Just a half-hour from the Breaking Badlands of Albuquerque sit the scenic Sandia Mountains, covered in ponderosas, spruce and just a thin layer of snow. And in those mountains sits one of the nicest golf courses in all the southwest, the Golf Magazine #34 -ublic and Golf Digest #46-ranked Paa-Ko Ridge. And I finally got to get a round in with a fan of the blog. Bert came down from Alaska to pick up a car which he then drove from New Mexico way back up to Anchorage, some 4,200 miles up north. Crazy.
After living in Arizona for five years, I finally made it out to New Mexico for golf. I don’t know why it took so long. Albuquerque is only a six-hour drive, about the same as LA which I’ve done too many times. And New Mexico has some of the prettiest desert scenery in the Southwest. So after a quick visit to Texas to acquire an Adrian Beltre bobblehead, I broke up the flight home by spending a night in Albuquerque and checking two courses off my list that I’ve been wanting to play for a long time, starting with Black Mesa Golf Club. Continue reading Black Mesa Golf Club→
Many generations of video games ago (so like, 15 years) Tiger Woods’ EA golf games added in fantasy courses. My research is spotty, but it started in Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2003 when they began adding fantasy courses, fictional settings that had these crazy holes in a mesmerizing setting. They were named Penguin Falls, The Predator, Emerald Dragon and Wallaby Creek, among others. Then, with Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09, they added a new fantasy course: Wolf Creek. Except this is a real place. It may seem like something only a video game designer could conjure up, but thankfully it was Dennis Rider who brought this fantasy landscape to life just an hour up the road from Sin City.
To start off the ultimate golf day of 36 holes in two states and two time zones even(!), we had to wake up before dawn to tee off with the first light. It’s crazy to wake up at 7:15am and it’s still so dark out you’d swear it was 3:15am. But the best part of that situation was getting to watch the sun rise over the mountains to gradually reveal the gorgeous landscape of southern Utah and Sand Hollow Resort.
The new Golf Magazine course rankings are out, so I’ve gotta update my map. Included are state-by-state rankings, from AK to WY, including AZ. I’ve been here in the stifling heat of Scottsdale for almost five years now and have played rounds at around 30 courses in the Phoenix area, so why not provide all you snowbirds and Spring Training visitors with a quick and easy guide on where to play. I’ve only played one private course here for one of those Golf Channel tournaments. The rest, such as Whisper Rock and Estancia, are above my paygrade and celebrity status. So unless you’re coming into town with some well-connected friends, stick to this list.
Best Course: Troon North – Monument, Scottsdale ($59-$295)
Ten years ago, I went on a road trip to every baseball stadium in the Major Leagues. I lived in the Bay Area then, so we started by going south to Los Angeles and all around the country before getting through Denver and back home. And after visiting all those stadiums, I found out that the San Francisco Giants’ AT&T Park is still the nicest ballpark on the planet. That’s a lot like Troon North’s Monument course is. It’s the first course I ever played in Arizona, and all these rounds later, it’s still the best. Beautiful scenery, fun holes and world-class service make it tough to top.
Runners up: We-Ko-Pa – Saguaro, Fort McDowell; Wickenburg Ranch, Wickenburg
After a great morning at one of my new favorite courses, The Quarry at Giants Ridge, it was a short, three mile drive up the road to the older course at this resort, the Legend. I’m surprised I had any energy left for this second eighteen after the long weekend. I’m just writing this for me, so in twenty years I can look and wonder how I survived the hectic travel. Friday night, my flight was supposed to land just after midnight in Minneapolis. We were then going to fly the 6:15am flight to Chicago, watch the Cubs-Rangers game, then fly right back that night. So I was already looking at about 4 hours of sleep max on this day. Except the flight out of Phoenix got delayed, and delayed, until we finally touched down at 1:30am local time, and my head hit the pillow shortly before 3am. As fun as traveling to golf is, the constant babysitting of your golf clubs is the only real gripe I have about it. Always paying for them to fly, waiting for them to come out the baggage chute, getting a rental car to fit them. Good thing they are the “loved ones”. So on barely an hour of sleep, we spent a hot Chicago afternoon enjoying the renovated Wrigley Field. Then Sunday we slept in, got to take in a Twins game at the beautiful Target Field (Major League stadium #35 for me) and then drive up to Duluth, followed by an early morning Monday and drive 90 minutes to Biwabik. It all ended up being worth it and I’m glad God invented caffeine to help me survive it.
Last week I was lucky enough to go to the Home Run Derby in San Diego. The one where Giancarlo Stanton hit 61 home runs, topping out at 497 feet. Every time he hit a ball, I could only say “wow”. Each home run just left you speechless, it wasn’t so much a “wow” as a gasp at the crack of the bat. Well, that’s pretty much how my round went at the Quarry at Giants Ridge. Every tee, I was seeing something amazing and awesome. I found myself repeatedly spending an extra moment taking in the surroundings, taking the long route to my next shot, telling Greg how unbelievable this course is. Of course, before we got to start we were given not a primer on the golf course, but a history lesson of the mining and refining past of upper Minnesota. I’m usually fascinated by all this history, especially about the sheer amount of iron and ore they pulled out of these mines (hundreds of millions of tons) in total, a majority of it going toward the country’s World War II effort. But I was also eager to get out and check this course out, so the mining talk kind of washed over me like when Bart tried to listen to the history lesson at the box factory.
After a great week at the Major League All-Star festivities (I wonder how far Giancarlo Stanton could hit a driver), there was just one last thing to do before heading back to the dry desert. That would be getting an early-morning round in at Southern California’s top golf resort, Aviara Golf Club, home of the LPGA Kia Classic. This course must look amazing during the TV coverage, with pristine lakes and scenic waterfall features throughout. I’ll make sure to catch it next spring.
In the foothills of the mighty Mount Diablo is where I grew up golfing, in the sunny warmth of the East Bay summer. It’s always beautiful there, even in its current drought-stricken conditions. The hills aren’t dead and brown, they’re vibrant and golden. Gorgeous oak trees provide cool shade, as well as a nice home for stray golf balls that will never see the ground again. This is the first time I’ve ever had to pay for golf in the greater Danville area, and it was well worth it. In high school, I was lucky enough to have three golf courses to play anytime I wanted to, with the Lakes and Falls courses at Blackhawk and while I worked at Round Hill in Alamo.
Even in mud season, there’s no better place in the world than in the presence of the sapphire-blue waters of Lake Tahoe. It’s so inspiring here that I set a major portion of my brand new book, Hunt, in this location. You can buy that here, because the more sales, the more golf trips! But anyways…
It’s nearly Memorial Day and Donner Pass is still getting snow. But ski season’s over now, and the golf course is the next best place to enjoy the outdoors. If I was ever gonna have a bad time golfing, it would’ve been this round. A hurt back on a frigid, breezy, rainy day and trying to keep calm while playing with a creepy, camo-clad Dale Gribble look-a-like who must’ve said six words all day, shot at least 130 and was using a disposable camera? But I had my ever-enthusiastic buddy CJ with me and, even sweeter, the amazing Edgewood Tahoe golf course offering up 18 holes of jaw-dropping alpine scenery. You can never have a bad day at Edgewood. I almost should just stop writing and let the pictures do that talking. Check out how gorgeous the 9th green is below.