Thursday, March 10, 2011

If you want to ask Travelin' Joe a question, e-mail him at Starpass Dear Joe, Late March - Tucson - I want desert golf, my wife wants the spa. Any good deals out there? Glen Johnson Aurora, Colo. There's no shortage of stand-alone spas in the Old Pueblo, including two of the finest - but priciest - in the U.S., Miraval and Canyon Ranch. Fortunately, there is also a fistful of superb full-service resorts in town as well, where pampering your body won't cost you an arm and a leg.
Off by its cactus-studded lonesome is the JW Marriott Tucson Starr Pass Resort & Spa (520-792-3500,, which dishes out 27 desert-framed holes that combine the architectural talents of Bob Cupp and Arnold Palmer (pictured). If you like famous footsteps, Starr Pass was the site of Phil Mickelson's first PGA Tour win back in 1991, when the property was under the TPC umbrella, and when Phil was still an amateur.
New at the JW Marriott Tucson Starr Pass is the Spring Golf & Spa Package, which includes 18 holes per person, deluxe lodging, one 50-minute spa treatment and a nightly $50 dining credit. That ought to bring smiles to both your faces. Hi Joe, I'm heading up to Lake Tahoe in mid-March for a quick three-day weekend and was wondering if golf is even a possibility. Do you know of any decent courses that might be playable within about an hour or so drive of Tahoe? Eric Grohman Long Beach, Calif. If you can drag yourself away from the casinos, you might just be in luck. Vic Williams, a very capable golf writer and editor who lives in the area, assures me that down from the mountains, there's playable golf weather to be had. In fact, the forecast through March 17 features daily highs from 57 to 61 degrees. Our recommendations are for the Reno/Sparks/Carson City area, but no matter which course you choose, it's between 10 and 60 miles of North or South Lake Tahoe.
Highest marks go to Genoa Lakes ($65; 775-782-4653, in Genoa, straight down the hill from Heavenly and the South Shore. There are two tracks here, but the one you want is the Lakes course, a John Harbottle/Peter Jacobsen design that's slashed by the Carson River and which sports open panoramas of the Sierra Nevadas. Note that it's closed Mondays and Tuesdays in March.
Next up is Dayton Valley Golf Club ($40; 775-246-7888, in Dayton. It's a little longer drive from the lake, roughly 20 minutes east of Carson City, but Arnold Palmer and Ed Seay carved a value-laden beauty from the mountain foothills, complete with a sea of soft mounds and bold bunkers.
Another contender for "best value" honors is Eagle Valley's West course ($35; 775-887-2380, in Carson City, an affordable, Arthur Jack Snyder-designed muni in a high-desert setting that meanders through sagebrush.
In the other direction, Wolf Run ($40; 775-851-3301, is yet another of the region's memorable bargains. Situated about a half-hour from the North Shore/Incline Village, in south Reno, its 5,000-foot elevation makes daily play in March a little dicey, but check anyway. The 7,100-yard layout is strong enough to serve as home course for the University of Nevada golf team, but it's pretty playable for all, regardless of your level of education.
Final options include the Resort at Red Hawk ($50-$55; 866-462-4295, and D'Andrea Golf Club ($69; 775-331-6363, Both are located in Sparks, east of Reno, roughly an hour or so from the North Shore of Lake Tahoe, and are worth the journey. Red Hawk is a Robert Trent Jones Jr. design that blends mountain meadows, water hazards and real estate, while D'Andrea is a hilly, treeless Keith Foster creation among the desert hills. It's a bit pricier to tackle D'Andrea, but its lower elevation often allows for better weather and better conditions. Dear Joe, We are planning our spring golf trip to Savannah, Ga., in March. Can you recommend some good courses in the area? Price is a consideration, but not a deal-breaker. Jim T. Via email It's been more than a decade since "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" put Savannah on the A-List of tourist destinations. If the buzz has ebbed somewhat since then, the attractions haven't. The city's "must-play" is the Troon-managed Club at Savannah Harbor ($110; 912-201-2240,, a Bob Cupp/Sam Snead collaboration that plays host to the annual Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf, the oldest event on the Champions Tour. Wetlands, undulating greens and 7,288 yards of length form the bulk of the challenge, but memorability is its strongest suit, thanks to holes such as the long par-4 6th, which finishes in the shadows of the spectacular Talmadge Bridge and the par-4 9th, with the handsome Westin hotel in the backdrop.
Perhaps the region's best bargain is Southbridge ($40-$50; 912-651-5455,, a flattish romp through woods and lakes that Rees Jones crafted back in 1989. Don't forget, too, that you've got a gold mine of courses 30-45 minutes away, on and off Hilton Head Island.
However, if you want one more Savannah option, especially on your first or last day of the trip, check out Crosswinds Golf Club ($20.50-$55; 912-966-0674,, which is conveniently situated five minutes from the Savannah Airport. You'll find a little bit of everything on this 6,609-yard track, except homes. A superb, watery, risk/reward par-5 closer is a great way to end the trip.

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