Wish You Were Here…
GolfTEC Coaches write about their favorite courses in warm-weather states across the country.
Turtle Bay Resort in Oahu, Hawaii
This is my favorite course to play on Oahu and I suggest that anyone who’s coming to Oahu, give it a try!
Turtle Bay is your chance to play where the greats played. It was the site of the LPGA Tour SBS Open and until 2008, the home of the Champions Tour Turtle Bay Championship. The Arnold Palmer Course is a distinctive 18-hole championship golf course. It was designed by Arnold Palmer and Ed Seay and the five tee options allow all skill levels to enjoy the course. Played from the Palmer (black) tees, the course offers a serious challenge to the best players in the world and the red tees are more manageable for higher handicaps.
The scenery surrounding the course is spectacular. The front nine is similar to Scottish Links and has sand, water, wind and rolling terrain. The back nine is in a pine forest and a wetlands bird sanctuary. The 17th hole is unquestionably the signature hole on the course with no less than nine craggy bunkers surrounding the landing area and extending all the way up to the green. The 17th green sits on a plateau only 100 feet from the ocean. The 100-acre nature preserve that surrounds the course is home to many endangered species of Hawaiian birds.
Green fees: A pricey 18-holes for non-resort guests, prime time at Turtle Bay is $175. If you’re staying at the resort, there are packages available and your fees could be less than $150.
Stoneybrook West in Orlando, FL
Stoneybrook West golf course is located about 20 minutes from downtown Orlando, in Winter Garden, Florida. It is only 15 minutes from the main gate at Walt Disney World Resort, and is easily one of the most convenient courses for those staying in the Orlando area. Visiting golfers can play a round of superb golf, while their families can enjoy the wonders of Disney World, Epcot Center, MGM and Universal Studios. For locals, the course is situated far enough away from the city and the tourist attractions, but close enough to allow for a quick 9 or 18 holes without waiting on every tee box.
Stoneybrook West is always in great shape with plush fairways and consistently smooth and fast greens. There is a full short game practice facility with a practice bunker and a large putting green. With carefully placed bunkers, and water coming into play on several holes, Stoneybrook West demands long and straight tee shots on every hole. The greens are rather large with several slope and elevation changes which require an accurate second shot to keep the ball close to the hole. With an accommodating staff and well kept facilities, Stoneybrook West is definitely a must play when visiting Orlando.
Green Fees: Prime time is less than $50 with Twilight specials as low as $17.
Starr Pass Resort in Tucson, AZ
Tucson is the sunniest city in the country and is much less traveled than other Arizona golf destinations. Tucson boasts some of the top golf courses in all of the land. With less traffic, lower prices and an average temperature that is 6 – 8 degrees lower than Phoenix, it’s worth considering a golf vacation in Tucson.
Starr Pass Resort, just 10 minutes from downtown Tucson, is on everyone’s “must play” list for the area. Home to the PGA’s Tucson Open from 1987 through 1996, the tournament can claim some lofty past winners, including Phil Mickelson, who won the event at Starr Pass three times, including his first ever tour victory in 1991 as an amateur.
Tucked into the Tucson Mountains, Starr Pass is named after a legendary stagecoach trail that was carved through the wilderness. That fact alone should attract the adventurous. Designed by Arnold Palmer, Starr Pass is the course shown in the dictionary under “desert golf.” Cacti and wildlife are everywhere including deer, jackrabbits and rattlesnakes (a good reason to stay on the fairway), as well as coyotes and roadrunners.
As far as golf goes, you’ll definitely want to bring your “A” game. The course can play to as high as a 143 slope rating. Dramatic elevation changes, doglegs and carries over washes and desert canyons on will challenge your game and your ability to work the ball. There are some blind shots that will test your mental game – heed the advice of your GolfTEC Coach.
If you have the chance to golf Starr Pass, stop by GolfTEC Tucson to say hello after your round!
Green Fees: $50 to $125 due to seasonal variation.
The Raven Club near Phoenix, AZ
GolfTEC North Scottsdale
As a native of Arizona, it’s safe to say I have had my fair share of desert golf and sometimes I need to break up the scenery. That’s why my favorite course to play in Arizona is The Raven Golf Club at South Mountain.
At The Raven, you are still immersed in the desert atmosphere but the tree lined fairways and the pine straw in place of the dirt and rocks helps alleviate those who spray it off the tee. I still remember my first round at the 4.5-star Golf Digest rated golf course, I pulled into the parking lot and was blown away. Customer service was amazing, the range was in tip top shape and I was ready to roll.
The first hole is a great par 4, not too hard, but not too easy. I ended up right, deep in the trees. I hit a great punch shot out and it disappeared behind the thick branches. At first I saw the pine cone fall, and then I saw my ball speeding back towards me. I sarcastically thought, this is going to be a great day. The next hole is a short but tough par 3 surrounded by bunkers. I proceeded to carry the green and land in the back sand trap. Once again, I hit a great shot out, but it hit the pin on the fly and proceeded to roll back into the bunker about a foot from where I started.
Each hole proves to be different, challenging and extremely enjoyable. That must be why it is the official course of the Arizona Diamondbacks and the host for The Arizona Stroke Play Championship. It is a must play if you make it to Arizona this winter!
Green Fees: Call or book online due to seasonal variation.
Wolf Creek outside of Las Vegas, NV
Playing golf at Wolf Creek is like playing golf through the Grand Canyon. I have never played a place where you can stand on a tee box and have absolutely no idea which hole you should be playing. The hour and a half drive from Vegas is well worth it to have the experience of playing one of the world’s most unique golf courses.
Even the Vegas travel website admits it can be hard to tell which tee to play at Wolf Creek, although it’s true that the scenery more than makes up for the brief confusion. “The best view may be from the fifth tee box, another located high above the course,” according to a Vegas travel site. “From here it’s possible to see many other holes and most of the sprawling township of Mesquite itself. Meanwhile, the par-5 fifth hole is also one of Wolf Creek’s best. The fairway lies some 100 feet below the tee, and a stream meanders across it, daring players to cut the corner to get home in two.”
If you need a break from the Vegas fray or aren’t interested in spending your vacation at the casinos, Wolf Creek is the ideal choice. Plus, it’s much easier on your wallet than courses near the strip. If you’re willing to pay the bill and want the Vegas golf experience, Shadow Creek is another of my Vegas recommendations. The course feels like you’re in North Carolina while playing in Vegas but is much more expensive than Wolf Creek. With hundreds of millions of dollars in trees (landscaping isn’t cheap in the desert), Shadow Creek is an exceptional Vegas course.
Green Fees for Wolf Creek: Reservations are accepted up to 60 days in advance and group reservations up to one year. Rates vary from $80 to $185.