There are more than 200 golf courses in the Valley of the Sun, many of them, of course, concentrated in the Scottsdale area. As good as Scottsdale is, though, there are other parts of the Phoenix Metro area that warrant consideration.
In fact, you might want to look to south Phoenix and south of Phoenix, where there are some excellent choices, perhaps a little less crowded than the Scottsdale golf courses seem to be in peak season. A couple of them -- such as The Legacy Golf Resort and Raven Golf Club in South Phoenix -- are just a short drive from downtown. Here's a look at six that warrant consideration.
The Legacy Golf Resort
Located in south Phoenix, The Legacy Golf Resort sits on land that was once the setting for Dwight B. Heard's 7,500-acre ranch from the early 1900s. The course, designed by prolific architect Gary Panks, provides great views of Camelback Mountain, Squaw Peak and the downtown Phoenix skyline. The 6,908-yard par 71 was also home to the 2000 LPGA Standard Register Ping tournament.
The Spanish Mission-style Legacy Golf Resort also offers 328 guest suites housed in 12 separate buildings, making it a great base for not only Legacy but other golf courses in the area as well.
The Raven at South Mountain
Right next to The Legacy is Raven Golf Club. Designed by Panks and David Graham, Raven isn't typical desert golf, with Georgia pine trees lining the fairways, multi-tiered greens and excellent conditions. At 7,008 yards, this par 72, which features rolling fairways and plenty of great views, is an excellent test for good players and high handicappers alike.
You'll also like the extensive practice facilities. Only five miles from Sky Harbor Airport, Raven is not only known have an exceptional golf course, but exceptional customer service as well.
Ocotillo Golf Resort
Located in Chandler, this traditional-style course designed by Ted Robinson has generous fairways, meaning it's very playable. The 27-hole course also features cascading waterfalls and colorful plants that provide stark contrast to the desert surroundings. The maximum course yardages range from 6,782 to 7,016, depending on the combination. Ocotillo's Gold-Blue layout is the most difficult test with a rating of 72.2 and a slope of 133 from the tips.
Ocotillo also has offers outstanding dining at its restaurant, Bernard's at Ocotillo. Bernard's menu includes seafood, steaks, pastas and terrific burgers, and the facility also offers special "Nine and Dine" combinations of a quick nine holes and dinner.
Whirlwind Golf Club at Wildhorse Pass
Also in Chandler is the Whirlwind Golf Club, a 36-hole combination located on the Gila River Indian Reservation. Both courses are excellent, enjoyable tests designed by Arizona's favorite architect, Panks. The 7,334-yard Whirlwind Cattail Course played host to the Gila River Golf Classic on the Nationwide Tour from 2003-05 and is actually very resort friendly. The other course there, Devil's Claw, also hosted the Nationwide Tour, from 2001-02. Like the Cattail Course, there aren't a lot of forced carries on Devil's Claw, but you will notice a little more elevation change. Generous fairways make the course user friendly and conditions are always excellent.
Wild Horse Pass also makes the perfect base for anyone interested in playing the courses south of Phoenix. With the excellent Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort & Spa, as well as three casinos and numerous restaurants, it's the perfect launching point for an Arizona golf vacation.
Poston Butte Golf Club
Named after Charles Poston, regarded as the "Father of Arizona" because of his role in convincing President Lincoln to create the territory of Arizona in 1863, Poston Butte Golf Club is located the Del Webb retirement community of Anthem at Merrill Ranch. The course is a 7,300-yard par 72 with five sets of tees. It has a particularly strong collection of par 3s, including the 17th, which features an island green. Also designed by Panks, the course features generous fairways, plenty of bunkers and excellent course conditions.
Ak-Chin Southern Dunes Golf Club
This is one of my favorites. Not only do I like the golf course, but I'd go to Ak-Chin Southern Dunes just for the food. The homemade soups, chili and tacos in the clubhouse are as good as it gets. Fortunately, the golf course lives up to the grub. Formerly a men-only private club, Ak-Chin Southern Dunes G.C. is a links-style course meant to be played in the wind. Course designer Brian Curley of Schmidt-Curley Design took a 350-acre canvass, then moved thousands of cubic yards of dirt to create elevation changes, a few blind shots and plenty of opportunities to play the ball on the ground. The result is a championship test that tops out at 7,500 yards and 109 bunkers. But with multiple sets of tees, the course is playable by all levels of golfers.