Ten reasons to hit the desert for a Scottsdale golf vacation
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- No destination does desert golf quite like Scottsdale.
The Valley of the Sun is home to numerous world-class facilities as well as the greatest show on grass, the Waste Management Phoenix Open. The PGA Tour event attracts up to 500,000 golf-crazed fans, both local and from around the globe.
With 200 golf courses in Scottsdale -- and counting -- plus destination spas, resorts and mountain sports, the reasons to book a trip here are plentiful. But we've narrowed it down to the top 10 reasons to make Scottsdale your next golf vacation.
Pick your Scottsdale front-runner
Unlike other destinations where one golf course is the obvious "must play," it's tough to single out a top course in the Valley. The Stadium Course at TPC Scottsdale may be the most high-profile, but it's certainly not the most awe-strikingly scenic.
That would fall to Troon North Golf Club or The Boulders Resort, both with standout 36-hole facilities set in some of the Valley's most striking desert landscapes. Naturalists will adore Talking Stick Golf Club, with 36 holes of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw-designed golf on native American property.
Ditch the umbrella, bring the shades
Why else do you think there are direct flights to Phoenix from just about every major city in the north and Canada? Snowbirds can't get enough of the dry, sunny air in the wintertime, not to mention some of the most thorough over-seeding that makes the February turf feel like a course in Michigan.
Phoenix-Scottsdale calls itself "America's sunniest metropolis" and backs it up with an average of 310 days of sunshine a year. And with most courses at more than 1,000 feet in altitude, the ball should fly just a little farther out here.
Off-season tee time bargains
The best golf courses in Scottsdale charge a pretty penny during the peak season. But that's only between January and April, and not even technically the best weather. During the May shoulder season, the temperatures are higher but not awful yet, and the dormant bermuda rough has sprung up once again.
In November and December, the courses are fresh off over-seeding and charge lower rates as well. The weather is perfect leading into the January peak season, but just expect courses to be a little wetter.
Waste Management Phoenix Open
If there was ever a PGA Tour event worth centering a golf vacation around, it's the Waste Management Phoenix Open at the Stadium Course at TPC Scottsdale. The event has the largest, rowdiest crowd on tour, big parties every night at the Bird's Nest, and scores of area golf courses to scratch your own itch before or after the event.
Scottsdale is spa country
There are few destinations that combine golf and spa like Scottsdale. The Boulders Resort uses 12-million-year-old boulder formations on site as inspiration for a menu full of wellness, rejuvenation and golf-centric treatments.
And next to TPC Scottsdale, The Fairmont Princess has its own enormous Willow Stream Spa, with plenty of space for relaxation areas in both pools, saunas and steam rooms.
Cactus League baseball
The Valley of the Sun hosts 15 Major League Baseball teams each February and March for spring training. There are fields all over the valley from Surprise to Scottsdale. The newest facility is Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, near Talking Stick Golf Club and the reservation's new hotel and casino. It makes for one of the best spots to golf in the morning and take in a baseball game afterward.
Native American golf courses
It's hard to imagine the Valley of the Sun's golf scene before the Native American influence of the past decade. Both Talking Stick and We-Ko-Pa Golf Club have emerged as some of the most popular plays, if only because they are so different from most other designs. With no commercial or residential components sharing land with golf, plus three of four designs coming from designers Coore and Crenshaw, it's an entirely different way to experience Arizona desert golf.
It's not exactly Las Vegas, but you can find table games, poker rooms and 24/7 gambling in the area, and it's getting bigger. Harrah's Ak-Chin is expanding this summer, and Talking Stick recently opened a new casino resort.
Explore the desert off the golf course
Off-course action in Scottsdale isn't just shopping, spas and steakhouses. There are many ways to enjoy the desert's wild side around Scottsdale. Bike and hike trails can be found at many desert resorts, or head into the greenbelt or national parks surrounding Scottsdale. Or take one of the area's most popular tours: Desert Wolf Tours, an off-road adventure with an optional outdoor firearms component at the end.
And don't forget, the Grand Canyon is just a few hours drive away too. Click here for more off-course activity ideas.
Stay in style
Most of America's luxury resort brands, plus some fine independents, litter the Scottsdale landscape, so you can be sure you're getting the finest in accommodations. Plus you can use those hotel points and airline miles if you've got them in the bank. Most resorts here have golf attachments, too. They include the Westin Kierland, Boulders Resort (Waldorf Astoria), Fairmont Scottsdale (attached to TPC Scottsdale), JW Marriott Camelback Inn, The Phoenician and many more.
February 17, 2011