Overrated and Underrated: Read Up and Get Fired Up

By Shane Sharp, Contributor

PHOENIX, Ariz. - When you think overrated, do you think Penn State or Florida State football this season? How about underrated? Maybe your very own Arizona Diamondbacks, who escaped the east coast media's attention for most of the season and are now making a run at the World Series.

When it comes to golf, the game's over and underhyped elements are a little more difficult to discern. In most sports, we have statistics to fall back on when evaluating players or teams. In golf, subjectivity comes into play faster than a water hazard on a desert course.

One man's favorite golf course is another man's goat ranch. I like Fazio, you like Dye, you like Bermuda grass, I like Rye. And so on and so forth ...

Far be it from us, however, not to stick our neck out into the great golfing abyss of the Grand Canyon State and tell you what we think. Here is a sampling from our over and underrated department. Read up, get fired up, and let us know what you think.

Underrated Golf Course: Dinosaur Mountain at Gold Canyon Resort

Someone thought enough of Dinosaur Mountain to name it the Best Public Golf Course in Arizona, but why isn't this heavenly layout mentioned in the same breath as Las Sendas, Kierland or some of the Valley of the Sun's other top daily fee courses?

As far as drama, elevation changes, conditioning and routing, you can't beat Dinosaur Mountain. The views of the Superstition Mountains are unrivaled, and by the end of the round, you'll feel as though you've played right through the heart of them.

Dinosaur wastes little time in letting players know it's the real deal. Holes four and five provide views of the course's namesake that won't soon be forgotten. Playing the course on a late summer evening is an experience every Valley golfer has to try at least once. The sunsets bounce a spectrum of lights around the mountainsides, and the cactus cast shadows across the fairways as the coyotes begin to come out from their daytime hiding spots.

Runner Up: Ocotillo Golf Club in Chandler. Twenty-seven holes of traditional, Florida style golf is what you'll find here, all anchored by a new 25,000 square foot clubhouse and one of the best staffs in the state. Conditions approach perfection in the late fall and early winter, and you'll get a kick out of playing around 90 acres of lakes in the middle of the Sonoran desert.

Overrated Golf Course TPC of Scottsdale Stadium Course

Sure, we'll take some flack for this one, no matter what course we call out. Its not that TPC is in bad shape, or features a silly layout. With a maintenance budget the size of Sun Devil Stadium, and a design credit boasting two of the businesses best, TPC is still a good play.

But Jay Moorish and Tom Weiskopf's hands were tied somewhat by the desires of the PGA Tour to have a stadium style course that can accommodate the record-breaking galleries of the annual Phoenix Open. The knot got even tighter when one million dollars of the original construction budget was pulled out from under them in the middle of the design effort.

It's hard to explain, but something just doesn't feel right about the course. TPC has a ton of bulkheaded water hazards, which look more than a little out of place in the desert. And with nary a desert tree or two, playing this course in the dead of summer (when most of us can afford it) is a sure fire prescription for heat stroke and skin cancer.

Are we splitting hairs here? Sure, but for $200 in the peak season, all of us deserve to be a bit finicky about where we spend our cash.

On the flip side is the TPC's Desert Course, also designed by Moorish and Weiskopf. Residents can get around this clever course for under $50 in the peak season, and the experience is just as enjoyable.

Underrated Golf Destination - Tucson

Does anyone outside of Arizona even consider Tucson a golf destination? Thousands of golfers holed up in the snow banks of Wisconsin and Michigan dream of teeing it up in Scottsdale in January, but Tucson may see like as strange a concept as skipping the tailgating party before a Packers or Lions game.

In the high end range, the Old Pueblo, rolls out some darn nice venues. There are the Tom Fazio designed courses at the Lodge at Ventana, the Jack Nicklaus designed La Paloma, Weiskopf's Golf Club at Vistoso, Robert Trent Jones Jr.'s Raven at Sabino Springs and John Fought and Tom Lehman's Gallery Golf Club in Marana.

But Tucson makes most of its living off its excellent middle tier courses, which charge as little as $20 for a round of golf in the summer (a season that can be up to 10 degrees cooler than the Valley of the Sun's).

Green Valley, just 25 miles south of downtown, is home to Canoa Hills and San Ignacio two shotmakers golf courses that have some of the best summer deals in the state. Further down the road are two of southern Arizona's hidden treasures, the Tubac Golf Resort and Rio Rico Resort and Country Club.

In between you'll find a smattering of other great venues, ranging from former TPC at Starr Pass to the Omni Tucson National Golf Resort, home of the Tucson Open. Even Tucson's muni's are respectable. The North Course at Randolph Park is home to the LPGA's Ping/Welch's tournament.

Overrated Golf Destination: Yuma

Are we crazy? Yes and no.

Yuma would have never entered the radar screen, but in November of 2000 someone sold Golf Magazine on a “Golf Orgy” to this remote corner of the world. Because golfers actually use these orgies to plan annual golf trips, we felt an overwhelming responsibility to step in and say, “ARE YOU KIDDING?”

Yuma's municipal course, Desert Hills, is regarded by most to be the best track in town, and hey, it's not a bad course. But would anyone journey 1000 miles to play a muni? The third best course in town is located in the middle of an R.V. resort. Let's hope none of us ever happen upon the deranged golf traveler that actually made a concerted effort to play an executive level golf course in the middle of a tornado magnet.

Remember the desert scene from Star Wars, with all the sand dunes? That was filmed in Yuma. Nuf said.

Underrated Summer Activity: Golf

No golf destination in the country has a peak and a valley golf season like the Phoenix/Scottsdale area. Courses like Greyhawk and Troon North that cost upwards of $200 in the winter can be played for under $100 in the blazing heat of the summer.

True, you are taking your life in your own hands, but what better way to cash in your chips than posting a big number at one of the Valley's poshest resorts, all while contracting skin cancer and detaching your retinas.

Three vital elements make summer golf in the desert feasible: Golf carts, water, and insanity. Throw in a couple of cold beers once you hit the 19th hole to erase the memory of the bulging third degree burn on your right arm, and you'll be teeing it up all summer long.

Overrated Summer Activity - Shopping

Trust us, you are not the only one that realizes that there is plenty of free air conditioning available in Phoenix area malls. Would you rather stand in a mile long line at Wal Mart in Mesa with cool air blowing on the back of your neck, or would you rather stand on a closely cropped bentgrass green with a blow torch of a breeze cutting across your face?

That's a tough question.

Don't answer because there is a third option that avoids this conundrum altogether: Sitting on a barstool in Tempe with prime visual access to summer schooling co-eds at Arizona State University.

Shane SharpShane Sharp, Contributor

Shane Sharp is vice president of Buffalo Communications, a golf and lifestyle media agency. He was a writer, senior writer and managing editor of TravelGolf.com from 1997 to 2003.

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