & Club's Soffer course (305-932-6200,; $250), complete with waterfalls, tropical vegetation and forecaddies, but you've got to stay there to play there.

For something new, try Normandy Shores Golf Club (305-868-6502,; $90-$160), a 68-year-old muni in Miami Beach basking in a 2008 Arthur Hills extreme makeover. A great location, risk/reward holes and Sunshine State scenery adds up to pure fun. 

December 04, 2008

Ask Travelin' Joe: Las Vegas, Alabama and Scottsdale

Posted at 12:59 PM by Joe Passov

If you want to ask Travelin' Joe a question, e-mail him at

Travelin' Joe,
I'm headed to Vegas with friends for a quick weekend golf trip in December. We're scheduled to play at Revere and Badlands. We'll try to get in 36 in a day. Any thoughts on these courses?

Thomas Jones, Esq.
Washington, D.C.

Counselor, I'm advising that you sample those two venues on different days. Sunrise in Las Vegas on say, December 10, is 6:41 a.m., sunset at 4:26 p.m. and the two courses are a good half-hour apart, so it's not going to be easy doubling up. If you stay at the same property, different story. The Revere Golf Club has two Billy Casper/Greg Nash courses, the Lexington and the Concord, the latter the newer and less expensive of the two. Lexington is the slightly stronger product, but they're both good plays. I wrote about Badlands ($70-$150; 702-363-0754, in this spot a couple of weeks back, calling it "a 27-hole Johnny Miller desert target design that has plenty of quirky touches and a nice 'wow' factor." I haven't changed my mind.

Dear Joe,
I'm looking at property at Kiva Dunes, Alabama. I found a great value down there. I'm attracted because of its location and its challenging golf course. Can you tell me where does Kiva Dunes Golf Club rank in 2008?

Michelle Murray
Atlanta, Ga.

Kiva Dunes Golf Club ($72-$92; 251-540-7000, is a 1995 Jerry Pate design in Gulf Shores, 45 miles west of Pensacola that darts through wind-sculpted dunes along the Gulf of Mexico. It rates among the best in the state from every publication that ranks courses. At GOLF Magazine, it charted as the third-best public course in Alabama in our 2008 rankings that were published in September. Best reason to buy? Property owners pay only $50-$55 to play.

Hey Joe,
My family is taking a trip to see friends in Scottsdale over Christmas. I am planning on playing a couple of times. I'm looking for a couple of somewhat affordable courses and one high-end course. Are there some lower priced courses that you would recommend in the general vicinity, and if you could pick only one course to play out there, what would it be? Thanks for the info.

Matt Moore
Stillwater, N.Y.

Scottsdale is a legitimate golf mecca, but not for bargain hunters. Remember, too, that rates rise after the first of the year at many area courses, so try to tee off before the calendar changes.

That said, since you've come from New York, you should get a taste of desert golf. Start at Mountain Shadows Golf Club ($25-$49;, 480-905-8999), a lush, tight, par-56 executive track that's under $30 to ride most afternoons and features in-your-face views of Camelback Mountain.

Head next to the Sanctuary Golf Course at WestWorld ($71-$99;, 480-502-8200), an Audubon-certified desert target design from Randy Heckenkemper that juniors can walk for $31. You can ride after 2 p.m. for $45 and can walk during the week for $71.

Finally, splurge at We-Ko-Pa's Saguaro course ($145-$180;, 480-836-9000), a very walkable Bill Coore/Ben Crenshaw creation just east of Scottsdale that has no homes or roads — just wide fairways, strategic bunkering, cleverly contoured greens and unobstructed cactus and mountain vistas everywhere you look.

November 13, 2008

Ask Travelin' Joe: Las Vegas, Phoenix and Orlando's best

Posted at 11:45 AM by Joe Passov

If you want to ask Travelin' Joe a question, e-mail him at

Hi Joe,
I'm heading to Las Vegas in November and I'd like to know what you recommend for a true "desert golf" experience. I want to play a type of course I can't get here in Georgia. I'm even willing to drive up to Mesquite while I'm there.

Paul Allmon
Atlanta, Ga.

Hey, this is Vegas-you can get anything your heart (or wallet) desires here. If you're willing to splurge, you'll be captivated by the back nine at Butch Harmon's haunt, Rio Secco ($115-$225; 702-889-2400,, where the holes dip into and out of scrub-filled canyons. A worthy alternative is the Badlands ($70-$150); 702-363-0754,, a 27-hole Johnny Miller desert target design that has plenty of quirky touches and a nice "wow" factor.

Hey Joe,
I'm headed to Phoenix with my wife in December and want to play somewhere scenic, but one that won't beat us up, if you know what I mean.

George Kent
Richmond, Va.

Say "Hi" if you see me strolling the fairways of my hometown! Try any of the three nines at The Phoenician ($115-$175; 480-423-2449, The Oasis loop offers a touch of Florida thanks to the landscaping and lakes, while the Desert and Canyon nines embrace cactus and mountain themes. All three nines are pretty short but eye-catching.

Hi Joe,
I'm a Spanish pro and going to Orlando next winter. Which are, in your opinion, the top 10 golf courses to play in Orlando?

Mario Fernandez Cobo

Travelin' Joe hasn't played them all, but taking in the feedback I've received, plus my own subjective whims, here's your Orlando area Top 10.

1. Arnold Palmer's Bay Hill Club, Orlando (private-resort)
2. Sugarloaf Mountain Golf & Town Club, Clermont (private-resort)
3. Southern Dunes, Haines City (public)
4. Lake Nona Golf & Country Club, Orlando (private)
5. Isleworth Country Club, Windermere (private)
6. Ginn Reunion Resort (Independence), Orlando (private-resort)
7. Grand Cypress Golf Club (New), Orlando (public-resort)
8. Walt Disney World (Osprey Ridge), Lake Buena Vista (public-resort)
9. Orange County National (Panther Lake), Winter Garden (public-resort)
10. Orange County National (Crooked Cat), Winter Garden (public-resort)

Many private courses are receptive to allowing play from visiting professionals, on a space-available basis, so call or write ahead of time. If that doesn't work, mention Sergio's name.

Ask Travelin' Joe

Our traveling correspondent has been where you're going. Heading out of town on vacation? Business trip? Travelin' Joe can suggest the best places for you to tee it up. If you want to ask Travelin' Joe a question, e-mail him at


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