The American South-West is something of a mythical land. A red desert of spectacular canyons, towering rock formations, majestic mountain ranges and absurd-looking cacti, populated by the legends of numerous cowboys and Indians.
The state of Arizona is also home to some of the United States’ most sophisticated cities, such as Phoenix and Tucson.
Phoenix, one of the largest and fastest-growing cities in the US due to its stunning climate (perfect for most of the year but red hot in the summer months), is a fascinating place – perfect as the base for a getaway that might include world-class culture and natural sights with some of the world’s best golf resorts.
Indeed, the lively, bustling suburb of Scottsdale boasts over 160 courses alone and is certainly the jewel in the area’s crown.
In fact, Scottsdale now rivals Florida as a top-class venue for holiday golf.
A city in its own right, the Sonora Desert scenery is stunning – and to us Brits, the total antithesis of what we are used to.
Scottsdale is also home to some of the best resort hotels in the world – such as the Four Seasons and the Westin Kierland – and is a fabulous holiday destination in its own right, particularly as flights from the UK are readily available to nearby Sky Harbour International in Phoenix.
Central Scottsdale also features an array of glitzy shopping malls while there is a plethora of other attractions waiting to be discovered – such as revolutionary architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s home, the Hubble space observatory, the spectacular red rock cliffs of Sedona and, a little further to the north, the legendary Route 66, the mighty Grand Canyon as well as Monument Valley.
All in all, this part of Arizona is a great place for a holiday with all the family as the hotels are so well equipped there’s plenty to keep the non-golf playing members of the party happy.
Ideally, spend part of your break in central Scottsdale at a resort such as the Westin Kierland, which has 27 holes right on the property as well as a great adventure water park – complete with a 900-foot flowing river, a 110-foot water slide, an adult pool and a sandy beach leading into a wading area – as well as a spa.
Then, you can move out of town to the Four Seasons to experience more of a true desert course like Troon North.
The Kierland is a fabulous spot and is the perfect place to try and refine your game – and your fitness.
The course is magnificent, incredibly lush with wide fairways and studded with a myriad of sensuously shaped white sand bunkers.
True, this is a resort course and so its aim is to guide you around as comfortably as possible, which makes for a lot of fun, though it is testing enough to keep you on your toes.
What’s great about playing golf in the US is that if you are on your own you will get the chance to play with some regular Americans, which is a brilliant experience.
You can also make use of one of the air-conditioned buggies or try out one of the new Segway two-wheelers – a sort of upright robo-scooter with touch sensitive steering and a rack for your golf bag (amazing and great fun in its own right).
And you can also try out a brand new fitness regime especially designed for golfers at the Kierland.
The hotel’s fitness director Steve Heller has developed a unique programme dedicated to improving accuracy and distance off the tee while enhancing overall fitness.
This one-of-a-kind training system is based on three distinct areas of emphasis: flexibility, functional golf strength, and aerobic conditioning.
It will be difficult to tear yourself away from the Kierland, but after a few days you could move a few miles out of town to the Four Seasons.
In the cooling foothills of Pinnacle Peak, the AAA Five Diamond Four Seasons offers a truly handcrafted desert resort experience.
Spacious casitas and suites open to astonishing scenery in the high Sonoran Desert and offer heart-skipping views across the whole of Scottsdale and much of Phoenix.
Located adjacent to the renowned Weiskopf & Morrish-designed courses of Troon North and set on 40 acres of vibrant desert blooms, the Four Seasons only has 210 rooms, but all are large and luxuriously appointed.
There’s also a full-service spa and a lovely pool area. Troon North (managed by the same company that is responsible for the Kierland) is right next door and if you play anywhere in the greater Phoenix area it has to be this place.
There are two courses but the Monument, carved through dramatic desert scenery, is probably the pre-eminent challenge of the two, though Pinnacle is also top-class.
Every hole is stunning, the design accommodating and incorporating the large boulders that lie randomly around the course, while the fairways are remarkably lush for such a harsh climate.
Troon North is not to be missed – it is what golf in Arizona is all about.
After Scottsdale, you might like to head 100 miles south to Tucson, which is just 60 miles or so north of the Mexican border.
A great place to be based is the Hilton Tucson El Conquistador Golf and Tennis Resort.
Set at the base of the Santa Catalina Mountain range in the Oro Valley area northwest of central Tucson, the Hilton El Conquistador is one of the finest resorts in the entire South West.
Inspired by the beauty of its pristine natural canyon views and lush desert surroundings, this luxury full-service hotel – built in the style of a grand Spanish hacienda – is surrounded by a nice nine-hole course while one of Hilton’s flagship golf academies and two 18-hole championship lay-outs are just a few minutes away.
The Pusch Ridge nine-holer snakes around the hotel and its superb swimming pool, and offers a taste of desert golf in a pretty lush setting.
The El Conquistador and Cañada courses are similarly scenic, combining a parkland feel with amazing desert scenery.
Like all desert courses, it’s worth trying to stay on the fairways as the rough is a combination of several types of cacti capable of inflicting some nasty wounds – and then there’s the possibility of disturbing a rattlesnake.
But it all adds to the charm and wonder of golf in this area. The Hilton has everything you need for a stay of several days with large rooms, great facilities, a range of eateries at different prices and superb service, but it’s worth getting out an about to sample the golf at some of Tucson’s other courses, such as the incredible new lay-out at
Like the Hilton courses, Ventana Canyon – situated some 10 miles or so south of the El Conquistador – has the dramatic Santa Catalina Mountains as a backdrop.
There are two stunning 18-hole courses here designed by the world-renowned architect Tom Fazio.
It’s fair to say that the golf here is truly spectacular while the club itself is luxurious and the levels of service outstanding.
After all the golf or just lazing around the hotel pools, it’s well worth heading north to the Grand Canyon.
It’s a day’s drive – and you could take a detour through the stunning red rock setting of Sedona, which offers the sort of mountain and forest scenery you associate with the Rockies.
The Grand Canyon is one of the world’s great wonders but all the pictures you’ve seen of it don’t do it justice.
The scale of it just takes the breath away and driving right up to the rim is an awesome experience as you catch your first glimpse of its pale pink sides through the trees.
If you chose to stay near the canyon itself you can take advantage of a helicopter flight right into the abyss, take a memorable hike or even try a spot of rafting on the Colorado River.
A good base is the Best Western Grand canyon Squaw Inn, which is situated just outside the South Rim national park gates in a little village that has a range of restaurants.
What’s more, the excellent dollar rate against the pound also makes a trip to the US extremely good value at present.
Further information on courses>>
Westin Kierland Resort & Spa
6902 E. Greenway Parkway,
Scottsdale, AZ 85254
Tel: 480-624-1315; Fax: 480-624-1001.
Troon North Golf Club
10320 E. Dynamite Blvd,
Scottsdale, AZ 85262
Hilton Tucson El Conquistador Golf & Tennis Resort
10000 North Oracle Road, Tucson, Arizona, 85737, United States
Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North
10600 East Crescent Moon Drive, Scottsdale, AZ 85255
Best Western Grand
Canyon Squire Inn
100 Highway 64, P.O. Box 130,
Grand Canyon, Arizona, 86023