Ask Travelin' Joe: San Diego; Raleigh; St. George, Utah; and Tybee Island, Ga.
If you want to ask Travelin' Joe a question, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Dear Joe, My friend and I will be traveling to the San Diego area and would like to play some reasonably priced courses within 30 miles of the Convention Center. —Moe Stopa, Etters, Pa. Just minutes away from the Convention Center, via the Coronado Bay Bridge, is Coronado Municipal Golf Course ($30-$51; 619-435-3121, golfcoronado.com) on San Diego Bay. Tee times are hard to come by, play is slow and half the holes are nondescript, but there is some visual magic. The 406-yard third hole gives you an up-close view of both the bridge and a lineup of massive Navy ships, the 370-yard 16th goes right by a marina full of sailboats and the 18th tee is perched at the water's edge. This easy walk costs $15 after 3 p.m., making it one of America's best values.
More of a splurge, but worth it for its clifftop ocean views, PGA Tour pedigree and proximity to downtown is Torrey Pines. The front nine of the North Course ($100-$125; 877-581-7171, torreypinesgolfcourse.com) has far more excitement than the back, so the after-3 p.m. twilight rate ($60-$75) is a bargain, because even if you don't finish you'll still have played the best holes. The South costs more ($183-$229), is a bit less scenic and plays much tougher, but it did host the dramatic 2008 U.S. Open. Dear Joe, Eight of us are traveling to Raleigh, N.C. We're looking for your input on courses in that area. We hope to play four rounds in the $50-$75 range. —Dave Large, Rochester, N.Y. There is golf to be played in the heart of college basketball country. Start in Chapel Hill with UNC Finley ($50-$82; 919-962-2349, uncfinley.com) where Davis Love III showed fellow Tar Heel Michael Jordan how to grip a club. Tom Fazio reworked the now 62-year-old layout in 1999, and in typical Fazio fashion it's very playable but a task from the tips. Par-4 brutes at 15 and 16 will wreck your score, and watch out for overzealous rangers, who can wreck your rhythm.
Not far away is UNC rival Duke University ($50-$100; 919-681-2288, golf.duke.edu) in Durham, where a 1957 Robert Trent Jones Sr. design was tweaked by son Rees in the 1990s. Tree trouble, strategic bunkering and a stern finish highlight this traditional parkland track.
Finally, for a dose of more modern craftsmanship right in Raleigh, check out Lonnie Poole Golf Course at North Carolina State University ($49-$75, 919-833-3338, lonniepoolegolfcourse.com). This two-year-old Arnold Palmer creation sports huge greens and a big-time closing par-4. Hey Joe, I'm planning a 9-day trip to St. George, Utah. Right now, we're looking at Coral Canyon, Sand Hollow, the Ledges and Kokopelli courses. Would you recommend any others, or should we just play these twice? I was also looking at Wolf Creek in Mesquite and wondering if it was worth the money. —Randy Decker, Albuquerque, N.M. Since Entrada at Snow Canyon is private unless you're staying on-site, you've tagged the must-plays in southwestern Utah's "Color Country." First up should be Sand Hollow ($35-$125; 435-656-4653, sandhollowresort.com), the John Fought design that soars with a back nine among the ridge-lines and red-rock outcroppings. You'll pay $35 to play after 1 p.m. from Sunday through Thursday.
You might also want to try nearby Sky Mountain ($20-$73; 435-635-7888, skymountaingolf.com). It's just 6,383 yards from the tips, but it wins for sheer scenery.
If you're going to be here for nine days, by all means make the 35-minute drive to Mesquite, Nevada and Wolf Creek ($85-$195; 866-252-4653, golfwolfcreek.com). It's worth the time, trouble and money for a one-of-a-kind thrill ride. Dear Joe, I'm heading down to Tybee Island, Georgia for a week around July 4, but I really don't feel like going to Hilton Head to play golf. Can you make some recommendations for Savannah, Ga.? My budget is $75 or less. —Michael Strong, via e-mail Stretch that budget just a little bit and you can play the city's best track, The Club at Savannah Harbor ($75-$95; 912-201-2240, theclubatsavannahharbor.com), a 1999 Bob Cupp/Sam Snead design that hosts the Champions Tour's Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf. The heavily contoured greens make putting here an adventure, but the well-placed wetlands also help make it an interesting strategic test. Holes like the long par-4 6th, with the Talmadge Bridge serving as a backdrop, make this a memorable one. Southbridge ($30-$50; 912-651-5455, southbridgegolfclub.com), a 1989 Rees Jones creation, is the area's best value, while Crosswinds ($23.50-$51.50; 912-966-0674, crosswindsgolfclub.com) is a must-play for your first or final round, given its convenient location just five minutes from the Savannah Airport.
(Photo: John Mummert/USGA)