Sure it's grand, but where's the Grand Canyon golf?
GRAND CANYON, Ariz. — Garin Fassbinder sat perched on a ledge over the biggest hole in the world, his legs dangling in air. A whole lot of air. He leaned further forward on the rock, looked back, threw his arms straight up, causing at least several spectators to do double takes.
No, Fassbinder wasn't considering taking the plunge into the Grand Canyon. He was posing for an action photo shot taken by his daughters.
Though when the German tourist started talking about how much he missed golf during this vacation, you got the idea he might have debated leaping from the rim after all.
"You are a golf writer," Fassbinder said, extending his hand in near maniacal enthusiasm. "Truly. Where is there a fine course I can play around here?"
Yes, Fassbinder stood looking over the Seventh Wonder of the World and he couldn't stop thinking about golf. And let's face it, you can relate.
You're a golfer. You plan, manipulate and scheme your priceless vacations around the maddening game. If your kids have their hearts set on Disney World, you'll give in, but find a great course nearby and hope your wife doesn't notice you're not standing in line for Space Mountain along with the rest of the tribe.
Recognizing this truth can you really blame Fassbinder?
Sure, the Grand Canyon can cause some awe, but after you've looked at it for a while, it's just a big hole in the ground with rocks all around. And those seven-day passes that the National Park Service forces everyone to buy - it's a $20 entrance fee for every car whether you stay three hours or a whole week - really encourage an extended stay of the family trekking down those windy, rocky trails.
Who wouldn't be golf jonesing after a good chunk of time here? They expect you to traverse those up and downs without a golf cart?
There is hope though. The Grand Canyon isn't as easy a place to locate a golf getaway from as Disney World. It's isolated (something about that nature thing). How isolated? Just try finding a decent hotel room or meal not under Park Service control.
But that doesn't mean you need to resign yourself to no golf. There are several courses that can be worked into any Grand Canyon journey. (Hey you need to have some excuse to go see the thing.) If your family hikes down one of the Canyon trails, you could even be back from your round, resting in the room before they are.
"Do you need a playing partner tomorrow?" Fassbinder asked. "My family would not notice I was gone."
Here are the best golf getaways on a Grand Canyon trip. Just make sure you get to a course before you start seriously thinking about launching a few blasts with your beloved Big Bertha from the Grand Canyon's rim. You know, just to see how far it would fly.
That's a little frowned upon.
Nonetheless, standing on top, looking down, down, down over the edge, as the sun sets an almost orange purple hue in the sky, you're struck by one thought.
A Tom Fazio or a Pete Dye could make some serious risk-reward holes out of this setup.
"You're sick," California tourist Abby Wilcox said when asked if the Grand Canyon brought out any thoughts of golf. She didn't let her husband answer.
Sedona Golf Resort: About two hours south of the Grand Canyon, Sedona is a rock wonder town in its own right. Some might argue that the red rocks here are almost as impressive as the Grand Canyon itself. And much more light hearted.
The towering red rocks are named after what they are shaped like. One of the most famous is Snoopy Rock, which is purported to look like the cartoon Snoopy lying on his back on top of his doghouse. (In truth, with some of these rocks it's like staring at one of those 3-D Stereogram pictures that have another image within all the dots).
Once you get out onto the Gary Panks design at Sedona Golf Resort, you will not care though. You're shooting around bends, climbing up to tee boxes (particularly No. 10) and being forced to think about more than just driver with the red rocks in the background. With greens fees that top off at $105 in high season, you're even getting an un-Arizona-like golf value.
Another good option in Sedona is Oakcreek Country Club, a Robert Trent Jones family design (Sr. started it, Jr., finished it) that delivers plenty of scenery. The kind of scenery you appreciate. Golf scenery. An early stretch of holes has fairways that seem to kiss red rock.
Elephant Rocks Golf Club: This course in Williams, Ariz., is only about an hour drive from the Grand Canyon's rim, but it's a world apart from the typical Arizona golf experience. At Elephant Rocks, you're playing in a forest setting with towering trees. This isn't Phoenix-Scottsdale resort corridor artificial faux Midwest forest either. It's the real thing.
Just be warned that in the winter, you'll also feel the real cold. It's usually closed from December through March. Up at 7,000 feet, Elephant Rocks is named after some rocks of course (what else could it be in this stone-worshipping area?) But it could just as easily refer to what you need to fire away fearlessly here.
Prescott Lakes Golf Club: This is the course you should play on the way to the Grand Canyon from Phoenix-Scottsdale. Surely, you can find an arcade or water park for the kids and non-golfing spouse.
Prescott Lakes is worth the aggravation. The Hale Irwin design doesn't get a lot of publicity because it's technically a private course and not a big-dollar, publicity-machine one at that.
Coral Canyon Golf Course: If you're visiting the Grand Canyon's less popular North Rim, your golf escape could take you close to St. George, Utah (which is itself about an hour and 40 minutes past Las Vegas). This is where you'll find Coral Canyon Golf Course.
Parts of this Keith Foster design provide views into Zion National Park -- no slouch in its own national park right — and red rocks are here, too. If you really get into the atmosphere and don't mind another drive, checking out the lava at Entrada Golf Club is another smart play.
As long as your family really will not miss you back at that seventh wonder of the world.
March 8, 2006