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Out of Bounds

By Joe Passov

When the sizzling Phoenix heat of June, July and August finally start to wear you down, there’s only one solution: Road Trip. If crisp mountain mornings followed by pine-scented fairways sound like a sure cure for what’s ailing you, then here’s a sampling of where to play in sweater weather this summer.

Payson

First stop out of the Valley is Payson, a pine-forested town at 5,000 feet that sits southeast of the Verde Valley, just under a 90-minute drive from Phoenix/Scottsdale. To the north is the Mogollon Rim plateau, a remarkable high-desert ridge that plunges 2,000 feet in its 200-mile swath. Its namesake golf destination is The Rim Golf Club. A private club and residential community, this is the final design produced by the Tom Weiskopf/Jay Morrish duo in 1999, and they clearly went out in style. “The 12 finest consecutive holes Jay and I ever designed are right here at The Rim Club, starting with hole number 7,” said Weiskopf. The Rim features an incredible variety of holes—most framed by towering Ponderosa pines—that are filled with superb strategic options and natural wonders, such as the boulder escarpment that backdrops the 581-yard, par-5 13 th .

The Rim Club

The Rim Club

Membership at the Rim Golf Club affords access to the Golf Club at Chaparral Pines, another aptly named private layout with real estate that sports the design handiwork of Gary Panks and former U.S. Open champ David Graham. Tall pines, rock outcroppings and dramatic vistas grace the majority of the holes, and converge memorably at the reachable par-5 12 th . If you have a connection at the club, or maybe are considering membership, you’ve a shot at playing one or both of this dynamic duo.

Public players can swat it around at Payson Golf Course, a mature, par- 71 track that checks in just shy of 5,900 yards. While the conditioning can be iffy, the price is right (under $50 to ride and under $40 to walk), there are some fun, scenic holes and the daytime highs are generally 15-20 degrees cooler than what you’ll find in downtown Phoenix.

Prescott

Ninety miles northwest of Phoenix, at an elevation of 5,400 feet, Prescott is the true golf secret of the Southwest. If you can pull a string or two, don’t miss Jay Morrish’s Talking Rock, a Troon Prive facility, Tom Weiskopf’s Capital Canyon Club (formerly Hassayampa), another Troon Prive property or Hale Irwin’s Prescott Lakes while you’re in the area. Still, if no invites are forthcoming, you’ll do just fine paying green fees at a quartet of enjoyable spreads.

Talking Rock

Talking Rock

StoneRidge Golf Course in Prescott Valley is a Randy Heckenkemper design/roller coaster ride that calls for accuracy and uphill approaches in a high-desert setting, with a couple of stunning postcard par-3s that spice the play on the back nine. You won’t pay much more than $80 to play.

Antelope Hills’ North course celebrates its 63 rd birthday in 2019. It toots its horn with multiple doglegs framed by AARP-worthy elms in its 6,844-yard journey amid the scenic splendor of the Granite Dells. Kid brother to the North, the longer, more wide-open South was crafted by Gary Panks. Watch for huge, fast greens and a bit more breeze than the North receives. With both courses under $30 to walk and under $50 to ride, Antelope Hills scores high on the 3-V Scale: Variety, views and value.

Prescott Golf & Country Club’s 6,655 yards in the Prescott Valley town of Dewey dates to 1971 and while it won’t wow you with design tricks, its price tag ($27-$38, including cart) and pleasant surrounds will certainly make you smile.

Sedona

Sedona’s red rock allure is nearly overwhelming. The golf is mighty good, too. At 4,350 feet, Sedona doesn’t chill quite as significantly as our other northern Arizona destinations, but mornings and late afternoons are sublime and the scenic beauty is more than sufficient to make the hour-and 45 minute drive from Phoenix.

