SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- There's so much good public golf in the Phoenix/Scottsdale area it's hard to choose. But if you only had a long weekend, and money wasn't a factor, where would you play and where would you stay?
It's not difficult to come up with a dream itinerary -- with a couple of optional choices -- that would fulfill any avid golfer's dream.
Day 1: Start at Troon North
If you've never played the courses at Troon North or it's been a few years, this is at the top of the list. Not only are the two Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish-designed golf courses a thrill to play, but they're always in impeccable shape. Plus, the two courses are based at one of the best resorts in the Phoenix/Scottsdale area, the Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North.
So leave Thursday night, stay at the Four Seasons and plan to spend all of Friday playing golf at Troon North.
The Four Seasons, by the way, is an incredible resort -- great rooms, terrific dining and spa in a breathtaking setting. The new Proof American Cantina, with its laid-back rustic feel, is really cool. Its fantastic setup includes tin cups for coffee, shuffleboard and an outstanding menu of unique dishes and desserts from all around America. You'll also love the spa, the dining and the unique cabanas laid out in the desert under the night sky.
But back to the golf courses. In 2007, both courses were rerouted, exchanging a few holes to make them even better. With tees perched high above fairways, it has a few forced carries and a lot of great vistas from the tees. Both courses feature great views of the valleys, and you'll even enjoy checking out some of the spectacular homes that are set well off the course.
Generally considered the better of the two, however, Troon North's Monument Course is named for the monument boulder on the third hole. Troon North's Pinnacle Course, set against the base of Pinnacle Peak, is classic desert target golf. The fairways are pretty generous, but the approach shots get your attention.
You could also spend hours on the expansive practice facility, where music plays on the driving range. And there's also a terrific executive course. Monument Express, which is a little more than 1,500 yards and has two different par options depending on the skill of the play.
Day 2: TPC Scottsdale
Some may argue that there are better courses in the Scottsdale area, but I'm going to argue that it's hard to beat the fun experience of playing one of the PGA Tour's most popular venues.
The 16th on the Stadium Course, also designed by Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morris, is the one that gets all the attention at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. And rightly so, mostly because of the arena of 20,000-plus fans who cheer, heckle and boo as they try to negotiate the short hole. It is probably one of the most entertaining shows in golf.
But if you take away the crowds and the bleachers, it's probably one of the least memorable holes on the golf course, though the green complex is pretty interesting. The ones surrounding it, 15 and 17, both really good risk-reward holes, are actually more intriguing. And the 18th -- a medium-length par 4 with water all down the left side and bunkers dotting the fairway -- is a pretty decent finishing hole.
In truth, though, the Stadium Course is not a real difficult golf course, which means it's really fun for the average player, especially if you play the correct tees. And the other course at the resort, the Champions Course, is pretty good, too, so they make a nice one-two punch. But if you don't want to play 36 on Saturday, just play the Stadium Course; it will be most memorable.
In fact, playing just 18 is probably a good idea. That way you can sneak over to the AAA Five-Diamond Scottsdale Princess a couple of miles from the TPC.
Whether you decide to check out of the Four Seasons at Troon North or not, it's definitely worth checking into the Willow Stream Spa at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, certainly one of the best in an area that's littered with great spas.
Eating at the Fairmont Princess would be a pretty good way to top of the night. If you like it spicy, you'll love La Hacienda Mexican Restaurant by Richard Sandoval there.
Day 3: The Boulders Resort
There are so many great options for Day 3. You could go to We-Ko-Pa, an awesome 36-hole experience designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw laid out in a most beautiful part of the Sonoran Desert, or Talking Stick, the Westin Kierland Resort and the other the JW Marriott Camelback Resort (which just opened its new Ambiente Course).
But like Troon North, it's hard to be the golf, the spa and the accommodations at the 36 holes at The Boulders, too good to pass up if this might be your only weekend ever to Scottsdale.
It all starts with a setting unlike anything you're likely to find elsewhere in the world. Giant, 12-million-year-old namesake boulders -- some perched in seemingly magical and precarious pirouette poses -- dominate the Sonoran Desert landscape. Then there's the two Jay Morrish-designed golf courses (South and North), which take full advantage of the beauty while offering a most interesting test of golf.
My recommendation, though, is to just play one golf course and enjoy the rest of the resort. Dining is exceptional (there are six restaurants), a spa treatment at the top-ranked Golden Door Spa ranks as a must, and there's also hiking, biking, tennis, horseback riding or even rock climbing if you still have enough energy.
Of course, relaxation in a luxurious casita also has its merits, so call in sick on Monday and sleep until 11.