Thursday, March 26, 2009

If you want to ask Travelin' Joe a question, e-mail him at Hello Joe,I'm heading to Scottsdale in mid-April for a quick five days to get reacquainted with heat and sun. I'm staying at the Westin Kierland. We've been to Scottsdale a few times and have had the opportunity to play most of the great courses -- both Troon North courses, Grayhawk, TPC Tourney Course, We-Ko-Pa, Las Sendas, Wildfire, SunRidge, Eagle Mountain, Estrella -- all great tracks. Do you have any gems that are in the area that we should be looking at? We would love to tackle something new. We really enjoy your column. It's given us great advice on numerous courses.AndyBurlington, Ontario (-27 degrees) Andy, you've played almost as much golf in my hometown as I have! Here are a few more new ones you should try. First, if you were willing to drive out to Estrella and Las Sendas on opposite ends of town, try a few more terrific layouts on the Phoenix outskirts. First is Gold Canyon Golf Resort's 's Dinosaur Mountain course (480-982-9449,; $130-$150 in mid-April) 45 minutes east of Phoenix's Sky Harbor Airport. Some swear that this Ken Kavanaugh design is the equal of anything in Scottsdale, while others claim that houses have detracted some from the aesthetics. Undeniably, however, you'll get a fistful of in-your-face encounters with the Superstition Mountains. Bring your camera and your course management skills.
It's a 50-minute trek from the Westin Kierland, but Southern Dunes Golf Club (480-367-8949,; $99-$109 April 6-May 3) is worth the journey. Managed by Troon Golf, this one-time private men's club where members included Mark Calcavecchia and Steve Jones boasts a Schmidt-Curley design that's rife with superb mountain vistas, imaginative green complexes and bold bunkering.
Recently restored Papago Municipal (602-275-8428,; $84-$109) in Phoenix, home to this week's LPGA event, offers 7,300 yards of desert-parkland mix, albeit with minimal facilities for now. Finally, don't neglect your own hotel's three nines. Kierland's holes (480-922-9283,; $140-$215, with Twilight rates from $85) don't have the space, terrain or drama to be top-tier, but for location, service and fun factor, Kierland's a good choice, especially the Acacia nine. Hi Joe,I am traveling to Memphis for a conference, but would like to get in a few rounds of golf. Any suggestions? Our group is not opposed to traveling and would be willing to make a day trip for a good course.Jason DavisVia email You'll more likely to find a vegetarian ordering seconds at one of Memphis' to-die-for barbecue joints than locating a great public course in the area. That said, you won't starve. Start with the spicy, tender, dry-rub ribs at Charlie Vergos' Rendezvous and don't leave town without sampling the sweet-smoky sauce slathered on the meats at Jim Neely's Interstate Bar-B-Q (the original Interstate on 3rd Street is still supreme).
For golf, I recommend Cherokee Valley Golf Club (901-525-4653,; $39.75-$55.75), 25 minutes away in Olive Branch, Mississippi. A handsome hilltop clubhouse overlooks a variety filled-layout that weaves through forest and wetlands. Both nines end with memorable uphill tests.
If you're looking to mix golf and gaming, a half-hour south and slightly west of Memphis is a handful of good tracks in Mississippi's Tunica area. Best of the bunch is the Links at Cottonwood (662-357-6079,; $69-$79), a mostly open, extremely playable 6,989-yard Hale Irwin creation that features a watery closing stretch and a solid quartet of par-3s. Afterwards, Harrahs Tunica and the Sheraton Tunica offer riverboat gambling at its finest.
Roughly 80 miles east of Memphis is one of the state's best values, the Bear Trace at Chickasaw (731-989-4700,; $25-$35), a 7,118-yard Jack Nicklaus state park design, but budget cuts may force this one to close after March 31, so if you're thinking about making the journey, call ahead. Dear Joe,A friend and I are going to Palm Springs with our families at the end of March. We need some reasonably priced but compelling courses. Also, my kids (12 and 14) will play with us at least once -- they are good for their ages. Any suggestions for family golf?Rob BallVia email Late March is hopping once again in the desert, as Palm Springs has lifted its 20-year moratorium on college spring break partying. The cone of silence remains in place, however, in the tonier suburbs, so don't fret. Trilogy Golf Club at La Quinta (760-771-0707,; $60-$109) should be a lot of fun for your brood. There's enough golf from the tips at 7,174 yards to have tested the pros for four Skins Games (2003-2006), including the memorable 2005 edition with Tiger Woods, Annika Sorenstam, Fred Couples and Fred Funk. So, with this Gary Panks design, you get famous footsteps, a fair price, plus wide fairways and a plethora of flowers, water hazards and mountain vistas. The similar looking homes framing fairways are a drawback, but mostly this is a treat for all.If you and your kids want to try a more ambitious layout, shoot for SilverRock Resort (760-777-8884,; $165) also in La Quinta. This stunning Arnold Palmer track co-hosts the PGA Tour's Bob Hope tourney and its design sports hazards and mountains galore -- but its six sets of tees make it playable for nearly everybody. Also, play after 1:00 p.m. and it's $95 through April 30.         

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