Ask Travelin Joe: Florida Panhandle, Scottsdale stay-and-plays, and Charlotte

Ask Travelin Joe: Florida Panhandle, Scottsdale stay-and-plays, and Charlotte

Hi Joe,We're trying to squeeze in a quick trip to Scottsdale before triple-digit temperatures take over, but we don't want to break the bank. Any advice on stay-and-plays?Peter W. RyanVia emailMake your plans in a hurry — the Valley of the Sun has earned its nickname by topping 100 degrees the past few days, but "normal" for late April is high-80s, where temperatures will return by the weekend. Honestly, these days, you can find bargains no matter who you call, as occupancies are low and tee sheets have gaping holes. For one-stop shopping, however, I'd go with Xona Resort Suites Scottsdale (888-222-1059, xonaresort.com; rates from $134). Following a multi-million dollar makeover in 2008, the property once known as Resort Suites truly shines. Start with an enviable location in the heart of North Scottsdale, adjacent to the Fairmont Princess, toss in a handsome new lobby, plus enhancements to rooms, public spaces and restaurants and finish it off with the hotel's "Golf Experts," on-site golf concierges who make course recommendations and set up tee times and you've got an exceptional package. OK, you won't get the pampering you might at some of Scottsdale's five-star jewels, but in my opinion, Xona Resort Suites is the area's best value for vacationing golfers.   Hi Joe,I've been a subscriber for 10 years and have always enjoyed your travel articles. I'm visiting friends in the Charlotte, N.C. area next month and will probably play three rounds. Any recommendations?Don RicePort Washington, N.Y.For a city of Charlotte's attributes — pro football, great airport, amazing growth in the past 25 years — it's a virtual wasteland when it comes to public golf. I'm not saying there's nowhere to play, it's just surprising that for such a strong modern metropolis, it lacks any course that even sniffs our Top 100 You Can Play. That said, start with the Golf Club at Ballantyne Resort ($75; 704-248-4383, ballantyneresort.com), a rolling, leafy track that's attractive and playable and boasts one of the best golf schools in the South, run by Dana Rader. In the northern reaches of Charlotte is Rock Barn Golf & Spa ($59-$85, 828-459-9279, rockbarn.com), whose seven-year-old Robert Trent Jones II course has played host to the Champions Tour since 2003. Its roomy, tree-lined layout is dappled with typically splashy Trent Jones bunkering and water hazards. Finally, some will tell you that Renaissance Park, Birkdale and Highland Creek might be better, but I'm sending you to Charlotte Golf Links ($47-$62; 704-846-7991, charlottegolf.com), just so you can get a look at an early Tom Doak design, circa 1993. It hardly stacks up with Doak's Pacific Dunes, Cape Kidnappers or Ballyneal, but the rippled fairways peppered with a variety of bunkers make for an entertaining day. 


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