Phoenix, Scottsdale, and Tempe Feature

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Valley of the Sun Golf: Driving Ambition

Itching to get into the swing of things? Hoping to partake in some coursework? Looking to get linked in? In other words, would you rather be golfing? You're in the right place. Despite the dry climate this place is a gold mine of lush greens and far-reaching fairways.

Golf is one of Arizona's leading draws for locals and visitors from around the world. Big, professional courses mean big business in the Valley of the Sun, evidenced by the more than 200 courses that consume much of the area and surround some of its finest resorts, locally based golf companies such as Ping and Dixon, and by the Phoenix Open—an annual world-class tournament and weeklong party that takes place in north Scottsdale at the renowned Tournament Players Club (TPC). That might sound intimidating, but consider it an invitation. Whether you're an amateur or an ace, and whether you're looking out for pars, your pocketbook, or just a pretty place to play a round, there's something for all ranges here.

TEE-TIME TIP

Book online, up to weeks in advance during winter and spring. Get availability, pricing, and discounted tee-time information by visiting an individual course's website. For municipal courses, visit phoenix.gov/recreation/rec/facilities/golf/index.html or www.thegolfcourses.net and search Phoenix or Scottsdale for links to all the Valley's links.

Plan ahead

Call well ahead for tee times during the cooler months from January to April, especially for popular courses. In summer, it's not uncommon to schedule a round before dawn. If you're booking a room at a resort with a course, be sure to book your tee time then also. Last-minute tee times are sometimes available through online reservation services, depending on the season.

Perfect Your Golf Swing

Feel like you need to swing like a pro before you take on the Valley of the Sun's premier golf courses? Troon North has a solution: the Callaway Golf Performance Center (480/585–5300 www.troonnorthgolf.com) is a state-of-the-art facility that analyzes your swing and fits your clubs with 3-D imagery and software designed by the experts at Callaway. Golf greats like Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson use similar technologies to perfect their games—why shouldn't you? With only a handful of facilities like this in the country, it's definitely worth checking out.

Savings Tips

Encanto Park and Papago Golf Course are just two of the city and public courses that are a great value. Check course websites for discounts. Some golf courses offer a discounted twilight rate—and the weather is often much more amenable at this time of day. Fees drop dramatically in summer but remember that afternoon heat can be sweltering.

"GREENER" GREENS

Short of creating sand and cactus courses, desert golf facilities are hard-pressed to answer the eco-friendly call, but some are making strides in chipping away their carbon cleat print. Most courses now use reclaimed water and are experimenting with low-water grasses. In 2009, Arizona Biltmore Country Club hosted the state's first carbon-neutral golf event. Arizona State University's Karsten Golf Course recently signed a deal with a company that manufactures high-performance recyclable golf balls, made from recycled materials.

Groups to Guide You

Package deals abound at resorts as well as through booking agencies like Scottsdale Golf Adventures (800/398-8100 www.scottsdalegolfadventures.com), who will plan and schedule a nonstop golf holiday for you. If you're looking for a little more pampering, try Scottsdale Swing (888/807-9464 www.scottsdaleswing.com), which will arrange a complete golf holiday, including access to the area's best nightclubs. For a copy of the Arizona Golf Guide, contact the Arizona Golf Association (602/944-3035 or 800/458-8484 www.azgolf.org).

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