Ask Travelin’ Joe: Where to play near Myrtle Beach, Phoenix and Boston

November 15, 2017

This week our courses and travel expert Joe Passov answers your questions on where to find the best rounds in Myrtle Beach, Boston, Phoenix and Palm Desert. Got a question about courses, travel or resorts? Visit our Facebook or Twitter page to send them our way.

I’m going to Arizona in January. Do you have any recommendations for two 70-year-olds that don’t hit it that far anymore but want a fun course to play? Preferably in the Phoenix area. —Ron Brandt, Facebook

Lost amid the fanfare of the newfangled desert, target-style tracks are the old-fashioned pleasures of the Arizona Biltmore Country Club’s courses, Adobe and Links, in Phoenix. Both are centrally located, no matter where you’re staying in town, and both offer views, variety and value — as well as a somewhat gentler experience than many of its neighbors.

Adobe is Arizona’s third-oldest course, dating to 1928. Clark Gable once lost his wedding band on the Billy Bell design, but an alert Arizona Biltmore Hotel employee found it and turned it in. Flat as a cookie sheet, the Adobe excels in other areas, with wall-to-wall grass lined with truly handsome homes, mountain vistas (the 18th heads straight at Piestewa Peak) and many bunkers restored by Forrest Richardson to their classic origins. Its sibling, the somewhat misnamed Links, is a sporty, 6,300-yard layout from the late 1970s. The shortish front nine winds through houses and office buildings (though they never intrude). The back nine is surprisingly hilly, its showpiece the 183-yard, par-15th, which plunges 75 feet downhill over a ravine brimming with desert brush to a green ringed with a trio of traditional, deep oval bunkers. Pick the right set of tees and you’ll enjoy stress-free fun on either course. $100.[gallery:13665108]

I’ll be visiting Tamarindo, Costa Rica soon on a VERY limited budget. I’m looking for reasonably priced courses to play. —Steve Clark, Facebook

C’mon, man! If you’ve got the wherewithal to find yourself on the Costa Rican Pacific Coast, spend a few extra coins to play somewhere special. To be fair, there aren’t a ton of choices. If you don’t want to pay the freight at the region’s best, most spectacular course, the Arnold Palmer-designed Papagayo Peninsula at the Four Seasons ($150-$240), the best values among excellent courses are Reserva Conchal ($85-$125), a Robert Trent Jones Jr. creation, and Hacienda Pinilla ($125-$150, with a $65-$75 Nine-hole/Twilight rate). Lakes, lagoons, Banyan trees, rainforest and beachside holes characterize Reserva Conchal. Hacienda Pinilla bears the architectural imprint of Georgian Mike Young, who routed holes through tropical forest and along the Pacific in an Audubon-certified, eco-sensitive setting. If you absolutely must play bargain golf in the vicinity, Vista Ridge will suffice, at roughly half the price. Take note, that several tee time services can assist with fee reductions. Our own was offering Hacienda Pinilla this coming weekend for as low as $63. Now that’s reasonable.

I’ll be in Boston soon for vacation. Where should I go sneak a round in? —James Marsh, Instagram

If by “soon” you mean in the next two weeks, bundle up. The mercury is scheduled to stay south of 50 degrees for the next fortnight—14 days, if you’re keeping score at home. If someone is willing to let you onto the first tee, or should you try and reschedule, sink your pickaxe into Granite Links at Quarry Hills in suburban Quincy. Designed by John Sanford, who also co-authored (with Jack Nicklaus) the Trump Ferry Point course in New York, Granite Links is a 27-hole championship layout draped atop an old quarry. Brilliant white bunkers, granite outcroppings and sensational views of the Boston skyline form the aesthetic appeal. And as a 19th hole experience for food, drink and ambiance, public golf doesn’t get much better. Current rates are $90; $50 for nine holes, while in high season, it’ll cost you $125-$150. For a true taste of Boston and a true bargain to boot, sample George Wright Golf Course. Situated in Hyde Park, this 1938 Donald Ross design won’t be confused with his work at Pinehurst Number 2, but its proximity to Beantown makes it an attractive option to urbanites and sightseeing vacationers alike. It’s $39-$45 to walk, another $20 for a cart, and pullcarts are $11.

