If you've been keeping up with the golf industry, you're likely aware that the game enjoyed its best year in 2020 since the Tiger Woods surge of the early 2000s. While local golfers logged many of those additional rounds at local courses, the tried-and-true golf buddy trip is on track for a triumphant return in 2021.
And with the Waste Management Phoenix Open having recently showcased the sunny skies, balmy temps and dazzling desert landscapes surrounding the Scottsdale-Phoenix area, a full-on golf gorge to Arizona is atop many golfers' minds.
To help with the planning process, here are five tips for planning the perfect golf trip to the "Valley of the Sun."
A "by committee approach" works for a lot of things. Golf trips aren't one of them. Every group needs a benevolent dictator to step up and take charge. The research alone takes hours and hours and needs to be meticulous. And then there's booking tee times, lodging, restaurant reservations and more. Did we mention that's just the start of it?
We see you, group leader, and are here to help with Troon Golf Arizona. This online golf-travel guide lets DIY group leaders research golf course info, accolades and locations, as well as book tee times and golf packages. Bringing a large group to the area? No problem. Just complete our brief Outing Inquiry for assistance and a Troon team member will reply promptly.
One of the great things about golf buddy trips is there's no meritocracy. One guy might be a renowned surgeon. Another might be an elementary school teacher. And there's the proverbial "free spirit" who's still waiting tables and looking for his or her big break. All titles and pretense get checked at the airport, or state-line, on the way out.
However, the group leader does need to be sensitive to economic disparities and different life situations across the group. Troon Golf Arizona makes it easy to access golf course rates with just one click of the mouse or tap of the screen. Many tee sheets extend out 60 days, so you can see rates for your trip a couple months ahead.
For golfers on a big budget "bucket list" trip, Troon North Golf Club and the Boulders Resort and Spa are "must plays" given their place in the pantheon of Arizona golf. The Pinnacle Course at Troon North, designed by Tom Weiskopf, was ranked the No. 25 "Course You Can Play" in the U.S. by GOLF Magazine in 2019, while the Monument Course (also a Weiskopf gem) was 52nd.
Just a few minutes north in charming Carefree is the 36-hole Boulders Golf Club, home of a pair of Jay Morrish-designed layouts that helped solidify Scottsdale as the premier golf destination in the U.S. back in the late 80s. All four courses are vintage Sonoran Desert style layouts, replete with towering Saguaro cactus, behemoth boulders and stunning desert landscapes juxtaposed against lush green turf grass.
Another solid bucket list addition is Ak-Chin Southern Dunes Golf Club on the Ak-Chin Reservation in the South Valley near Maricopa. Designed by Lee Schmidt and Brian Curley with input from Fred Couples, the course sprawls over 320 acres of wild growth areas, native grasses and rugged landforms.
The Valley of the Sun, anchored by Phoenix, Mesa and Scottsdale but also including cities like Tempe, Glendale and Peoria, comprises approximately 517 square miles. That's nearly eight times the size of Washington D.C. and 23 times bigger than Manhattan.
If you'd prefer to spend less time driving and more time on the course, start with the course map at Troon Golf Arizona to establish "groupings." Spending some time with the map and generating drive times to and from courses and hotels will help you optimize your Arizona golf trip, regardless of budget.
For example, if you'd like to settle into all that Scottsdale and the Northeast Valley have to offer, playing at Kierland Golf Club and The Phoenician will keep your group in a manageable 10 to 15-minute drive radius with 45 holes of golf (27 at Kierland), the nightlife of Old Town Scottsdale and Scottsdale Stadium for spring training or minor league baseball.
Or, if your crew doesn't want to stray too far from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, the South Valley offers a cadre of outstanding venues, such as the aforementioned Ak-Chin Southern Dunes and award-winning Whirlwind Golf Club. Whirlwind features two outstanding courses designed by Gary Panks, Devil's Claw and Cattail, both having been completely renovated.
Golfers driving in from points west along I-10 or U.S. 93 have easy access to West Valley venues like Wickenburg Ranch in historic Wickenburg, Golf Club at Estrella in Goodyear and the brand-new Jack Nicklaus designed Sterling Grove Golf and Country Club in Surprise.
In the East Valley, golfers will enjoy two of the region's true hidden gems. Longbow Golf Club in Mesa sports a tournament-tested Ken Kavanaugh design with generous fairway landing areas and demanding green complexes. Just 20 minutes north in picturesque Fountain Hills, Scott Miller's Eagle Mountain Golf Club winds through box canyons and lush desert valleys.
Arizona is adorned with many of the country's greatest golf resorts, and the Valley of the Sun serves up ample stay-and-play properties with championship golf and world-class accommodations. The Boulders Resort and Spa tips the scale at the high-end, while the Pointe Hilton Tapatio Cliffs and Lookout Mountain offer a budget friendly golf package alternative.
The Westin Kierland Resort and Spa pairs perfectly with the 27-hole golf club for an ideal Scottsdale golf sojourn, as does the luxurious Phoenician with its palatial guest rooms and central location. Harrah's Ak-Chin Hotel and Casino is the place to hunker down if your group enjoys golf by day and gambling by night. A number of stay-and-play packages are available.
At Whirlwind, the Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass is just 11 miles from Sky Harbor and showcases the Gila River Indian Community's heritage and culture integrated with upscale amenities like Kai, Arizona's only AAA Five Diamond / Forbes Five Star restaurant.
And speaking of stay-and-plays, golfers living in the Phoenix area can also make an easy weekend escape to Bullhead City just 3.5 hours northwest of the city to play Laughlin Ranch Golf Club. The 7,155-yard track offers views of the Colorado River, Black Mountains and casino-filled skyline of Laughlin. The course offers golf packages with several Laughlin hotels and the new on-site Pinnacle Townhomes.
With more than 300 days of sunshine a year, UV protective sunglasses, sunscreen and golf hat are musts for your packing list. During the peak winter season, nighttime temps can dip into the 30s and 40s, so golf pants, pullovers and a couple layers are ideal for morning rounds. Afternoon temps can climb into the 60s and 70s, perfect for a simple golf polo and even a pair of shorts.
Shoulder season packing is an exercise in simplicity. From April to June and October to December, shorts and shirt sleeve shirts do the trick. Summer offers a ton of value, with golf and hotel rates significantly less expensive than the peak season. Summer packing is a bit more of a science. While the desert is extremely dry, moisture-wicking clothing and performance-fabric towels will help with triple digit afternoon temps.