WE KO PA
Jason Wise  /  AP file
We Ko Pa Golf Club, in Mesa, Ariz., is one of hundreds of golf courses throughout the Phoenix area. Phoenix offers a variety of tourist amenities including hiking, golf and western history.
updated 7/10/2006 1:27:12 PM ET 2006-07-10T17:27:12

With nearly 200 courses in the Valley of the Sun, golf is just about the most popular sport in Phoenix and one of the main reasons people flock here in winter. Sunshine, spectacular views, and the company of coyotes, quails, and doves make playing a round of golf here a truly memorable experience.

Despite the number of courses, it can still be difficult to get a tee time on any of the more popular courses (especially during the months of Feb, Mar, and Apr). If you're staying at a resort with a course, be sure to make your tee-time reservations at the same time you make your room reservations. If you aren't staying at a resort, you might still be able to play a round on a resort course if you can get a last-minute tee time. Try one of the tee-time reservations services below.

The only thing harder than getting a winter or spring tee time in the Valley is facing the bill at the end of your 18 holes. Greens fees at most public and resort courses range from $90 to $170, with the top courses often charging $200 to $250 or more. Municipal courses, on the other hand, charge under $40. You can save money on many courses by opting for twilight play, which usually begins between 1 and 3 p.m.

You can get more information on Valley of the Sun golf courses from the Greater Phoenix Convention & Visitors Bureau, 50 N. Second St. (tel. 877/225-5749 or 602/452-6282; www.visitphoenix.com).

It's a good idea to make reservations well in advance. You can avoid the hassle of booking tee times yourself by contacting Golf Xpress (tel. 888/679-8246 or 602/404-GOLF; www.azgolfxpress.com), which can make reservations farther in advance than you could if you called the golf course directly, and can sometimes get you lower greens fees as well. This company also makes hotel reservations, rents golf clubs, and provides other assistance to golfers visiting the Valley. For last-minute reservations, call Stand-by Golf (tel. 800/655-5345; www.discountteetimes.com).

The many resort courses are the favored fairways of Valley visitors. For spectacular scenery, the two Jay Morrish-designed 18-hole courses at The Boulders, North Scottsdale Road and Carefree Highway, Carefree (tel. 800/553-1717 or 480/488-9009; www.thebouldersclub.com), just can't be beat. Given the option, play the South Course, and watch out as you approach the tee box on the 7th hole -- it's a real heart-stopper. Tee times for nonresort guests are very limited in winter and spring (try making reservations a month in advance if you aren't staying at the resort). You'll pay $245 to $290 for a round in winter, $195 to $220 in spring.

Jumping over to Litchfield Park, on the far west side of the Valley, there's The Wigwam Golf Club & Spa, 300 Wigwam Blvd. (tel. 800/909-4224 or 623/935-3811), which has, count 'em, three championship 18-hole courses. The Gold Course is legendary, but even the Blue and Red courses are worth playing. These are traditional courses for purists who want vast expanses of green rather than cactus and boulders, and in the past couple of years, all three courses have been renovated. In high season, greens fees are $135 for any of the three courses and $45 in summer. Reservations for nonguests can be made no more than 7 days in advance.

Way over on the east side of the Valley at the foot of the Superstition Mountains is the Gold Canyon Golf Resort, 6100 S. Kings Ranch Rd., Gold Canyon (tel. 800/827-5281 or 480/982-9449; www.gcgr.com), which has been rated the best public course in the state and has three of the state's best holes -- the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th on the visually breathtaking, desert-style Dinosaur Mountain course. Greens fees on this course range from $157 to $187 in winter and from $57 to $67 in summer. The Sidewinder course is more traditional and less dramatic, but much more economical. Greens fees are $87 to $102 in winter and $42 to $47 in summer. Reserve a week in advance. It's well worth the drive.

If you want a traditional course that has been played by presidents and celebrities alike, try to get a tee time at one of the two 18-hole courses at the Arizona Biltmore Country Club, 24th Street and Missouri Avenue (tel. 602/955-9655). The courses here are more relaxing than challenging, good to play if you're not yet up to par. Greens fees are $175 to $195 in winter and spring. Reservations can be made up to 2 months in advance. There's also a championship 18-hole putting course.

Of the two courses at the Camelback Golf Club, 7847 N. Mockingbird Lane (tel. 800/24-CAMEL or 480/596-7050), the Resort Course underwent a $16-million redesign a few years ago and has new water features and bunkers. The Club Course is a links-style course with great mountain views and lots of water hazards. Resort Course greens fees are $96 to $170 in winter; Club Course fees are $80 to $125 in winter. Reservations can be made up to 60 days in advance.

Set at the base of Camelback Mountain, the Phoenician Golf Club, 6000 E. Camelback Rd. (tel. 800/888-8234 or 480/423-2449; www.thephoenician.com), at the Valley's most glamorous resort, has 27 holes that mix traditional and desert styles. Greens fees for nonresort guests are $110 to $180 in winter and spring, $60 to $90 in summer, and can be made up to 60 days in advance.