My friend is getting married in Myrtle Beach in January. I know there’s a lot to choose from in the area, but where should we play prior to the big day? —Jude, Facebook

I’m torn between two tracks and you can’t go wrong with either choice. If a bunch of you are coming in from way outta town, pick Caledonia, because it’s short enough to be playable by all, tough enough to stimulate good players and is drenched in Lowcountry regional ambiance. Stands of hardwoods, lakes, wetlands and imposing live oaks make this 1994 Mike Strantz design a visual and shotmaking delight. An antebellum clubhouse and an 18th hole that borders an old rice plantation and the Waccamaw River completes a stirring picture.

Yet, on a wedding occasion, it’s equally compelling to choose an absolute classic, one soaked in history, aura and scenery. This would be the Dunes Golf and Beach Club (the, an early Robert Trent Jones Sr. masterwork from 1948. Host to multiple big-time events, from the U.S. Women’s Open to the season-ending Tour Championship on the Senior Tour, the Dunes oozes shot values and beauty from every pore, with holes 11. 12 and 13 edging the marsh- and alligator-filled Lake Singleton. Rack rates can nudge the $200 barrier for both courses, but venture online and find rates that can run $60 lower.

BTW, January is the chilliest month of the year in Myrtle Beach, with average highs ranging from 51-59 degrees, average lows in the thirties. Dress in layers.

I’m going to Cabo San Lucas next month. If I only have time to play one course, what should it be? —Warren, Instagram

Tell the folks at Diamante that you’re really, really interested in their real estate offerings, and perhaps they’ll grant you a tee time at the Dunes course. Ranked Number 36 in the World, this Davis Love III design soars through massive sand ridges and touches the Pacific Ocean down the stretch. Still, there’s no better finish in town than at Cabo Del Sol’s Ocean course ($150-$375). This 1994 Jack Nicklaus design features back-to-back oceanside par-3s on the front side and a seaside closing trio that’s Mexico’s best. Cactus-covered hillsides and Sea of Cortez backdrops are highlights.

The most spectacular south-of-the-border experience since the original Cinco de Mayo is another Nicklaus creation, Quivira ($227-$370). The cart ride alone is worth most of the green fee, but rest assured, there’s a fistful of holes that will wow you for the rest of your days, notably the par-4 5th, the par-3 6th and the par-3 13th. If the “one course” you want to play needs to be under $200, shoot for Club Campestre. Opened in 2007, this Gary Nicklaus/Nicklaus Design effort is the closest golf to the Los Cabos Airport, so it’s extremely convenient as a first or last vacation round. That said, it’s a good enough course to play during the middle of your stay as well. Desert accents, vast, shallow bunkers and handsome mountain and ocean vistas highlight play. Campestre isn’t the region’s must-play — unless you factor in value. $100-$190.[gallery:13664509]

I’m getting ready to start planning a trip to the Palm Desert. Problem is, I don’t know where to start. What do you recommend as a starting point? —Segyz, Instagram

You’re probably referring to the group of southern California desert communities collectively known as Palm Springs, which includes Palm Desert. Or, it’s possible I’m simply misunderstanding you. Either way, start with my colleague Jessica Marksbury’s recent article as a good guide.

All of the major golf-oriented cities, Palm Springs, Rancho Mirage, La Quinta, Indian Wells and yes, Palm Desert serve up superior courses and resorts, many of which have hosted PGA Tour events. For course conditions and facilities, I like Classic Club in Palm Desert, with the two nearby courses at Desert Willow right alongside. PGA West’s TPC Stadium course in La Quinta and La Quinta Hotel’s Mountain course remain at the top of the area’s must-play list. Marriott’s Shadow Ridge in Palm Desert is the most underrated course around town. At $69-$129, Escena in Palm Springs is an outstanding value. That ought to get you started. Oh, and the region’s cities are often collectively called the Coachella Valley. They throw a little music party there each year that I’ve heard is pretty good.