Friday, May 01, 2009

If you want to ask Travelin' Joe a question, e-mail him at, Joe,I'm going to Flagstaff, Arizona this week. Can you give me any recommended courses? I don't have any club affiliations.John G.Albuquerque, New MexicoNot many folks beyond the state lines realize that in a little more than two hours up Interstate 17, you can leave the triple digit temperatures of Phoenix behind for the 75-degree days, 80-foot-tall Ponderosa pines and 7,000-foot elevation of Flagstaff. Unfortunately, the great golf in the area is confined to private clubs, notably at 36-hole Forest Highlands, whose Canyon course is often ranked as Arizona's best and at Pine Canyon, one of my favorite golf communities in the nation.Basically, you've got three choices for public access golf. First -- and closest -- is Continental Country Club (928-527-7999,; $43-$69). Formerly known as Elden Hills, it's reverted back to an earlier name and at 15 minutes from virtually anywhere in Flagstaff, it's all about convenience and value. Expect play to be slow, with lots of once-every-six-months kinds of players swinging away on vacation, but the waiting isn't all bad. Roughly half the holes are of your basic meadow/pasture variety, with ill-defined landing areas and water hazards, but the other half are pure pleasure, with a handful framed perfectly by pines and backdropped by the San Francisco Peaks.Another option is to drive 45 scenic minutes south and tee it up at Sedona Golf Resort in Sedona (877-733-6630,; $69-$105). It's lower in elevation, 10-20 degrees warmer and features sagebrush edging the holes, rather than pines, but the stupendous red rock scenery, memorably at the 210-yard, par-3 10th, makes it worth the journey. Gary Panks, who authored Twin Warriors near Albuquerque, did Sedona as well.Finally, you might try a cool time warp 30 miles due west of Flagstaff at Elephant Rocks in Williams (928-635-4935,; $29-$54). Panks created nine new, tough, meadowy holes here in 1999, but the old stone clubhouse and the lay-of-the-land, pine-lined holes (1-5 and 15-18) date to the 1920s.

Hi Joe!I'm going to be in Fort Smith, Arkansas at the end of April and will have time for one round of golf. I'm not a member of a country club, so reciprocal arrangements don't apply. Where would you suggest I play?Kevan MayerRichmond, VermontThe late, great, very versatile sportscaster Charlie Jones was from Fort Smith, but he played most of his golf at the private Hardscrabble Country Club, which serves as annual host to a Nationwide Tour event, where past champions have included Mark Hensby, Tim Clark, Zach Johnson and in 2008, Colt Knost. On the public front, the best in-town option is Ben Geren Regional Park Golf Course (479-646-5301,; $20-$36), situated just south of the airport. The pleasant, semi-wooded Magnolia/Willow nines debuted in 1970 and the linksier, more rolling Silo Hill was added in 1997. Water hazards come early and often on each of the three nines, but for maximum variety and challenge, go with Magnolia and Silo Hill.Twenty minutes east from downtown Fort Smith, in Alma -- and definitely a step up -- is Eagle Crest (888-966-4653,; $37-$42), a scenic 12-year-old 6,869 yard, par-71 layout cut into the Ozark Mountains by former PLAYERS Championship winner Mark Hayes. Finally, if you don't mind a 55- to 60-mile drive north up I-540 to Fayetteville, you'll love Stonebridge Meadows (479-571-3673,; $30-$54), an undulating, forested Randy Heckenkemper track near the University of Arkansas that features some splendid, watery par-5s on the back nine.Dear Joe,Some friends of mine and I will be traveling to Toronto, Ontario in May to watch some baseball. Can you recommend any good golf courses for under $100 we could play before the games?Jeff HavelkaVia emailYour best bet is a hard slap shot down Yonge Street, past the Hockey Hall of Fame, to Don Valley Golf Course (416-392-2465,; $43-$50 U.S.). Only 6,109 yards, par 71, Don Valley features a Jekyll-Hyde setup of 3,401 yards on the front, 2,708 on the back. However, it's that short incoming nine you'll remember, with its Hallelujah Corner (the 490-yard, par-5 12th and 152-yard, par-3 13th) that's chock full of woods, water and elevation change. You might need some extra time to navigate this extremely popular muni, but its price, location and quality are tough to top. A more ambitious test -- and within 25 minutes of the ballpark -- is Royal Woodbine Golf Club (416-674-4653,; $57-$75), an eye-catching Michael Hurdzan design that swallows golf balls for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Its 6,447, par-71 stats couldn't be more deceiving -- it's sloped 139 from the tips and even from two sets up, at 5,900 yards, it runs 133. What makes it so tough? Stray any time, anywhere, and you're either wet or in the woods.      

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