Quintero Golf Club - hole 9
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Quintero Golf Club - hole 9
It's a sharp drop from tee to green on the par-3 ninth hole at Quintero Golf Club. Brandon Tucker/GolfAdvisor
Images
Golf Bikes at Westin Kierland Resort
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Golf Bikes at Westin Kierland Resort
Since debuting in early 2014, Golf Bikes at Westin Kierland Resort have been a success. Kris Strauss/Troon Golf
Whisky tasting at Westin Kierland Resort
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Whisky tasting at Westin Kierland Resort
A more traditional spin on golf: Scotch tasting in the Whisky Library at Westin Kierland Resort. Brandon Tucker/GolfAdvisor
Westin Kierland Resort - Acacia golf course
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Westin Kierland Resort - Acacia golf course
Operated by Troon Golf, the 27-hole Westin Kierland Resort features rolling terrain and lots of bunkers. Brandon Tucker/GolfAdvisor
Quintero Golf Club - hole 13
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Quintero Golf Club - hole 13
The 13th hole is the only one of the four par 3s at Quintero Golf Club that is flat. Brandon Tucker/Golf Advisor
Fred Couples - Ak-Chin Southern Dunes Golf Club
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Fred Couples - Ak-Chin Southern Dunes Golf Club
Fred Couples was on hand for the reopening of Ak-Chin Southern Dunes Golf Club and held a clinic for area youngsters. Brandon Tucker/GolfAdvisor
Ak-Chin-Southern Dunes Golf Club - #miniDunes
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Ak-Chin-Southern Dunes Golf Club - #miniDunes
Ak-Chin members and staff of Ak-Chin Southern Dunes Golf Club and Troon Golf unveil #miniDunes, a pitch 'n putt that doubles as a driving range. Brandon Tucker/GolfAdvisor
Ak-Chin Southern Dunes G.C. - #miniDunes
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Ak-Chin Southern Dunes G.C. - #miniDunes
#MiniDunes features six green targets and can be played in the afternoons for free at Ak-Chin Southern Dunes Golf Club. Courtesy of Ak-Chin Southern Dunes
Ak-Chin Southern Dunes golf course
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Ak-Chin Southern Dunes golf course
Ak-Chin Southern Dunes Golf Club received a summer facelift, which included the removal of several bunkers as well as new drainage. Brandon Tucker/GolfAdvisor
Monument golf course at Troon North Golf Club - hole 16
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Monument golf course at Troon North Golf Club - hole 16
One of the highest points at Troon North Golf Club is from the tee at the par-3 16th hole of the Monument Course. Brandon Tucker/GolfAdvisor
Troon North Golf Club - cactus
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Troon North Golf Club - cactus
Cacti litters the golf courses in Scottsdale, particularly at Troon North Golf Club. Brandon Tucker/GolfAdvisor
Troon North Golf Club - Monument Course - 13th
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Troon North Golf Club - Monument Course - 13th
A boulder pile sits behind the green of the par-5 13th hole on the Monument Course at Troon North Golf Club. Brandon Tucker/GolfAdvisor
Westin Kierland Resort - Acacia golf course - 9th
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Westin Kierland Resort - Acacia golf course - 9th
It's a thrilling approach shot on the downhill par-5 ninth hole of the Acacia nine at Westin Kierland Resort. Brandon Tucker/GolfAdvisor

Trip Dispatch: The New Year means it's 'go time' for golf in the Phoenix-Scottsdale area

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- December is always a time of great anticipation in Phoenix-Scottsdale -- a sort of calm before the peak season haboob of sun-starved golfers arrive.

There's no such thing as downtime in this mecca, especially not when snowbirds in the north are already escaping biblical snowfalls normally reserved for major northeastern airports on Christmas Eve.

Before the leftover eggnog has a chance to go bad, two college football bowl games (the Fiesta Bowl on Dec. 31 in Glendale and the Cactus Bowl on Jan. 2 in Tempe) arrive. Then at the end of January comes the Waste Management Phoenix Open, where about a half million fans descend on TPC Scottsdale -- some who actually come to watch the PGA Tour, others who just enjoy the party. Also in early 2015 is the NFL's Pro Bowl on Jan. 25, followed by all the pomp and festivities leading up to Super Bowl XLIX, which will be played Feb. 1 in Glendale.

As if that weren't enough, Golf.com reported in early January Tiger Woods plans on entering the WM Phoenix Open for the first time in 13 years.

