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Phoenix: 72 holes in 72 hours

By Mike McAllister

When We-Ko-Pa opened in 2001, Sports Illustrated picked it as one of the best new courses in the world.

ASU Karsten: Yardage/Par: 7,057/72. Greens fees: $25-$89, cart included. (480) 921-8070.

Troon North: Yardage/Par: 7,008/72 (Monument); 7,044/72 (Pinnacle). Greens fees: $75-$275, cart included. (480) 585-5300.

TPC of Scottsdale: Yardage/Par: 7,089/71 (Stadium); 6,423/70 (Desert). Greens fees: $58-$228 (Stadium); $25.50-$57 (Desert). Cart included. (480) 585-4334.

We-Ko-Pa: Yardage/Par: 7,225/72. Greens fees: $40-$195, cart included. (480) 836-9000.

Alternative courses: Talking Stick, Grayhawk, The Raven Golf Club at South Mountain, Papago, Whirlwind.


Next week we'll travel to the Chicago, Illinois, area.

Philadelphia (Pennsylvania)

(CNN) -- Stand in the middle of the Sonoran Desert and the landscape seems limitless. Plan a golf vacation to Phoenix and the options seem equally limitless.

For instance, you can go anytime, because Phoenix averages about 300 sunny days a year. And you'll have plenty of golf courses from which to choose. The Arizona Golf Association lists more than 200 layouts in the greater Phoenix area.

Golfing is as synonymous with Arizona as the Grand Canyon -- which, by the way, would be the ultimate hazard, wouldn't it? Try hitting your sand wedge out of that! The popularity of golf in Arizona is equaled only by the amount of fun the gallery seems to have each year at the PGA Tour's annual stop in Scottsdale.

Sure, there are no holes bumping up against the ocean, no towering pines soaring majestically over the fairway. This is desert golf. You'll sweat. Your throat will get parched. But like a visit to a dude ranch, you'll enjoy the Wild West flavor for a weekend.

After flying into Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airportexternal link, here's how we'd play it the rest of the weekend.

Friday afternoon

ASU Karsten: Even in the desert, you can find something unique. This course in Tempe is at Arizona State University (Phil Mickelson's old school) and is as polished as any resort layout. It has a Scottish feel to it, thanks to its Pete Dye design (that also means railroad ties on a few holes). And it's named for Ping founder Karsten Solheim. No, you don't have to own Ping clubs to play it. But the pro shop is highly rated, so who knows, you might stumble onto a bargain.

Saturday morning

Troon North: You can choose from two courses at this Scottsdale club, both with great reputations. The Monument course, designed by Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish, owns a slightly higher pedigree, with Golf Digest rating it the best public-access course in the state. The Pinnacle course, designed solely by Weiskopf, is No. 2. Pinnacle Peak looms over both courses, providing a vivid backdrop for 36 breathtaking holes.

Saturday afternoon

TPC of Scottsdale: Want to play where the pros do? Here's your chance. The TPC offers 36 holes, again designed by the team of Weiskopf and Morrish. The Stadium course is the higher-end of the two, but the Desert course is cheaper. Some golfers may not like the target-golf approach of TPC layouts, but if you want to play in the desert without actually encountering any desert hazards, this course fits the bill.

Sunday morning

We-Ko-Pa: When this course, just east of Scottsdale, opened in 2001, Sports Illustrated named it as one of the top 10 new courses in the world. Rob Myers, the media director for Phoenix's PGA Tour event, says: "It's probably the most talked-about golf course to open in the Phoenix area in the last five years." Owned by the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation, the course is pure desert golf. And because it's not part of a housing development, there's not a single house in sight.

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