Golf is all about numbers, and these figures are inviting: more than 200 courses and 330 days of sunshine each year. Small wonder that golfers target the Arizona Sun Belt like a barrage of heat-seeking missiles.
Phoenix and Scottsdale are known for having some of the grandest old tracks in the Southwest, but this is still fertile terrain. A handful of newer courses have injected new life into the region, giving you even more reasons to visit. Toss in amenities for the not-so-golfy world-class shopping, great food and superb spas and you have a destination that promises golf and marital harmony.
We-Ko-Pa Golf Club
7,225 yards, par 72;
Greens fee: $170-$195
Named for the Yavapal word for "Four Peaks Mountain," a jagged rock formation that looms over the course, We-Ko-Pa lies on tribal land owned by the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation. Since opening four years ago this Scott Miller design has catapulted to "must play" status thanks to its incomparable scenery and holes that zigzag artfully through canyons, over ridges and down mountain slopes. That there are no homes or roads scarring the views only adds to the charm here.
Troon North Golf Club
Monument Course: 7,028 yards, par 72;
Greens Fee: $210-$295
Pinnacle Course: 7,044 yards, par 72;
Greens fee: $210-$295
Don't be deterred by the price tag or the houses along the fairways at Troon North: These are two of the finest treasures in the desert. The Monument course, created in 1991 by Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish, boasts stunning mountain views but it's what's on the ground that can derail your round. Arroyos come into play on five holes, while boulders and Saguaro cacti add both beauty and menace. Monument has two great par 5s: the 564-yard third, with its namesake giant boulder clogging the landing area, and the 604-yard 14th, appropriately called "Cross Country." Pinnacle, a 1996 Weiskopf solo effort, is dramatic and features more options off the tee, but is sternly bunkered with tough green complexes.
The Raven Golf Club at Verrado
7,258 yards, par 72;
Greens fee: $159
This 2-year-old raven flies high 30 miles west of Phoenix in the sleepy town of Buckeye, but you'd better be wide awake when you tackle this track by John Fought and Tom Lehman. The designers chiseled an option-laden layout in the foothills of the White Tank Mountains. Holes skip around scrub-filled ravines and down rock-encrusted slopes. The Raven is a healthy trek from downtown, but the Phoenix skyline vistas from the 494-yard 18th remind you that civilization isn't that far away.
TPC of Scottsdale
Stadium Course: 7,216 yards, par 71
Greens fee: $238
Desert Course: 6,423 par 70
Greens fee: $57
Home to the FBR Open, the best-attended (and rowdiest stop on the PGA Tour, the Stadium Course is nobody's idea of a beauty queen, but what it lacks in looks it makes up for in thrills. Most exhilarating is the finishing stretch, from the reachable, island-green par-5 15th to what Mark Calcavecchia calls the toughest tee shot on the course at the closing hole.
Vista Verde Golf Course
7,219 yards, par 72;
Call Resort Suites at 800-898-5768
Arizona's newest public-access course is slated for a soft opening this month in rio Verde. It's so new they don't have a phone number yet and haven't decided on greens fees. the best way to gain access is to stay at resort Suites and ask the golf concierge to arrange your tee time on this gently rolling track by the Tonto National Forest.
Horse lovers will be hot to trot at the Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show, starting Feb. 17 at WestWorld.
Play your own war games with Desert Storm Hummer Tours. You get rugged 4x4 action in the mountains east of Scottsdale.
The classic-ride gazing is terrific at the annual Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction at WestWorld from Jan. 14-22.
Get a high-speed thrill in a racecar at the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving.
The Phoenix Suns shocked the sages in 2005 by reaching the Western Conference finals. Catch them in action in 2006.
Where to stay
Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa
Frank Lloyd Wright consulted on Phoenix's grandest hotel. Unlimited golf (with breakfast) costs $289 a night (double occupancy).
Fairmont Scottsdale Princess
The golf package here includes two rounds for two per night (shared room), breakfast and transportation to any local courses. From $569 per person through Dec. 31, 2005.
Westin Kierland Resort & Spa
From $539 per night per person, you can have two rounds and breakfast. Kids under 12 play free. Rates good through De. 31, 2005.
Where to eat
Lefty gave his name to Phil's Grill at Grayhawk Golf Club and helped plan the menu. It's the premier public-access 19th hole in the state, thanks to tasty prime-rib sliders, massive margaritas and mounds of Mickelson memorabilla.
\n Mastro's Ocean Club Fish House at Kierland Commons serves up fresh fish flown in daily and memorable martinis. 480-443-8555, mastrosoceanclub.com
For affordable Mexican food, few rival Garduno's near the Hyatt Regency Scottsdale.
The Card Wrecker
No. 17, TPC of Scottsdale (Stadium Course); 332 yards, par 4
One of the game's greatest risk/reward par 4s, you can attack this heavily contoured green from the tee, but the penalties for failure are severe. Andrew Magee aced this hole at the 2001 FBR Open by ricocheting his ball off the putter of Tom Byrum, who was standing on the green while playing in the group ahead. How will you master it? We asked the co-architect for a line.
Tom Weiskopf on how to play it
"This hole gives the player plenty of options. The lure for the big hitter is to try driving the huge green, the reward being an eagle putt. The risk for the errant drive is water left of the green and swale to the right. We also rewarded the shorter hitter, letting him use his short-game expertise to handle the bold contours of the green. The exciting aspect to this hole is that so many things can happen--there are so many different ways to play it."