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Of the Valley's many daily-fee courses, it's the two 18-hole courses at Troon North Golf Club, 10320 E. Dynamite Blvd., Scottsdale (tel. 888/TROON-US or 480/585-7700; www.troonnorthgolf.com), seemingly just barely carved out of raw desert, that garner the most local accolades. This is the finest example of a desert course that you'll find anywhere in the state, and with five tee boxes on each hole, golfers of all levels can enjoy this course. Greens fees are $185 to $295 in winter and spring.

If you want to swing where the pros do, beg, borrow, or steal a tee time on the Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish-designed Stadium Course at the Tournament Players Club (TPC) of Scottsdale, 17020 N. Hayden Rd. (tel. 888/400-4001 or 480/585-4334; www.playatpc.com), which hosts the Phoenix Open. The 18th hole has standing room for 40,000 spectators, but hopefully there won't be that many around the day you double bogey on this hole. The TPC's second 18, the Desert Course, is actually a municipal course, thanks to an agreement with the landowner, the Bureau of Land Management. Stadium course fees top out at $228 in winter and spring, while Desert Course fees are a reasonable $57 in winter and spring.

The Kierland Golf Club, 15636 Clubgate Dr., Scottsdale (tel. 888/TROON-US or 480/922-9283; www.kierlandgolf.com), which was designed by Scott Miller and consists of three 9-hole courses that can be played in combination, is another much-talked-about local daily-fee course. It's affiliated with the Westin Kierland Resort and offers Segway "human transporters" with golf-bag carriers as an option to traditional golf carts. Greens fees are $95 to $180 in winter.

The Pete Dye-designed ASU-Karsten Golf Course, 1125 E. Rio Salado Pkwy., Tempe (tel. 480/921-8070; www.asukarsten.com), part of Arizona State University, is also highly praised and a very challenging training ground for top collegiate golfers. Greens fees are $75 to $89 in winter. Phone reservations are taken up to 14 days in advance; online reservations are taken up to 30 days in advance.

If you're looking for good value in traditional or links-style courses, try the Legacy Golf Resort, Stonecreek Golf Club, or Ocotillo Golf Resort. The Legacy Golf Resort, 6808 S. 32nd St. (tel. 888/828-FORE or 602/305-5550; www.legacygolfresort.com), is a fairly forgiving course on the south side of the Valley. Greens fees are $99 to $149 in winter.

Stonecreek Golf Club, 4435 E. Paradise Village Pkwy. (tel. 602/953-9111; www.americangolf.com), conveniently located in Paradise Valley close to downtown Scottsdale, is named for the artificial stream that meanders through the course. Greens fees are $69 to $95 in winter.

Ocotillo Golf Club, 3751 S. Clubhouse Dr., Chandler (tel. 888/624-8899 or 480/917-6660), in the southeast part of the Valley, has three 9-hole courses centered around 95 acres of man-made lakes, and that means a lot of challenge. Greens fees are $155 in winter.

If you want to take a crack at a desert-style course or two but don't want to take out a second mortgage, try Dove Valley Ranch Golf Club, Rancho Mañana Golf Club, or We-Ko-Pa Golf Club. Dove Valley Ranch Golf Club, 33244 N. Black Mountain Pkwy., Cave Creek (tel. 480/488-0009; www.dovevalleyranch.com), designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr., was voted Arizona's best new public course when it opened in 1998. It's something of a merger of desert and traditional styles. Greens fees are $105 to $130 in winter.

Rancho Mañana Golf Club, 5734 E. Rancho Mañana Blvd., Cave Creek (tel. 480/488-0398; www.ranchomanana.com), on the north side of the Valley near The Boulders Resort, makes a good introduction to desert-style courses, as it's not as challenging as some other options in the area. Greens fees are $75 to $155 in winter.

We-Ko-Pa Golf Club, 18200 East Toh Vee Circle, Fountain Hills (tel. 480/836-9000; www.wekopa.com), is located off the Beeline Highway (Ariz. 87) on the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation in the northeast corner of the Valley, and gets rave reviews. The course name is Yavapai for "Four Peaks," which is the mountain range you'll be marveling at as you play. Unlike at other area courses, fairways are bounded by desert, not luxury homes, so make sure you keep your ball on the grass. Greens fees are $85 to $195 in winter. Reservations are taken up to 90 days in advance.

Of the municipal courses in Phoenix, Papago Golf Course, 5595 E. Moreland St. (tel. 602/275-8428), at the foot of the red sandstone Papago Buttes, offers fine views and a killer 17th hole. This is such a great course that it's used for Phoenix Open qualifying. Encanto Golf Course, 2775 N. 15th Ave. (tel. 602/253-3963), is the third-oldest course in Arizona and, with its wide fairways and lack of hazards, is very forgiving. Cave Creek Golf Course, 15202 N. 19th Ave. (tel. 602/866-8076), in north Phoenix, is another good, economical choice. In winter, greens fees at these three municipal courses are $17 to $34 to walk ($22 extra for a golf cart). For details on these courses, go to www.ci.phoenix.az.us/SPORTS/golf.html.

Tempe's Rolling Hills Golf Course, 1415 N. Mill Ave., Tempe (tel. 480/350-5275; www.tempe.gov/pkrec/golf), on the south side of Papago Park, is another good little municipal course with economical rates. There are two executive 9-hole courses here and greens fees are a very reasonable $24 for 18 holes. A golf car will cost you another $20. Reservations can be made a week in advance.

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