Find travel deals on Phoenix-Scottsdale, Arizona golf and hotels in early winter

By Chris Baldwin, Contributor

Phoenix-Scottsdale golf courses like Grayhawk and resorts such as the Hyatt Regency at Gainey Ranch offer great deals in November and December, making early winter the best time to take an affordable Phoenix-Scottsdale golf vacation.

Sanctuary at WestWorld
Playing golf courses like Sanctuary in November can be an intimate, affordable desert golf experience.
Sanctuary at WestWorldScottsdale-Phoenix Golf
If you go

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - It's hard to think of the need for that cold-weather escape when it's 88 degrees for a Chicago marathon in October. Heck, if you watch enough Al Gore, you can become convinced that lake effect wind chills are going to be a thing of the past as early as tomorrow.

"I think the Chicago winter's going to be a lot tamer this year," Windy City native Craig Sloan said early in October. "The whole weather pattern seems to be changing."

So what's a guy like, Sloan who's freezing now, supposed to do? No worries. It's never too late to be early. Especially if you want to go on a Phoenix-Scottsdale golf vacation that will make you forget what cold even feels like - and at a discount.

Everyone knows that Arizona golf can become ridiculously cheap in the summer, when the thermometer stays stuck on triple digits and it can feel like you're swinging on the surface of the sun. What many don't realize is that Phoenix-Scottsdale is also more reasonable in November and December than it is once the calendar turns to January.

The savings don't just come in the greens fees either. They can be even more dramatic in hotel rooms - likely the most expensive component of any Valley of the Sun trip.

A quick check showed that the Hyatt Regency at Gainey Ranch, a four and a half star Scottsdale resort, was $289 a night for a Nov. 5-9 Monday to Thursday night stay and $419 a night for a Jan. 7-11 Monday to Thursday night stay. The savings run throughout the hotel classes too. 3 Palms, a three and a half star Scottsdale boutique hotel, came in at only $95 per night Nov. 5-9 and $185 for Jan. 7-11.

What gives?

It's simple really. More people want to make their cold-weather escape after they've been frigid for a few months. In November and December, when the temperatures in Phoenix are typically in the high 60s to mid 70s - in other words, perfect golf weather - many of the courses are less crowded besides being cheaper.

Even a large number of the retired snowbirds stay back in their colder first homes until after the holidays.

"November and December offers the best of Scottsdale without any of the worst," local Eddie Price said. "The restaurants aren't completely packed yet. You can actually get in somewhere on a Friday night. I find the golf course employees are a little more relaxed because it's early enough in the season that the tourists haven't driven them crazy yet.

"And the weather's absolutely gorgeous. I tell my friends all the time that they should visit before the New Year. Not many of them do, but the ones who do it end up coming back around this same time every trip."

Golf courses and hotels often call this time high shoulder season, but they don't advertise it with the vigor they do in early summer, when some resort palaces can be nearly empty. May is also considered a high-shoulder season with cheaper hotels and golf.

The average May high is 93 degrees though, which isn't stifling in the dry climate but not 75 degrees November perfect either.

Scottsdale golf cheaper in early winter too

The savings on Phoenix-Scottsdale golf in November and December may not make you spit up over your keyboard in shock, but they're still significant. For example, you can play either of Grayhawk's Top 20 courses for $180 on weekends before January as opposed to $220 after.

You can play Gold Canyon's mountain-snuggling Dinosaur Mountain course for $119 before Jan. 13 and $165 after.

"I don't think people realize how good the discounts can be," Price said. "If you're playing $40 cheaper per course that adds up quick over a trip. You're talking about a pretty nice chunk of change."

These are savings that don't cut into your luxury experience either. Courses like Grayhawk and Gold Canyon, and hotels like Hyatt Regency Gainey Ranch are nobody's idea of slumming it.

The high shoulder season good buys are often most noticeable on the best of the best.

If you're too busy to shop around and do your own research, a good golf packager can find these early winter luxury deals for you. Lilla Trapani of Arizona Golf Packages says she tries to steer her clients to hotels that are dropping their rates first, giving those who need a little more planning time a head start.

More elbow room in Scottsdale restaurants

Scottsdale is hardly empty in early winter. You'll still get celebrity sightings (if you're into that kind of thing). You'll still find golfers packed into a hot new golf course like Saguaro on a Friday afternoon. And there are still plenty of women in slinky dresses grinding at the clubs.

There's just a little more room to breathe.

Getting into the trendy - and excellent - Vu restaurant doesn't require a call a week ahead. You can often walk in and find a spot at the sushi/tasting menu bar at See Saw. Getting a lounge chair at your resort's sprawling pool is not dependent on you jumping out of bed at 6 a.m. and staking claim to the territory.

And on a lazy, gorgeous early winter Arizona afternoon, it can be just you, the jackrabbits and the desert on a reasonable Scottsdale golf course like Sanctuary at WestWorld.

In many ways, November and December are the best time of year in Phoenix-Scottsdale. The locals know it too.

"You're not going to tell a bunch of East Coasters about this, are you?" Price asked in sudden concern.

Sorry. The secret's out.

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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