By Joe Passov
Friday, August 22, 2008

[ITALIC "If you want to ask Travelin' Joe a question, e-mail him at [MAILTO "askjoe@golf.com" "[BOLD "askjoe@golf.com"]"]."]

Dear Joe,
My buddies and I are thinking about an October visit to Phoenix, or Mesa, specifically, where my in-laws have a house. Any advice on where to play out there?

Doug Miller
Eden Prairie, Minn.

\nThe best public course in Phoenix' East Valley, where Mesa is located, is Gold Canyon Resort's Dinosaur Mountain (480-982-9449, gcgr.com; $74-$84 in October) and the best value is Longbow (480-807-5400, longbowgolf.com; $65-$85 in October). The trouble is, they're both closed for overseeding from October 13th through the 30th.

\nAn alternative is Las Sendas (480-396-4000, lassendas.com; $109-$129), a rugged Robert Trent Jones Jr. desert design, which reopens in mid-October. From late September through early November, if you're looking to play anywhere in Phoenix/Scottsdale, call ahead for a conditions assessment. For roughly 3-6 weeks after overseeding, expect firm greens and cartpath-only.

\nHi Joe,
We've got a family get-together in Virginia Beach over Labor Day weekend. Is it worth lugging the clubs along?

John Gregorio
Chester, Pa.

\nBy all means, pack the sticks. Virginia Beach is awash in good, modestly priced tracks such as Hell's Point and Honey Bee ($45-$65), a pair of Rees Jones designs.

\nFor a splurge, head to Bay Creek (757-331-8620, baycreek.net, $100), where both the Arnold Palmer course and the Jack Nicklaus course skirt Chesapeake Bay and Old Plantation Creek.

\n A third option is Virginia Beach National (757-563-9440, vbnational.com; $75), a long, eight-year-old Pete Dye/Curtis Strange design that had been part of the TPC network until last year.

\nDear Joe,
Money's a little tight this summer, so we're staying home. Are there any good golf travel books you've come across lately?

Max Bauer
Gates Mills, Ohio

\nNaturally, I recommend that you start with GOLF Magazine's Great Getaways, a 2007 Abrams publication that illuminates many of the world's best three- and four-day golf trips.

\nNext up is Golf Las Vegas: The Ultimate Guide by Ken Van Vechten (Huntington Press, 2008). The author writes authoritatively, but with a breezy tone that perfectly blends humor and insight. Hotels and nightlife are covered in the same style as the golf.

\nFinally, a personal favorite is Golf's Sacred Journey: Seven Days at the Links of Utopia, by David L. Cook, Ph.D. (Sacred Journey Stories, 2006), with a foreword by Tom Lehman. Cook, a mental coach who has worked with more than 100 PGA Tour pros and athletes such as NBA great David Robinson, spins a tale of exquisite grace and simplicity, using a nine-hole Texas muni as a backdrop. Whether you're a Tour player who can't sink a 5-footer when you need one, or a hack in search of what-does-it-all-mean answers, Cook's short chronicle is good for what ails you.

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