SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Playing golf during the summer when temperatures reach triple digits might seem insane to most people, but it makes perfect sense for golfers on a budget who want to play some of the country's best courses.
We're talking about the Phoenix-Scottsdale area, which has several top-100 golf courses that cost way more than triple digits during peak season, but sometimes less than a quarter of that price during the summer months, when the snowbirds have returned home and vacationers aren't exactly flocking to the Valley of the Sun. That means the golf courses are less crowded, which is great for pace of play -- and they're also priced less.
The downside, of course, is the heat. But if you play in the morning, you can beat it, sort of, or at least survive it pretty well and have the rest of the day to do other stuff like swimming. And since there's no Daylight Saving Time in Arizona, tee times begin as early as 6 a.m. at many courses, which means you can be finished by 10 a.m., well before it hits 100 on the thermometer. You'll also get firm and fast playing conditions, which means you'll get more out of your driver.
Where to play in the summer
The first place I would probably hit is Troon North Golf Club, a 36-hole golf mecca designed by Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish. Both courses, the Monument and the Pinnacle, are top 100 and among the most desirable in the Scottsdale area. During peak season, they command $259 green fees. During the summer, it's $69 and $39 during twilight. And yes, the courses are still in pretty good shape, despite not being overseeded as they are in the winter.
Some other examples include The Boulders Club, another wonderful 36-hole resort that can cost as much as $250 in the winter but as little as $55 to $75 in the summer, Talking Stick Golf Club ($45 to $60 in the summer), the Westin Kierland Resort ($39 to $69), The Phoenician ($25 to $80) and Ocotillo Golf Resort ($29 to $79).
One of my favorite summertime bargains is the Pete Dye-designed ASU Karsten Golf Course in Tempe, which is celebrating its 25th birthday by offering special daily golf rates through the summer of $25 before 3 p.m. and $20 after 3 p.m.
"We thought it would be fitting to give back to the very people that made ASU Karsten Golf Course a success for the last 25 years," said Daryl Crawford, the director of golf at ASU Karsten Golf Course. "An impressive list of great champions (such as Phil Mickelson, Billy Mayfair and the late Heather Farr, for example) has walked these fairways during that time. We're proud to have also provided a championship experience for daily-fee golfers and the many participants of fundraising events that continue to choose our venue."
Another terrific summer bargain is Ak-Chin Southern Dunes Golf Club in Maricopa, Ariz. Currently undergoing a renovation (nine holes are open this summer), golfers can play unlimited golf for as little as $34. Head pro J.C. Wright says the pace of play is less than 3.5 hours, which means you can get in a lot of golf. As part of the fee, bottled water and cart GPS are provided.
Fun time in the summertime
Better yet, it's not just low green fees, but there are bargain golf packages to be had as well in the summer, said Kris Strauss, VP of sales and marketing for Troon Golf.
For example, the Scottsdale YOLO Package (You Only Live Once) From Troon Golf Vacations allows golfers to play three world-renowned golf courses while also experiencing the luxury of a three-night stay at the Four Seasons Scottsdale and travel in style with in a convertible from Avis. The courses include Troon North Monument Course, The Boulders North Course and Talking Stick South Course. All three courses are set in the beauty of the Sonoran Desert with its native saguaro cacti and mountain views.
Rates start at $309 per person, per night. Go to troongolfvacations.com for more information.
Other packages include two-course and two-night stays at Talking Stick; a three-course package that includes three nights at The Boulders -- A Waldorf Astoria Resort; a four-course, four-night package at The Phoenician; and a three-night, three-course package at the Westin Kierland Resort, which may one of the best family resorts in America.
Tips for playing golf in the Arizona heat
Here are a few other things you might want to consider if you're going to play Arizona golf courses in the summer.
Look into some of the clubs on the "edge" of the valley that are at a bit higher elevation. For example, Troon North and The Boulders can be as much as 5-7 degrees cooler as you go up in elevation.
Wear sunscreen and apply it often. A hat and moisture-wicking, light-colored shirts are a must.
Play golf early, and hit the pool in the afternoon. Talking Stick Resort has a "Release" Party in the afternoon, and the Westin Kierland not only has a lazy river, but also something called a Flowrider, which simulates surfing.
And finally, drink plenty of fluids. Your best bet is to alternate water and a sports drink of some sort to get a little sodium and electrolytes to help you retain water.