If you want to ask Travelin' Joe a question, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org Dear Joe, Seven of us are headed to Scottsdale in May to play all of the top courses—Troon North, TPC, Grayhawk, Boulders and We-Ko-Pa. We've got room for one more course. Any suggestions? —Ray Talley, Medford, Ore. My hometown is chockablock with second-tier tracks that would be trophy courses most anywhere else. It's tough to pick one, so here are three. Not far from We-Ko-Pa is SunRidge Canyon ($60-$170; 480-837-5100, sunridgegolf.com) in Fountain Hills, which, after a few years of neglect, is on the mend with new ownership. This layout boasts a back nine as rugged and scenic as any in the Valley of the Sun, culminating with a final stretch of challenging holes nicknamed "The Wicked Six."
Gold Canyon's Dinosaur Mountain ($45-$189, 480-982-9090, gcgr.com) is marred by too many houses but redeemed by dramatic holes and views of the Superstition Mountains.
A half hour south of the airport is Southern Dunes ($25-$89; 480-367-8949, golfsoutherndunes.com) in Maricopa. Formerly a private men's club (members included Mark Calcavecchia and Steve Jones), this Schmidt-Curley design in a pristine desert setting has clever bunkering, sizable greens and nary a weak hole. Dear Joe, I have a dilemma! Sixteen of us are going to Myrtle Beach, where I haven't been in 25 years. We're looking at two packages: Stay at the Legends and play all five courses (Heathland, Moorland, Parkland, Heritage and Oyster Bay), or stay at True Blue and play there, Grand Dunes, Man O' War, Caledonia and TPC Myrtle Beach. Your thoughts? —Stuart Ryan, via e-mail This is a tough call. You've got a solid lineup of courses at the Legends (800-299-6187, legendsgolf.com). I've played and enjoyed them all. I've also downed a few pints at the resort's charming Ailsa Pub, and even practiced after-hours on its 30-acre lighted range.
Now, if your crew is more into scenery and solitude, the True Blue villas (866-954-8311, fishclub.com), down south on Pawleys Island, is a better bet; plus, the region holds its own for restaurants. However, since you haven't been on the Grand Strand since Reagan was in the White House, play Caledonia. For its marriage of thinking-man's challenge and Low-country allure, Caledonia is my must-play course in Myrtle Beach. Hi Joe, My husband and I have been to Jamaica, the Bahamas and the Dominican Republic for golf vacations. My brother-in-law just returned from Puerto Rico and raved about it. Where does Puerto Rico rate with you compared to the others? —Sue Thompson, Bay Village, Ohio Puerto Rico's golf scene has made huge strides in the past two years. Start with the new lodging component and stunning cliff-top design at Royal Isabela ($150-$250; 787-934-5648, royalisabela.com), which we featured last month.
Next on your list should be eco-minded Bahia Beach ($225-$275; 866-529-3996, bahiabeachpuertorico.com), recently redesigned by Robert Trent Jones II, where a superb St. Regis hotel opened in December 2010.
Jones's newest venture on the island is a sympathetic restoration of the East course at Dorado Beach ($185-$250; 787-626-1001, doradobeach.com), one of his father's true classics. Simply unforgettable are the risk/reward options and Atlantic Ocean views at the Z-shaped, par-5 4th. Lodging is lacking at Dorado right now, but a Ritz-Carlton Reserve boutique hotel is slated to debut late this year.
With a handful of other strong courses (many at bargain rates), a visit to El Yunque Rainforest, and the fine dining to be had in Old San Juan—and no passport needed—you've got a destination that's fast becoming a promised land for golf lovers. Dear Joe, My wife and I want to get away to the Southeast this spring for a week's golf vacation, and we want to get her lessons, too. What do you recommend? —Kent Cummings, Nutley, N.J. Come spring, I'm partial to the Sandhills of North Carolina. With golf lore at just about every inter-section, Pinehurst simply rules. The iconic Pinehurst Resort (855-235-8507, pinehurst.com) offers fine golf instruction and the chance to tangle with the newly restored No. 2.
Yet for your specific needs, I'd pick Pine Needles Resort, next door in Southern Pines (May package rates from $270 and 5-day "Golfari" instruction packages from $2,545; 800-747-7272, pineneedlesmidpines.com). With two Donald Ross courses and one of America's greatest learning programs for women, Pine Needles will get your wife's game razor-sharp in short order.
(Credit: Becky McBride/Pronghorn Golf Club)