The best golf resorts in golf-mad Arizona: A tale of Western vacation wonders

By Chris Baldwin, Contributor

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - The golf resort wasn't invented in Arizona, but it might have been perfected here. There are more AAA Five Diamond hotels and resorts in Scottsdale than in any U.S. city save New York.

Fairmont Scottsdale Princesss - Pool
Fairmont Scottsdale Princess' sprawling pools give it an edge in Arizona golf resorts.
Fairmont Scottsdale Princesss - PoolBoulders Resort - greensWigwam Resort & Golf Club
If you go

And every one of those luxury palaces has a major golf element. If you open a resort in Arizona without a golf tie-in, you might as well put in a call to a psychoanalyst and a bankruptcy court.

"Golf courses drive business, pull guests in," said Lance Burton, public-relations director at Wigwam Resort & Golf Club. "It's hard to overestimate its impact."

It seems like every hotel in this desert state is boasting about its plush digs, wonderful spas and unbelievable golf. Tucson has abandoned its discount strategy and is trying to match Scottsdale in high-end amenities. Even sleepy Sedona is going resort chic.

You need something to break through the clutter of competing claims. We combed the state, from red-rocks nature to unnaturally hip bars, encountering reborn fairways of yore and $7 glasses of orange juice, to find the best of the best in Arizona golf resorts.

1. Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North: Combine Four Seasons' renowned service with a golf complex that includes two superb courses and you get a combination that's harder to beat than Roger Clemens and Randy Johnson in their primes.

If a stay here doesn't result in one of the best golf experiences of your lifetime, you're a very spoiled duffer indeed.

2. Boulders Resort & Golden Day Spa: This ode to striking desert rocks and shameless pampering would have not even made this list a few years ago, let along come in at No. 2.

A stunning renovation that upgraded the rooms to pure plush changed all that. And how many resorts let you buy your own organic produce at an on-site marketplace and drop it off at the kitchen for the chef to cook up?

It's all very theatrical, and finally worthy of a pair of golf courses (Boulders North and South) that always wowed, weaving through monster rocks.

3. Fairmont Scottsdale Princess: The linked courses (TPC Stadium and TPC Champions) don't quite measure up to Boulders' rock wonders, but the Fairmont's accommodations are actually better.

And don't listen to those who say the place is too big. The service is still fantastic, and staying here is like having the run of your own sprawling pool fantasyland.

4. Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort at Gainey Ranch: The Hyatt might have the best restaurant in all of Arizona in Vu, and its golf is something of an underrated secret.

Since its three nines are open only to members and resort guests, Gainey Ranch Golf Club, is typically less crowded than most resort courses. Plus there are junior tees for golfers under 12, rare kid-friendly approach in the Valley of Serious Adult Golf.

5. L'Auberge de Sedona: It feels like you're far from everything, out on some exclusive, private rich man's ranch, with 11 acres right along the banks of Oak Creek. Yet you can walk to Sedona's restaurants and galleries from this small (a mere 56 rooms and cottages) retreat.

If there was better and more plentiful golf nearby, L'Auberge de Sedona would challenge for the No. 1 spot. As is, golfers will enjoy a round at Sedona Golf Resort and love the time off-course.

6. Loews Ventana Canyon Resort: The fact that Tucson's doesn't muscle into this list until No. 6 tells you how far Arizona's other main golf mecca still has to go. Still, Ventana's not a bad start.

There are views of Saguaro cactus and even a waterfall right outside your window, but it's the showy golf at two on-site Tom Fazio courses that makes the stay.

7. Camelback Inn Scottsdale: Just entering the lobby plants the idea that you've made a different kind of luxury escape. Very secluded-seeming for Scottsdale, Camelback brings to mind Palm Springs' famed La Quinta Resort.

The golf's not great at the tie-in Camelback Golf Club (although one of the two courses is an Arthur Hills), but the green fees are reasonable. The inn's a great place to stay, and you can always golf somewhere else.

It's Scottsdale. That works.

8. Wigwam Resort & Golf Club: Wigwam claims to be the oldest golf resort in Arizona, having opened in 1929, but it's a 2005 renovation of its two Robert Trent Jones Sr. courses that's brought the sizzle back to West Valley lodging. The new plasma TVs and Red Door Spa don't hurt either.

Chris BaldwinChris Baldwin, Contributor

Chris Baldwin keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.

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