Golf and kid friendly? Hilton Squaw Peak Resort manages to find the elusive mix

By Chris Baldwin, Contributor

PHOENIX, Ariz. - At some point you're going to be on a golf vacation with the kids. It's inevitable in this age of increased workloads, shrinking vacation time and tightening family budgets. Sometimes leaving the little ones behind just isn't practical.

Grandma and Grandpa have a life too.

Bringing the kids needn't be a chore for you or them however. Not if you discover a hotel with the right mix. In the Scottsdale area, that hard-to-achieve balance between golf centric and kid centric is found in the Pointe Hilton Squaw Peak.

This resort has a good dozen courses within 10-15 minutes, perfect for those quick getaways when one partner's leaving the other with the kids or both are turning to a babysitter to hit the links. Yet Squaw Peak also has all the amenities any self-respecting kid demands, from an extensive water raft and slide system to an arcade to a putting course with views of towering mountains in the background.

Perhaps you can have your bogeys and babies, your teenagers and tee times too.

"In my 20's and early 30's the vacation could just be about golf,'' said Bob Stroll, a visiting New Yorker. "But now, I can't get away with that.

"The kids have to have a place they can have some fun too. It's not like when I was a kid and my dad would just tell us, 'Go play somewhere. Get out of my hair.'"

Pointe Hilton Squaw Peak provides Scottsdale golf options and fun options. Squaw Peak and its sister property Tapatio Cliffs Resort have their own golf staff. Tees times around nap schedules are not out of the question. All it takes is pushing a button on the phone to ask.

Lookout Mountain Golf Club is on Tapatio Cliffs Resort site and is available for discounted rates for hotel guests. This course winds through part of the Sonoran Desert, challenging accuracy more than distance (6,617 from the back tees.) It warns/advertises of coyote sightings, but in this bustling resort area it's unlikely you'll find coyotes as bold around the course as you do at Prescott's more remote Stone Ridge for example. Still for the middle of Scottsdale, it qualifies as serious nature.

Staying at Squaw Peak doesn't limit you to Lookout Mountain however. The hotel offers packages with 30 Phoenix/Scottsdale courses. And there are many more in the area, you can set up on your own. This is Scottsdale after all, arguably the golf destination on the West Coast.

The location of the resort also provides the opportunity for some family trips. Old Town Scottsdale's semi-authentic Western streets are a quick drive away. Here everyone can wander shops that sell the kind of gear a real cowboy would only be caught dead in and Christmas ornaments all year. The nearby major mall is more disappointing than interesting, so it's best to stick to Old Town.

Besides it's Arizona in the winter. Who wants to be stuck inside? You could stay in Cleveland for that.

Up the street, and technically out of Old Town, is a restaurant row/bar scene that is helping establish supposedly staid Scottsdale as a cutting edge scene.

The kids might enjoy a trip into downtown Phoenix, another freeway hop away, more. Here there are museum opportunities and the chance to see the Phoenix Suns, who rapidly emerged as the most exciting and kid-friendly team in the NBA. Kids love the Suns' high-scoring, high-flying style and Steve Nash's floppy hair.

Of course, there are obnoxious kids everywhere. On this night, one of the Phoenix Suns new, highly-visible owner's kids caught one of those free T-shirts in the front row and refused to give it to a non-millionaire kid despite his dad's urging.

Oh well, that's what the golf part of the vacation is for: To get away.

Squaw Peak's easy highway access makes that a relaxed breeze, whether it's a trip to play the nearby McCormick Pine Course or just an Arby's run.

Getting back to the Squaw Peak resort, you find a sense of relative isolation unexpected for the location. This comes in part because the rooms are spread out in various buildings, most set up around a pool. Open-area corridors give you even more of a weather getaway sense in the winter.

Hiltons often carry a reputation of being as sleazy (for their price) as that most famous of Hiltons, Paris, the mad-dating debutante. But Pointe Hilton Squaw Peak quickly buries that notion. These rooms are large, comfortable and well cleaned. Many even give you a small balcony to take in more of that sun.

And just because this is a family convenient hotel does not mean it's not a potential party scene. On the nights of this stay, the resort meeting/convention area was rocking every night with old 80s tunes. Thankfully, the sound proofing is good in the rooms.

It's hard for a resort to be all things for all people. Squaw Peak makes a nice, mostly successful stab at the golf and kids mix. You can be floating down the appropriately titled Lazy River in a raft, visualizing your swing, while the kids scream down the waterslides.

In a world of modern compromises, there are much worse fates than this. You might even be encouraging the kids to come along on the next golf vacation. OK...maybe, that's the river and the Mai Tais talking.

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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