If you want to ask Travelin' Joe a question, e-mail him at email@example.com. Dear Joe, What courses are still going to be in good shape in greater Scottsdale in late June? M. Kneck Via email Courses in the hot box that is Scottsdale in late June are generally in surprisingly good shape. The Bermuda that came in during the spring is good-looking and plays great. The wilting comes as the nights get hotter and when the monsoons arrive in mid- to late July. Golf in Arizona can be hellish for some at that time of year, but for others, it’s heaven, thanks to the bargain basement prices at five-star properties. Here are a few suggestions:
I have to tip my hat the TPC Scottsdale (480-585-4334, tpc.com/Scottsdale) for some innovative marketing. Start with their 36-hole Summer Special, good for the month of June, where $99 will get you a morning round over the recently re-designed Champions course and an afternoon romp on the famous Stadium, home to the rowdiest galleries in golf every January when the PGA Tour’s Waste Management Phoenix Open stops by. If you can’t stand the heat—well, that much heat—you can sign up for a $120 deal where you have five days to play both courses.
I’m also a fan of Grayhawk’s (480-502-1800, grayhawkgolf.com) Penguin promotion, where $55 gets you golf at one of two Tour-tested courses, cart, practice balls and lunch or dinner at Phil’s Grill, Quill Creek Café or on the course. The Tom Fazio-designed Raptor has a superb finish, but the Graham-Panks-designed Talon is equally memorable.
Finally, for a short, one-hour road trip that delivers you into the kind of Wild West you remember from John Wayne movies, try Rancho de los Caballeros (928-684-5484, ranchodeloscaballeros.com) in Wickenburg. It’s just $49 for golf, cart and lunch and the rollicking ride through the desert will test both clubs and camera. Horseback riding gets equal billing with the golf at this wonderful small resort, so saddle up and enjoy. Dear Joe, My wife and I are headed to Park City, Utah in June. Where should I play? The only price restriction is that it cannot cost more than the two massages that my wife is getting. Thanks for your input. Ethan Winston-Salem, N.C. The miniscule price for great golf in the Park City area will loosen up those neck and back muscles for certain. For your splurge, tee it up at Victory Ranch ($150; 435-735-5030, victoryranchclub.com), a 7,599-yard, 2009 Rees Jones creation that is a wall-to-wall thrill ride from start to finish. Opened as a private club, Victory Ranch’s real estate and private memberships faced a tough economy out of the blocks, so recently, they’ve moved to a “club guest” program, where members for a day can pay the green fee and play.
New manager OB Sports has smoothed out the rough edges and has it in tip-top shape, the better to enjoy this mostly treeless mountain track that meanders atop rock ridges, plunges through canyons and serves up panoramas of the Wasatch and Uinta Mountains, streams and the Jordanelle Reservoir. Is it worth one and a half Franklins? Yes, if you want scenic overload and shotmaking memories for a lifetime.
Almost tragically, the vast majority of Park City golf is strictly private. Among the superb set-ups are Promontory, Glenwild, Red Ledges and Talisker at Tuhaye. Nevertheless, you’re in luck. Within 11 miles of Park City are four of the best public bargains in the U.S., the Lake and Mountain courses at Wasatch Mountain State Park (435-654-0532, stateparks.utah.gov) and Soldier Hollow's (435-654-7442, soldierhollow.com) two tracks, the Gold and Silver. Each is only $40 to play and that includes the cart. In particular, the Gene Bates-designed Gold at Soldier Hollow, which plays host to the USGA’s Amateur Public Links Championship in 2012, is a stunner at 7,598 elevated yards, with incredible views of Heber Valley and Mt. Timpanogos. Dear Joe, In June, I will be in Orlando, Florida for a week. What do you suggest for a 15-year-old with a 15 handicap? $20-$60 is my price range. Andrew A. Texas Florida golf prices are at lowest ebb during summer, so go be a 15-year-old and play all day! Start with Falcon’s Fire (407-239-5445, falconsfire.com), a totally fun, Marriott-managed, Rees Jones design that was refurbished in 2010. Mounds, water hazards (memorably at the banana-shaped, 379-yard, par-4 13th) and fast, intriguingly contoured greens are highlights. Best of all, Falcon Fire’s Junior (16-and under) rate is a smokin’ $35.
A second reasonably priced favorite in O-Town is MetroWest ($49-$59; 407-299-1099, metrowestgolf.com), another Marriott Golf property, which sits just minutes from Universal Studios Orlando. There’s something about this 1984 Robert Trent Jones Sr. design that just agrees with me, from the Master’s familiar hazard-guarded, elevated greens, to the unusual rolling (for Florida) terrain to, well, the price tag.
Finally, you can’t be a kid in Orlando and not pay your respects to Mickey, so let’s get you over to Disney World (407-939-4653, Disneyworld.disney.go.com/golf) for a summer golf buffet. During June, all four of Disney’s championship tests are $59 to play between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. and $49 after 3. As a 15-handicap, you’ve definitely got enough game to handle the Magnolia, which hosts the final round of a PGA Tour event every year. Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods have both won here, but Magnolia is best known for its watery finish and for its bunker at the par-3 6th, shaped in the image of Mickey Mouse’s ears.
Many contend that the Palm is every bit as good—or better—than Magnolia, while I’m of the opinion that the Tom Fazio-designed Osprey Ridge is best of the bunch. However, if you’re playing alone, call ahead for walking policies. Most courses aren’t in the habit of renting golf carts to 15-year-olds.
For a pure muni experience where you can walk and pretty much wear what you want, try Dubsdread ($25-$61; 407-246-2551, historicaldubsdread.com), a former Tour site that dates to 1924. Juniors (17 and under) pay $16 to walk during the week, $20 on the weekend and another $8 bucks for a cart—but you’ve got to show a valid driver’s license to get one. Try a $6 pullcart instead.