When one round isn't enough: Scottsdale's best second-play golf
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - If you're coming to this oasis where winter doesn't exist and ultra tanned blondes are plentiful, chances are you know all about the big golf fish. Troon North, Boulders, We-Ko-Pa and TPC Scottsdale Stadium are probably on your personal must play list (Though don't expect TPC Scottsdale to make the must-play-twice list).
No one needs help finding the high-end courses with the kind of press clippings that Tom Cruise can now only dream about.
But if you're in the Phoenix-Scottsdale valley for a golf trip, you probably want to play more than one course per day. The nightlife's great and the shops in Old Towne are fun, but who wants to be stuck spending an afternoon at the Desert Botanical Gardens. Not when there are birdies out there to be had. Still, you don't want to play Troon North in the morning and Boulders in the late afternoon. That's $600 worth of showy golf being crammed into one day - the equivalent of binging on back-to-back expensive French restaurant dinners.
You need time to savor that great round, a chance to linger in the clubhouse.
Which doesn't mean you still don't want to get some more golf in later that day.
"When golfers come to Phoenix or Scottsdale, they're looking to play golf," Ryan Barmore, sales manager for the Raven at South Mountain, said. "Not shop and golf. Golf and golf.
"We get a lot of guys asking for more golf."
This is where the second play of the day courses comes in. These are the tracks that are good, but not showstopping, not that expensive, not that exhausting. Courses where you can get in a round in under four hours, beat the setting sun.
These second play of the days just might make your vacation.
The high-end, high-dollar courses are good at delivering consistent experiences. You'll get your Grayhawk story along with everyone else who's visited Scottsdale. But will you have the tale of the great find or the roaring good time you had an out-of-the-way surprise? Second play of the day tracks add some substance to all that sizzle.
The key is picking wisely. End up on a miserable, joy-sapping second play of the day and even a top-10 morning can be obscured by misery. With that in mind, here are some worthy second plays of the day.
Coyote Lakes Golf Club: This is one second-thought course you'll never forget. There's a stone wall blocking the approach to the sixth green - basically a pile of loose rocks that reaches nearly 7 feet high. The 107-yard 12th, nicknamed "Little Pup," drives many a golfer batty. Sail the green and you'll end up in a creek. Pull up short and you'll be mocked by your buddies and probably end up with bogey.
Coyote Lakes has everything that makes a great second-play track: It's cheap ($27.50 twilight rate), relatively short (6,213 yards), full of character and characters. The crowd that plays here is a different bred than the folks at Troon North, but they love golf just as much, and they love to tell stories.
The downside is that Coyote Lakes' tees are frequently traffic-jam packed. You might not get in the full 18 if you show up too late in the afternoon. But you know what? Who cares? It's the second play of the day. Relax and swing.
Sanctuary Golf Course: This Randy Heckenkemper desert design is considered a bit out of the way, up near WestWorld (a sort of outdoor convention area) in North Scottsdale. But it's a perfect follow-up if you're playing Troon North and Grayhawk in the morning; both are less than 10 minutes away.
Sanctuary isn't expensive ($42 super twilight rate high season), but if you're spraying it you might lose more than that in MIA golf balls. This is tight desert golf, and on few holes you're liable to feel like Heckenkemper, a devotee of forced carries, is personally sticking cactus needles into the back of your hand.
It does keep your game sharp, though, which might help on that showcase course the next morning.
Gold Canyon Golf Resort: Gold Canyon doesn't fit the technical definition of a second play of the day - it's too far away from the morning action (about 45 minutes from Scottsdale) to be certain of getting on-course in time. But golfers often ignore this two-track complex in the rush to mark the big-name tracks off their played-it lists, and that's a shame.
So why not make it a second-play day?
Gold Canyon's Dinosaur Mountain course takes you up into the high desert, with looks over Superstition Mountain and plenty of sky-high shots as well. Sidewinder plays out more in the valley, with native plants snaring wayward shots (and desert plants aren't as easy to get a ball from as a good old oak tree).
With green fees through the end of the year topping out at $139 on Dinosaur Mountain and $89 on Sidewinder, Gold Canyon fits the monetary limits of a second play. And this is the rare resort that offers nine-hole afternoon rates.
Starfire at Scottsdale Country Club: Sometimes a second play of the day should be just interesting enough, without being too heart-rate raising. Sort of like a nice warm down after a long run. Starfire fits that description and has $43 late afternoon rates that will allow you to fire at its big greens in the middle of suburbia.
There are three nines here, but Squire is by far the best (its No. 5-8 stretch brings a little water wonder) and it should be worked into any round. You can't quite kick off your golf shoes here, but the atmosphere's close.
It's the second play of the day. Anything goes. But bad golf. Or a trip to a kitsch souvenir shop to peruse cowboy hats.
October 9, 2006