The late Karsten Solheim of PING fame once termed Sedona Golf Resort, “the prettiest golf course in the United States,” and he likely had the unforgettable vista at the 10 th tee in his sights at the time. The 210-yard par-3 anchors a rollicking design by Gary Panks, and if it overshadows the other 17 holes, it’s easy to understand why. The elevated tee box boasts a jaw-dropping view of Cathedral Rock, a local landmark. With fees well under $100 and under the management banner of OB Sports, Sedona will rock your world.

Sedona Golf Resort

Sedona Golf Resort

Sporting a more traditional tree-lined framework but dazzling on its own with crimson panoramas is Oakcreek Country Club, an early 1970s Robert Trent Jones Sr. and Jr. creation. With a green fee that’s usually less than a Benjamin and stellar holes such as the 185-yard, par-3 13 th , amid red rock grandeur, Oakcreek is another must-play.

Tom Weiskopf’s Seven Canyons is hands-down the region’s most spectacular spread. Seven Canyons is private although you can book a tee time through a package at Enchantment, the luxury resort nearby. While the package runs several hundred dollars and more, it’s worth the freight for access to a sensational course via a superb hotel.

If you’re seeking a quick round on a nine-hole, par-3 tract, Canyon Mesa will satisfy. Designed by Jack Snyder, at $22-$50 and splashed against a red rock canvas, Canyon Mesa is a pint-sized delight.

Flagstaff

One hundred and forty miles north of Phoenix—but a world away—sits Flagstaff, at a lofty elevation of 7,000 feet. With summer daytime temperatures that can be 25 to 30 degrees cooler than Phoenix, you have the ultimate summer escape.

Unfortunately, most of Flagstaff’s finer golf destinations are strictly private. If you have any way aboard, do it. The roster of closeddoor masterpieces starts with Forest Highlands. Its Canyon course, now 32 years old, is a Weiskopf-Morrish collaboration that’s often ranked as the state’s greatest 18 holes. Younger by 10 years, Meadow, is a Weiskopf solo design on higher ground.

Architect Jay Morrish did enjoy a remarkable second act of his own in Flagstaff, carving out the private Pine Canyon from, well, canyons and pine-studded slopes. If you’re pining to try Pine Canyon, plan a Discovery Visit and show some interest in the real estate. It’s worth the effort.

The village elder among private playgrounds is Aspen Valley Golf Club, which features nine holes that date to 1973 and nine to 1981, all the handiwork of architects Jeff Hardin and Greg Nash. Lakes, bunkers, trees and mountain vistas keep the golfer alert throughout.

Flagstaff Ranch, a private Jerry Pate creation, has managed to fly under the radar after many stops and starts since inception, yet its par-71, 7,160-yard journey will linger long in memory, thanks to handsome long views, elevation change and arboreal splendor.

While there are slender pickings on Flagstaff’s public-access front, go anyway, because what’s there is worth the drive. Continental Golf Club has been known by many names since architect Bob Baldock unfurled his layout in 1960, most recently Elden Hills. Now it’s back to Continental, with a soothing mid-summer price tag of $62-$79. And if you can handle the altitude, you can walk nine for $39. What you see is what you get: a meadow-style course with gentle undulations, lakes, rough and nice variety, with some holes open, others hemmed in by pines.

A summer treat that’s now more accessible is semi-private Pinewood Country Club in Munds Park, 20 miles south of Flagstaff. Celebrating its 60 th birthday in 2019, and managed by OB Sports, the once private spread at 6,590 feet now opens its doors to limited outside play, mostly in late mornings and afternoons. In prime summer time, you’ll still get change back from a $100 bill and at many times, the fees are significantly less, especially for walkers. It’s an easy stroll atop flattish terrain with eye candy that includes lakes, pines and mountains.

Another wonderful detour is to Elephant Rocks Golf Course in Williams, 35 miles west of Flagstaff. Named for the distinctive lava rock shapes that frame the entrance to the club, this historic layout long featured nine holes built by railroad workers in 1922 and sand greens. By 2000, Gary Panks had revised the nine and added nine new holes (now holes 6-14). They’re more open, with more modern bells and whistles. Besides the modest green fees, what gets you grinning, however, are the old holes that zigzag through the pines. The unusual 18 th , a downhill 212-yard par-3 that plunges eight stories, is outstanding.

