Ask Travelin' Joe

Ask Travelin’ Joe

No. 11 at Trump National, Los Angeles
John and Jeannine Henebry

E-mail your questions to Travelin’ Joe at [email protected].

Hi Joe,
I am headed to LA on business and would like to play somewhere near LAX. Any suggestions?—Dave R., CT

If you’ve got a spare $195-$300 ($145 Twilight, M-Th), head 25 minutes south of the airport to Trump National, Los Angeles, a stunning cliff-top layout with jaw-dropping Pacific Ocean backdrops that’s set into the exclusive, rolling, semi-rural horse country of Rancho Palos Verdes. Yes, the front nine is a bit repetitive and cramped and a few of the Trump excesses (waterfall behind the first green, crushed marble sand in the bunkers) will appeal to some more than others, but it’s certainly unforgettable.

If you’re craving just to swing the club, right next door to LAX is The Lakes at El Segundo in Fred Sanford’s favorite city of El Segundo. You can brush off the cobwebs at a par-29 executive course, or bash away at the two-tier, 58-stall driving range. In between, you might try the 25- to 30-minute drive (and even longer waits) at Rancho Park (mid-City), or Los Verdes (near Trump), two of the nation’s busiest munis. A pricey treat in the $200 range is semi-private Palos Verdes Golf Club, designed in the 1920s by George Thomas, the same fellow who crafted Riviera. Don’t forget that this is L.A.—and L.A. traffic—so to be safe, quadruple the time allotted to get to and from LAX.

Dear Joe,

I will be in Vegas on March 19th to the 22nd. I’ve got one full day to play and I can play early in the morning. I think I would prefer a desert-type course. Any suggestions in the $100 range? —James H.,

I wish there were an easy answer to your question, but Vegas golf is very expensive. Rates come down in the summer when the mercury rises north of 100, but until then, it’s slim pickins in your price range. Although more parkland than desert, the best value is Wild Horse, an ancient layout (48 years old) by Vegas standards that was recently refurbished by Lee Schmidt and Brian Curley. It actually hosted a few PGA Tour events in the 1980s, but for many, the best feature is its price—$78, tops.

My next pick is Aliante in North Las Vegas, which goes for $120, M-Th, and has scenic mountain views, with a touch of desert. It’s an expensive cab ride, however.

A Monday morning tee time at Boulder Creek will set you back $125. They’ve got 27 pretty good, handsome, semi-desert holes, but it’s 35-40 minutes from the Strip to Boulder City.

For maximum versatility, check out Angel Park. It’s 25-30 minutes from the Strip, with two pleasant Arnold Palmer courses (the Mountain is slightly stronger than the Palm), each with mountain backdrops, for $135. Twilight times start at 1:30 p.m. for $75. They also have a lighted putting course, lighted par-3 course and lighted driving range.

Closer to the airport, the Legacy is a quality Arthur Hills course for $135. Finally, if you want authentic, albeit quirky desert golf, shoot for the Badlands that’ll set you back $150.
There are a few munis for less money, but you’d be wasting your time. Vegas has a captive audience for golf and it knows it. Then again, if it keeps you from losing at the tables for 6 hours, even a $500 course can seem like a bargain.

We saw your column in the January 2007 issue of GOLF Magazine. Can you recommend any winter destinations with a selection of good beginners courses? —Mike K, Canada

Out west, arid Tucson, Arizona has plenty of sunshine and affordable starter courses via a wonderful municipal operation. Quality Parkland-style layouts, where you won’t lose many balls, or be intimidated by excessive length and forced carries, include Randolph Park North and its sister course, Dell Urich, El Rio and Silverbell (all under $50) and Crooked Tree ($45) that melds wall-to-wall grass with desert framing.

Back east, it’s impossible to go wrong with Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. The Supermarket of Golf has courses that appeal to every level. Beginners have dozens of courses where it’s all about scenic fun with just enough challenge to keep it interesting, especially at the region’s older tracks, such as Quail Creek, Island Green and Cypress Bay. Just don’t try Bay Tree, the 54-hole complex which played host to the 1977 LPGA Championship—it’s closed for good.

E-mail your questions to Travelin’ Joe at [email protected].