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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?
Eden Prairie, Minn.
The 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.
An 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.
We've got a family get-together in Virginia Beach over Labor Day weekend. Is it worth lugging the clubs along?
Money's a little tight this summer, so we're staying home. Are there any good golf travel books you've come across lately?
Gates Mills, Ohio
Naturally, 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.
Next 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.
Finally, 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.