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The holidays don't have to be all about the kids and the in-laws -- throw a golf break into the mix and you could find that most sublime of combinations: 18 holes followed by eggnog! With Christmas one month away, here are four of my favorite resorts that combine distinctive golf with a cheerful holiday aura.
Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa
Local legend has it that Irving Berlin penned "White Christmas" while sitting poolside at this desert retreat that opened in 1928. Architecture buffs will love the only major hotel that was directly influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright, but golf architecture fans will warm to Forrest Richardson's restoration of the Adobe course, where Clark Gable once lost his wedding ring (it was found and returned by a Biltmore employee). The newer, hillier Links course is a fun holiday treat as well.
Rates at Christmas start at $319 per night. 602-955-6600, arizonabiltmore.com
Colorado Springs, Colo.
Some years it snows on Christmas at The Broadmoor, while other years it's 70 degrees and sunny. A huge plus to playable days is that you can tee it up for $100 at the resort's original 1918 Donald Ross design. Snow or shine, you'll enjoy the resort's Holiday Musical Show, which in 2008 features Academy Award-winner Maureen McGovern.
Package prices start at $170 per person, based on double occupancy. 719-634-7711, broadmoor.com
The Hotel del Coronado
Here's a bit of trivia: America's first electronically lighted outdoor Christmas tree was unveiled at this San Diego institution in 1904. The Holiday season hasn't slowed down since. Christmas Eve and Christmas dinners are celebrated in the hotel's historic Crown Room and among the other attractions are an oceanfront ice skating rink. Golf on the Coronado Muni course less than a mile away features glorious Bay views and a green fee of $25 -- that's so cheap, you can give away tee times as Christmas gifts.
Rates start at $270 per room, per night. 619-435-6611, hoteldel.com
Boca Raton Resort & Club
Boca Raton, Fla.
Architect Addison Mizner's pink-hued playground will put anybody in the holiday spirit. All the club's Resort course is missing is poinsettias -- it's a showcase for virtually every other type of flower, tree and shrub. A marina, a half-mile of private beach, Spa Palazzo and superb dining options round out the holiday offerings. Who needs snow?
Rates start at $259 per night. 888-491-2622, bocaresort.com
If you want to ask Travelin' Joe a question, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
My boss and I are attending meetings near Orange County, Calif. and were curious on your thoughts on the best course to play. Strawberry Farm is not available, but we were looking at Coyote Hills or Oak Creek and/or possibly making the drive to Trump National.
You can't go wrong with any of the O.C. tracks you mentioned, but if you want maximum views for maximum dollars, make the drive to Trump. Six weeks ago in this space, I also recommended Arroyo Trabuco and Tijeras Creek. If you're looking for a shorter commute, both the Ocean North and Ocean South courses at Pelican Hill Golf Club (877-735-4226, pelicanhill.com; $235) in Newport Coast dish out rolling Tom Fazio designs with stunning Pacific views. Twilight rates are $135.
Just east of Anaheim is Black Gold Golf Club (714-961-0060, blackgoldgolf.com; $92-$120) in Yorba Linda, not far from the Richard M. Nixon Library and Birthplace, which offers an unimpeachably solid Arthur Hills design set among steep hills and pumping oil wells.
I'm getting married in Tucson and am getting the guys together for a round of golf before the wedding. We want to play a good, quality course but don't want to break the bank. I was reading up on Randolph North in the city. It's listed as an LPGA Tour stop as well as a former PGA Tour stop. Any suggestions?
If you're saving your dough for the wedding cake, centrally located Randolph North (520-791-4161, tucsoncitygolf.com; $42-$70), that formerly hosted the Joe Garagiola Tucson Open and the Seiko Match Play, is a good bet. Its equally priced, shorter, but more interesting sibling, Dell Urich, was the scene for LPGA events in 2003 and 2004. Both are parkland layouts.
If you want to sample a modestly priced desert design, try Crooked Tree Golf Course (520-744-3322, crookedtreegolfcourse.net; $35-$48), a sturdy layout with mountain views and no homes that can be walked after 2 p.m. for $18.
We're planning a trip to Missouri. Can you recommend courses in the Branson area?
San Antonio, Texas
Branson Creek (417-339-4653, bransoncreekgolf.com; $48-$99) in Hollister is absolutely worth the splurge. Ranked No. 76 among GOLF Magazine's Top 100 You Can Play, this heavily undulating Tom Fazio design stretches more than 7,000 yards from the tips and sports panoramic vistas of the surrounding Ozark hills.
A notable newcomer is the Payne Stewart Golf Club (417-337-2963, paynestewartgolfclub.com; $50-$65), a rugged, sandy test that pays homage to the late Missouri native. Nine holes are currently open (1-8, 18), with the balance slated to debut in May 2009.