Elephant Rocks

Elephant Rocks

Pinetop-Lakeside

Generations of desert dwellers have experienced the annual summer rite of trekking three-andhalf-hours (190 miles) to the northeast towns of Pinetop-Lakeside and Show Low. Just step out of the car and you’ll understand why. At 6,800 feet, it’s much cooler. Amid the splendor of the White Mountains, trout fishing, picnicking among the pines and surprisingly strong golf are among the idyllic attractions.

White Mountain Country Club and Pinetop Country Club set the standards for refined, if relaxed elegance when their pine-framed fairways opened in the late 1950s and mid-1960s, respectively. They still occupy the highest rungs on the private club summer retreat scene in northern Arizona.

In nearby Show Low, the private Torreon has 36 artfully crafted holes carved from the Sitgreaves National Forest. Architect Robert Von Hagge and his partners Mike Smelek and Rick Baril delivered the Tower course in 1999 and the Cabin course in 2007. The Cabin is a slightly stronger test and features more elevation change, but both are packed with pines, lakes and a ton of natural beauty.

Of the courses you can play in Pinetop-Lakeside and Show Low, the long-time charmer is Pinetop Lakes Golf & Country Club. Admired for its variety—the 4,558-yard, par-63 executive layout sports two risk/reward par-5s, five-par- 4s and 11 par-3s—and for its aesthetic appeal, with mature, fragrant pines framing the holes, Pinetop Lakes can be walked for as low as $35 in mid-summer.

For championship play, Silver Creek in Show Low tops the list of public-access tests in the region. An early Gary Panks design dating to 1985, Silver Creek relies more on sagebrush, slick, multi-tiered greens and afternoon breezes for its challenge, rather than pine trees. With a small tariff, this is a course worth seeking out.

IT’S ALSO VERY COOL IN TUBAC

Heat relief can also be found to the south of Greater Phoenix, perhaps most delightfully so in the little artisan community of Tubac. Situated at 3,209 feet (mornings and evenings will feel very refreshing), some 45 miles south of Tucson, Tubac charms with a wealth of historic and cultural attractions.

For golfers, the prime enticement is Tubac Golf Resort & Spa, a rustic retreat with upscale accents founded by a Bing Crosby-led group in 1959. Even with its acclaimed additions over the years, its rural character and laid back vibe remains intact. Its Stables restaurant, formally known as the Stables Ranch Grille & Patios is not to be missed. And where else can you sit on a real horse saddle why enjoying a cocktail at the bar?

In 1995, Hollywood discovered Tubac Golf Resort’s shining star, filming key scenes of the hit golf movie Tin Cup here. Aside from stars Kevin Costner and Don Johnson, many PGA Tour pros and broadcasters had cameos, including Gary McCord, Peter Kostis, Craig Stadler and a young Phil Mickelson. Their stage was a terrific Red Lawrence design that mixed pleasantly pastoral holes framed by cottonwood trees with a rugged lay-ofthe-land test that tangles mesquite trees into groves along the Santa Cruz River.

Architect Ken Kavanaugh added another nine holes in 2006, dividing the 27 holes into the Otero, Anza and Rancho nines. Otero essentially is the old Tubac front nine and features three dramatic water holes — Nos. 5, 8 and 9. The first six Rancho holes were part of the old back nine. Most memorable is the 568-yard, par-5 fourth, where caddie Roy McAvoy (Costner) challenged his boss (Johnson) to go for the green, clearing a lake that was built specifically for the film. Anza is not without its appeal, notably the 140-yard, par-3 ninth, which concludes in an island green. Twenty-four years may have passed, but you’re still a star at Tubac.

tubacgolfresort.com