The 18th at We-Ko-Pa — Getty Images
Spring training is here, which means people from all over the country will be heading to Scottsdale, Ariz. for some sunshine, some baseball and plenty of golf.
I get plenty of questions on social media around this time about the best golf in the valley, so instead of having to answer each individually I figured a post would be in order to help out anyone heading this way for a break from winter.
First, just a few quick tips for desert golf; bring double the golf balls you normally would, play any lost ball as a lateral hazard so you don't hate yourself by the end of the day, and remember that fairways are way more important than length, so anything you can hit to get the ball in play is what you should be hitting.
Okay, to the golf ...
"Which courses can I not miss?"
We Ko Pa, Cholla -- Anytime someone outside the Phoenix area brings up golf in the desert they do it much like people do when asking about the state of Texas -- "Is Austin really as awesome as everyone says it is?!"
As a Texan I am programmed to roll my eyes and point out all the amazing parts of Texas, but I can't avoid the fact that Austin is really as cool as advertised.
The same can be said about We Ko Pa's Cholla course, and while it is the number one asked about place in the entire Scottsdale area, it is a can't miss in my opinion if you want a real taste of desert golf.
Troon North, Pinnacle -- Another destination that is known around the nation, Pinnacle at Troon North is one of the best layouts in the entire state. Play 18, enjoy the beautiful views of Pinnacle Peak and maybe swing by Greasewood Flats after for a cocktail and some music outside in the great Arizona weather.
Quintero -- The knocks about Quintero are justified -- it's far from the city, it's a very tough desert golf course, and there is literally nothing around it at all.
That's fine, but sometimes you have to drive a ways to play great golf (Pine Dunes in East Texas is a good example of this).
Quintero might be the best desert golf course I've ever played, and while it is tough, it's downright beautiful and a can't-miss if you want to really experience Arizona.
Book it, make the drive and thank me later.
Southern Dunes -- Also a hike from the middle of the city, Southern Dunes is in Maricopa, but the golf course is absolutely worth a visit if you have some time and a vehicle. It's 18 golf holes without a house to be seen, and each hole is tough, beautiful and unique to any others on the property.
"Which resort courses are worth playing?"
Phoenician -- The Phoenician is in the middle of Scottsdale, tucked under Camelback Mountain and made exclusively for people in town hoping to enjoy the beautiful views that surround this city.
The conditions are always solid, the course won't balloon your score and the par-3s are some of the most fun in the city. I love driving into this place, with the flowers lining the entrance and the green grass popping agains the brown of the mountain, and I think it's a solid spot for people trying to squeeze a round in before taking in a Giants game.
Whirlwind -- A drive from the middle of Scottsdale, Whirlwind is just south of the city and offers up two great golf courses with desert views and plenty of wildlife.
The courses might be just a couple of miles from the interstate, but without much around you really feel all alone on these two fantastic layouts and it's a nice break from the insanity that is Scottsdale around this time of year.
"What new course is worth a round?"
Camelback, Ambiente -- A new 18 hole golf course opened from a renovation just last year, the Ambiente course gives you a meandering day of golf through houses that are so giant you'll find yourself staring at them instead of your next shot. Just north of Camelback mountain, Ambiente is a great addition to go alongside the always fun Padre course at Camelback.
"Where should I play if I'm on a budget?"
Papago -- A municipal course in the middle of the city, Papago almost hides itself in between the chaos of downtown Phoenix and Old Town Scottsdale, an 18 hole championship layout that can test your skills and give you some epic photos of some red rocks surrounding the north side of the golf course. A tip for all skills - play the par-3s a tee up, or risk ballooning your score on the short holes.