There are more than 60 huge white bunkers at The Frog.
By Joe Passov
Tuesday, November 13, 2007

If you need travel directions, zip him an e-mail at askjoe@golf.com.

Hi Joe,
My wife and I will be in Atlanta later this summer for a business conference and we'd like to tee it up a couple of times. Nice scenery would be a good thing and under $100 would be a very good thing. — Warren G., Dayton, Ohio

Beware: in summer you'll quickly learn how "Hot-lanta" came to earn that moniker. Nevertheless, there's plenty of shade to be had at the area's thickly forested courses and the breeze from the cart ride will offer some relief. Start with Stone Mountain Golf Club (stonemountaingolf.com, 770-465-3278; $38-$64). Robert Trent Jones Sr. crafted the Stonemont course in the late 1960s and while it's not one of his most memorable efforts, it's just the sort of relentless test you'd expect from the dean of American architecture, with its abundance of doglegs, bunkers and uphill approaches. It's quirkier, more interesting sister track is the Lakemont, designed by John LaFoy in 1989. The first hole features a backdrop of Stone Mountain itself, complete with views of carvings of the Confederate leaders.

If you're willing to hit the always enjoyable Atlanta highways, head 45 minutes west to Villa Rica, for The Frog at the Georgian (golfthefrog, 770-459-4400; $45-$79), a friendly, handsome Tom Fazio design that rolls through massive pines and hardwoods. Fazio's artfully sculpted bunkers are strategically and liberally sprinkled throughout.

Dear Joe,
I'm contemplating a golf and gambling junket with my buddies. We like the good weather guarantee of the southwestern deserts. However, Scottsdale and Las Vegas seem a little pricey for us. Our handicaps range from 7 to 16. Any other suggestions? — Bill R., Aurora, Colorado

A truly safe bet is to hunker down at Sandia Resort (sandiaresort.com), a casino golf resort owned by the Pueblo of Sandia tribe. The 228-room hotel offers a variety of packages and its location, adjacent to both course and casino, makes it really easy for one-stop shopping.

Sandia Golf Club (sandiagolf.com, 505-798-3990; $30-$80) is the kind of course you can warm to whether you're a serious course collector or if you've just pulled up after a night at the tables. Ignore the monstrous scorecard numbers-7,772 yards from the tips. The course is indeed long and scenic, with dramatic vistas of the Sandia Mountains, but it isn't that tough, thanks to its wide corridors, soft greenside contours and close to 6,000-foot elevation. The split-fairway par-4 sixth hole, the rambling par-5 11th and the risk/reward 18th, which finishes in the shadow of the hotel, form a winning combo.

If you need to get away for more golf, the best bargains to be had nearby are University of New Mexico's Championship course (UNMGolf.com, 505-277-4546; $27-$67), site of Phil Mickelson's win at the 1992 NCAA Championships and Paa-Ko Ridge (paakoridge.com, 505-281-6000; $44-$99), a stunning 27-holer that melds high desert and mountain alpine settings and which is ranked No. 30 in GOLF Magazine's 2006 list of the Top 100 Courses in the U.S. That You Can Play.

Dear Joe,
It's 112 degrees in Phoenix today. I need an escape! Where would you go for a cool shock to the system? — John P., Phoenix, Arizona

I hear you, brother. Flagstaff, a two-and-a-half-hour drive away, is 30 to 35 degrees cooler during the day, but its best courses are all private. You should hop a plane to Monterey, California and drive straight to Pacific Grove Municipal Golf Links (ci.pg.ca.us, 831-648-5777; $35-$57). Its stirring back nine darts through towering sand dunes, with several holes skirting the Pacific. Several holes ease past the still-in-service Point Pinos Lighthouse, which dates to 1855. Best of all, you can walk PG anytime for $40.

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