Here in the northeast we have already been belted with Old Man Winter, and it is just the middle of fall. New York City broke its all-time snowfall record for October, and overnight temperatures where I live have been consistently below freezing. That means it the time of year when my friends and long lost acquaintances starter emailing me and asking where they should plan their winter golf vacation.
In a word, Scottsdale.
I’ve been giving this a lot of thought. There are any warm weather destinations I love for golf, mainly the Dominican Republic, both coasts of Mexico, Hawaii, the Mississippi Gulf Coast and Vegas.
But I keep coming back to Scottsdale. No place, and I mean no place, has such a concentration of outstanding courses. There is plenty of golf in Myrtle Beach and Virginia Beach, but there is not world class golf, like in Scottsdale, which has more great courses than the entire State of Hawaii.
It is super easy to get to, with non-stop flights form every major city in the country, and an airport that rarely experiences significant weather or delays, period.
It has plenty of great food, shopping, alternative activities, entertainment, and nightlife of every type.
It has alternatives in every price range, and while it has some of the most luxurious golf resorts in the world, and winter is high season, there are plenty of more modest hotels, along with lots of condo and suite hotel deals and brokers available.
Likewise it has golf courses for every style and budget, from totally private to very high end resort to great daily fee and even outstanding munis. Several of the best are operated by Native American tribes, and courses run the gamut from traditional parkland to pure desert target golf to everything in between.
But what really excites me about the greater Scottsdale region is how many great multiple course facilities there are. Elsewhere it is more the expectation than the rule that if you have more than one course they will all be good. More common is to have a great course anchoring a facility with a not so great overflow course. But in Scottsdale, excellent 36-hole facilities abound, and that means less moving around and more epic 36-hoel days. Specifically, I mean the following:
We-Ko-Pa: My favorite in Arizona, two absolutely brilliant strategic designs, operated by the Fort McDowell Indian nation and its adjacent casino, with deals and reasonably priced lodging onsite. Golf simply does not get much better than these two.
The Boulders: Two great classic examples of pure desert golf with the utmost attention to service and manicuring.
Troon North: The public facility that helped launch the whole “member for a day” high-end public craze and put public desert golf on the map.
Grayhawk: I am not as enamored of this 36 as some of my colleagues, but everyone I send loves it, and these are two very solid desert courses.
The Phoenician: Okay it is just 27-holes, but given the over the top opulence of the resort and the crowd they get, these three very distinct and interesting nines come as a hugely pleasant surprise.
The Arizona Biltmore: For those who want a break from desert golf, two of the oldest classics (1920s) in Phoenix predate water restrictions and are pure lush parkland layouts. Both were restored extensivly a few years ago.
TPC Scottsdale: Home to the most attended golf tournament on earth, the Phoenix Open (now Waste Management, formerly FBR), with two fun and scintillating stadium courses in an ultra-convenient setting with multiple hotels, including the wonderful Fairmont, onsite.
Talking Stick: Like We-Ko-Pa, another 36-hole Native American owned facility designed by Coore & Crenshaw.
See what I mean? Just this list gives enough to play 36 holes a day for over a week without a single weak link, and there are many more. There is just no equivalent to all these tremendous facilities in one setting this side of the British Isles and it is not exactly balmy there right now.