Meanwhile, during the comparative calm of mid-December, I played four rounds of golf in this most attractive part of the Sonoran Desert, even managing to find a few of my tee balls on grass, which does far less puncturing of your slacks than hitting left-handed punch-out shots from under a prickly pear.

Ak-Chin Southern Dunes renovated, adds #miniDunes course

Perhaps the most exciting development among the facilities I visited is the reopening of Ak-Chin Southern Dunes Golf Club in Maricopa. Long known as one of the purest tests of golf in the area, the Aussie Sandbelt-inspired course closed for the summer to undergo renovations and a few minor design alterations that made it a little more player-friendly for those of us who'd rather play bogey golf from the whites than shoot a buck twenty from the tips.

Southern Dunes unveiled a second, tiny course with great intrigue, particularly for the "grow the game" set: #miniDunes. If the gratuitous hashtag use didn't give it away, the concept is aimed at junior golfers, particularly those of the Ak-Chin tribe living near the course or any other juniors or beginners living in the Maricopa area. And Fred Couples, on hand for the grand opening, proclaimed much of his success to growing up on a par-3 course in Washington state.

"I think it's an incredible idea," Couples said of the concept of converting the range into a pitch 'n putt in the afternoon. "It's great to stand [on the range] and look pretty and hit it 300 yards, but really your scoring clubs are down in this section of the bag. It's the 6, 7, 8, 9.

"If you can develop these, you can become a really good player really fast."

Just because #miniDunes is aimed at kids, it doesn't mean adults can't head out with a sand wedge, a cold one and some choice smack talk to settle some bets left over from their morning 18 on Ak-Chin Southern Dunes.

Westin Kierland Resort introduces Golf Boards

Back in Scottsdale is the lavish 27-hole Westin Kierland Resort, which continues to come up with new spins of this old game. No other golf facility on the planet has as many options to transport you around a golf course. In addition to taking a conventional cart or even more Stone Age -- walking -- the resort introduced a fleet of Segways in 2005.

Earlier this year, Westin Kierland added Golf Bikes . Refreshingly human-powered and easy to learn, they are light, modified mountain bikes with rear racks for your clubs and bag for provisions. Then, just this month, it added GolfBoards, which let golfers display their robust athleticism by hanging 10 on rippling fairways. The futuristic-looking board takes a little getting used to, but you can cruise up and down the slopes of the course Maui Wowie style.

What's next at Kierland? Who knows, but you know the resort is probably already looking. Wind surfing between each shot seems compelling, no?

Quintero, Troon North are desert stunners

Meanwhile, it's business as usual at a couple of other favorite area courses. Quintero Golf Club , located in the extreme northwest valley, is at present the top-rated course on GolfAdvisor. After finally making the trek myself, it seems golfers are smitten by a combination of elevated tees and generous (for the desert, that is), sculpted fairways. And being so far from the epicenter of Scottsdale, green fees are paltry in comparison, which helps you look past the still-temporary clubhouse and long drive through an unfinished residential development to the first tee.

Quintero, while remote, is relatively close to Glendale. So for those staying near the University of Phoenix Stadium, it's a fine option while the masses are centered on TPC Scottsdale and Old Town, many of which are almost entirely booked solid already.

Troon North Golf Club, of course, needs little introduction. It's been an icon in desert golf since it debuted in the late 1980s. The flagship course and birthplace of management company Troon Golf, which now operates many of the area's top pubic and resort courses, this is where exemplary service, facilities, course design, nature and hopeless duffers collide. And today, there's still no better spot in the valley to splurge on a colleague's expense account.

I curry the minutest of favor toward the Monument Course over the Pinnacle Course , but it's an arbitrary opinion at best. Each 18 dazzles with north Scottsdale scenery full of boulder piles, Pinnacle Peak and magnificent saguaros interspersed with other fauna both native and man-planted. There's a reason that Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish are go-to names in the Southwest, and their effort here remains a standout nearly 30 years later.

And if you couldn't put a driver in play at Troon North, stop by the Callaway studio and get set up on its OptiFit Fitting System and get fit for some new gear. If you won the lion's share of skins in your group, skip that part, have drinks on the patio at the Dynamite Grille and ponder sneaking out for a twilight nine.

Brandon Tucker is the Managing Editor for Golf Advisor. To date, his golf travels have taken him to over two dozen countries and over 500 golf courses worldwide. While he's played some of the most prestigious courses in the world, Tucker's favorite way to play the game is on a great muni in under three hours. Follow Brandon on Twitter at @BrandonTucker and on Instagram at BrandonTuckerGC.
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Trip Dispatch: The New Year means it's 'go time' for golf in the Phoenix-Scottsdale area
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