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We are planning a Florida trip mid-January for the Boca and/or Stuart area … what "value-courses" do you like in either of these locations?
Dr. Scott Roland
You're jumping into high season, of course, in both these Sunshine State hotspots, but there's still value to be had. For good Boca golf at bargain basement prices, try the Links at Boynton Beach (561-742-6500, boynton-beach.org), 20 minutes up the road.
This friendly, mature muni is dotted with pines, bunkers and a smattering of lakes -- this is Florida, after all -- but at 6,300 yards, par-71, this Devlin-Von Hagge design is playable by all. The best news is that it's $59 to ride, $39 after 1:00 p.m.
My sentimental pick is Inverrary Country Club's East course (954-733-7550, inverrarygolfclub.com) just to the south in Lauderhill. If you remember back to the 1970s, when Jack Nicklaus ruled the PGA Tour's Jackie Gleason tournament, this was the venue. This Robert Trent Jones Sr. design goes for $30-$62.
Near Stuart, head straight north about 15 minutes to Port St. Lucie to sample any -- or better yet, all -- of the three courses at PGA Village (800-800-4653, pgavillage.com). At $100 ($56 after 2:00 p.m.), both the Ryder and Wanamaker, two Tom Fazio designs, are worth the freight, but for the same price, the Pete Dye course might stand out. And frankly, it's worth the trip just to sample the practice facilities.
I live in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada and I am looking to start the golf season in February 2009 and would like to know a few destinations within a 14-hour drive from where I live. Is it possible? I would like decent weather and reasonable green fees, and I would be driving.
Regina, Sask., Canada
I'm afraid your new nickname is going to be "out-of-luck Larry." Even if you averaged 80 miles per hour for 14 hours, you're not going to find any sunscreen weather. If you're desperate for a golf fix, and average 60 mph, you can get as far as Vancouver or Denver. I'd be a little nervous about Vancouver's coastal moisture at that time of year, so let's take a chance on Denver, which is surprisingly dry, with an average daytime high for the month of 50 degrees.
Best bargains are Murphy Creek ($35-$57; 303-361-7300, golfaurora.com), a Ken Kavanaugh prairie links that played host to the 2008 U.S. Public Links Championship; Riverdale's Dunes course ($38-$51; 303-659-6700, riverdalegolf.com), a terrific Pete Dye design with ponds and railroad ties; and Fossil Trace ($53-$70; 303-277-8750, fossiltrace.com), an enchanting Jim Engh creation near the Coors Brewery that darts in and out of ancient rock outcroppings.
Hey, you're a hardy Canuck. Go late in the month and pack a heavy sweater. You'll be fine.
A couple of friends and I are going to Northeast Phoenix the first week of February. Are there any nice courses that won't kill our wallets at that time of year? Also, we will be getting in there the Saturday of the FBR Open. Any suggestions on where to grab tickets?
Start with Papago Golf Course ($84-$109; 602-275-8428, papagogolfcourse.net), a recently restored muni that offers minimal services and facilities, but a big-time set of holes, thanks to 7,333 yards of semi-parkland, semi-desert terrain, with views of the Papago Butte rock feature.
For a true desert experience -- with a few homes mixed in -- you'll find refuge in the Sanctuary at WestWorld ($111-$129; 480-502-8200, sanctuarygolf.com), an Audubon-certified, Randy Heckenkemper design in Scottsdale with an after-2:00 p.m. rate of $60.
Finally, check out the Champions course at the TPC Scottsdale ($91-$130.50; 480-585-4334, tpc.com/Scottsdale), the redesigned little brother to the TPC Stadium course that's now all grown up.
If you're looking to join 150,000 golf fans for the "Greatest Show on Grass," i.e., Saturday at the FBR Open ($25; fbropen.com), you can buy them in advance at Ticketmaster -- or else just show up at the gate. The FBR Open is never sold out -- meaning there's always room for more -- even at the best-attended golf tournament in the world. Go early to the crazy par-3 16th, however. It's completely enclosed for 2009 -- but the bleachers behind the green are first come, first-served.