Foothills Golf Club
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updated 8/31/2005 8:11:38 PM ET 2005-09-01T00:11:38

When the phoenix rose from the ashes, it probably didn't have golf discount cards on its mind.

Unlike the mythical bird, its urban namesake in Arizona doesn't reinvent itself every 500 years, though golf courses continue to go up in the Valley of the Sun at a prodigious rate.

A golf trip to Phoenix can leave the first-time visitor with mouth agape, wondering if the pricey green fees are worth the high-desert views, target golf and hustling bag boys, who do everything from wiping your clubs down to consoling you with, "Hey, everybody shoots over 100 their first time here."

Still, there are ways to play golf in the Phoenix area without maxing out your credit card, bottoming out your checking account and emptying that little change box in you car console.

Locals have an advantage, of course, because they can scan the newspapers and watch bulletin boards for special discounts as Phoenix-area courses constantly adapt their rates according to what the non-golfers in Washington, D.C. are doing to the economy.

Locals also have the advantage of living there in the summer, when rates go deep south, unlike the thermometer. Summer rates drop off the charts, which help more than sunscreen and ice water when temperatures soar above 100 degrees and the desert sun scorches man, beast and everything in between.

Specials aside, there are several quality courses here that offer consistently lower green fees than the high-end courses, and in which there is not a ridiculous concomitant drop in quality.

Start with the municipal courses. Phoenix munis green fees range from $4 to $35, depending on age, residency, the course and the season. Maricopa County residents can buy a discount card for $15 that's good for all the city-owned tracks. There are some good ones.

MUNIS AREN'T PUNY

The Aquila Golf Course in south Phoenix, for example, is a challenging course that requires accuracy. It has great views of South Mountain, particularly from the ninth and 10th holes. Though its views aren't as good as some other munis, there are those who say Aquila will become the best muni in Phoenix. For more information, call (702) 566-7998.

Papago Golf Course is home to the Phoenix Open qualifying and has a slope rating of 132 from the back tees, which puts it in league with many higher-end courses as far as difficulty. It was designed by William Bell who also did the renowned Torrey Pines Golf Course in San Diego. For more information, call (800) 426-6148.

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Encanto Golf Course has wide, tree-lined fairways, with several water hazards. It's a flat, fairly easy course good for walking. For more information, call (800) 939-7998.

Also worth a look: Cave Creek, the Encanto nine-holer, Maryvale and Palo Verde, a nine-hole executive course.

PAY FOR WHAT YOU GET

The Foothills Golf Club isn't a muni, but it is very playable compared to other Phoenix courses; it also has a slope rating of 132 and Golf Digest has rated it 3.5 stars. The green fees never top the $100 mark, and of course drop drastically in summer, which is when most of the locals play it.

"We just like to provide a good value experience," said Foothills Director of Golf Kevin McGraw. "It's kind of a pay-for-what-you-get experience. People who pay over $100 expect a lot. We don't want to give them that kind of a price tag."

Set in the ridges and buttes of South Mountain, it has wide, rolling fairways, is 6,500 yards long and not as penal as many desert courses.

The drawback is its popularity - it hosts about 56,000 rounds a year and so sometimes gets a little haggard. For more information, call (800) 841-6570.

The TPC Desert course may be one of the best deals in Phoenix, where locals can play for $50 in peak season and non-residents only $55. It also has mid-twilight and twilight rates, with junior and senior rates. It's not as challenging, obviously, as its big brother, the Stadium course but Tom Weiskopf designed it so locals in particular could enjoy quality, affordable golf. They are enjoying it -- 80 percent of the course's play is local.

"It's got a great view of the mountains, and actually has a little bit more of the desert in play than the Stadium course," said TPC Marketing Director Russ Norris. "It's only 6,400 yards, and it's friendly for kids and seniors. And you can walk it, unlike the Stadium course."

For more information, call (800) 426-6148.

GO WEST, YOUNG GOLFER

The West Valley, where real estate prices are drastically lower than elsewhere in the Valley of the Sun, has some newer, more affordable courses.

Palm Valley Golf Club in Litchfield Park has 36 holes - the Palms and Lakes courses - and has been rated among the state's best public courses - its par-5 ninth hole makes a lot of "bests" lists. Located in Goodyear and designed by Arthur Hills, it has fall and winter rates of $35 weekdays and $45 weekends, and $25 and $35 after 2 p.m. For more information, call (800) 939-7998.

Estrella Mountain Ranch is run by Troon Golf and is the first daily-fee course in Phoenix designed by Jack Nicklaus. The course is 7,102 yards long, in the shadow of the Sierra Estrella Mountains, and rates May through October are less than $100, with twilight rates less than $100 year-round.

The club also offers annual passes: $3,000 for individuals or $5,000 for families, that allow unlimited play with certain time restrictions.

For more information, call (800) 841-6570.

The Wigwam Resort has three courses, two of which were designed by Robert Trent Jones, Sr. The gold, recently redone, is the toughest, a parkland-style course with well-protected, pedestal greens. The blue course is short at 6,130 yards and the red is wide open.

Golf Digest named it the top resort course in Arizona, and the locker rooms have whirlpool and sauna rooms. Rates are $130 in the winter, but drop to $34 in the summer. For more information, call (800) 426-6148.

Our golf bloggers spend a great deal of time traveling from course to course (what a life!). Here’s a selection of their top tips for travelers - where to stay, great restaurants, over-rated destinations, and more!

This article provided through Golf Publisher Syndications.

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