Best golf courses in the Sun Belt

By November 10, 2010, 2:30 am
butterfield golf el paso
510-yard par-4 16th at Butterfield Trail Golf Club in El Paso, Texas (Courtesy Mike Bailey)

College football fans know the best way to enjoy a game is to do more than just enjoy the game.

It's the complete experience of college football that makes it memorable. Taking a tour of the campus. Finding a great place to eat. Partaking in a local beverage – or two.

And it wouldn't hurt to bring the sticks and get in a round of golf, either.

The weather may be turning cold and dreary in many parts of the country, but in the Sun Belt college football and golf are an ideal winter daily double. So, for your benefit, here are a few places to turn your game-day experience into a two-fer:

San Diego

San Diego State University and the University of San Diego may not be college football powerhouses, but the 90-plus public golf courses more than make up for the fact you won't be watching a BCS powerhouse team on Saturday.

Start with Torrey Pines South, one of the most celebrated courses on the West Coast and host of the 2008 U.S. Open, won by some one-legged guy named Tiger Woods. Torrey Pines isn't cheap – rates range anywhere from $68 to $279 depending on the day and time – but it's one of those must-do golfing experiences.

For a cheaper and more accessible alternative, try Sycuan Resort in El Cajon, about 15 minutes inland. With 54 holes, a casino on site and green fees around $40, you'll never want to leave.

Other recommendations: Maderas Golf Club, Temecula Creek Inn in wine country and Aviara Golf Club.

Tucson, Ariz.

The University of Arizona football team has enjoyed a renaissance under Coach Mike Stoops, and so has public golf in the area.

For a little history – and a fun 18 holes – try the Dell Urich Course at Randolph G.C., located in the heart of the city and the longest of the five municipal golf courses in Tucson. Randolph served as host of an LPGA event and, in its day, the Joe Garagiola Tucson Open.

For a more upscale experience, there's the Ritz-Carlton at Dove Mountain, site of the Accenture Match Play Championship or the JW Marriott Starr Pass Tucson Golf Club.

Other recommendations: Silverbell Municipal Golf Course, a city course with nine lakes; Westin La Paloma with its 27 holes designed by Jack Nicklaus; and Tom Fazio's masterpiece at Loews Ventana Canyon Resort.

Tempe, Ariz.

Okay, so the Arizona State Sun Devils aren't exactly must-see college football, given that they're headed for a third straight losing season. But the Valley is a golf mecca, so make sure you give yourself an extra couple of days to truly enjoy the vacation.

It's impossible to pick out the best public golf courses in Arizona – that would be like choosing which child you like best – but here a few recommendations:

If you don't mind a two-hour drive, get up to Seven Canyons Golf Resort in Sedona. The scenery is second to none – don't be surprised to see a deer lurking just off the fairway – and the course is spectacular both in terms of its design and beauty.

In north Scottsdale, I'd recommend Troon North – you'll feel like you're playing a private course – or one of the two golf courses at We-Ko-Pa near Fountain Hills.

For a change of pace, head south to Maricopa and play Southern Dunes Golf Club, a links-style course that is unique in the Valley.

Other recommendations: Dinosaur Mountain in Gold Canyon, Raven at South Mountain and of course TPC Scottsdale, site of the PGA Tour Waste Management Open.

El Paso, Texas

UTEP football actually has become relevant again under Mike Price, but let's be honest: It's a good thing there are some quality courses around so football isn't at the heart of your trip.

Take the Butterfield Trail Golf Club, ranked recently as the fourth best public golf course in Texas by Golfweek. The Tom Fazio design is built on the original Butterfield Trail, which dates back to 1858.

Painted Dunes Desert Golf Course, a 27-hole layout, has something you don't see in many courses in southwest Texas – rolling hills and undulating greens. Green fees in November, by the way, are ridiculously low.

Other recommendation: Lone Star Golf Club.


The Houston Cougars love to throw the ball, so it's apropos there are a few courses that don't play it safe, either.

The 36-hole Black Horse Golf Club has long been ranked in the top 10 of the country's top 100 courses under $100. The North Course at Black Horse is carved into lakes and wetlands, while the final six holes on the south course play through a sand quarry. Do yourself a favor: Start early and play both courses in a day.

The Tournament Course at Redstone Golf Club hosts the PGA Tour's Shell Houston Open and is a monster, with its back tees stretching to 7,422 yards. For a less demanding track, try Memorial Park Golf Course, which hosted the Houston Open from 1951 to 1963 and was renovated in 1995.

Other recommendations: Houston National, The Woodlands Resort, Wildcat Golf Club.


The Southern Methodist University football program is still trying to recover from the death penalty handed down by the NCAA in 1986. But golf in the Dallas area is thriving.

Dallas has six city courses, including Cedar Crest C.C., which was designed by the legendary A.W. Tillinghast and hosted the PGA Championship in 1927.

Also try the Texas Star Golf Course, which was ranked as the No. 1 municipal golf course in Dallas and likes to say it has 'the toughest darn greens in all of north Texas.'

Other recommendations: TPC Four Seasons, Stonebriar Country Club and Cowboys Golf Club, which is an ode to, you got it, the Dallas Cowboys.

New Orleans

Whether in town to see Tulane or LSU in Baton Rouge, make sure to take time to play TPC Louisiana, a Pete Dye design and host of the PGA Tour's Zurich Classic of New Orleans.

We'd recommend other courses but we're in New Orleans: We'd rather eat, drink and listen to some jazz.

– by Scott Bordow
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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.

Enrique Berardi/LAAC

Ortiz leads LAAC through 54; Niemann, Gana one back

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 8:15 pm

Mexico's Alvaro Ortiz shot a 1-under 70 Monday to take the 54-hole lead at the Latin America Amateur Championship in Chile.

At 4 under for the week, he leads by one over over Argentina's Jaime Lopez Rivarola, Chile's Toto Gana and Joaquin Niemann, and Guatemala's Dnaiel Gurtner.

Ortiz is the younger brother of three-time winner Carlos. Alvaro, a senior at Arkansas, finished tied for third at the LAAC in 2016 and lost in a three-way playoff last year that included Niemann and Gana, the champion.

Ortiz shared the 54-hole lead with Gana last year and they will once again play in the final group on Tuesday, along with Gurtner, a redshirt junior at TCU.

“Literally, I've been thinking about [winning] all year long," Ortiz said Monday. "Yes, I am a very emotional player, but tomorrow I want to go out calm and with a lot of patience. I don't want the emotions to get the better of me. What I've learned this past year, especially in the tournaments I’ve played for my university, is that I have become more mature and that I have learned how to control myself on the inside on the golf course.”

In the group behind, Niemann is the top-ranked amateur in the world who is poised to turn professional, unless of course he walks away with the title.

“I feel a lot of motivation at the moment, especially because I am the only player in the field that shot seven under (during the second round), and I am actually just one shot off the lead," he said. "So I believe that tomorrow I can shoot another very low round."

Tuesday's winner will earn an invitation to this year's Masters and exemptions into the The Amateur Championship, the U.S. Amateur, sectional qualifying for the U.S. Open, and final qualifying for The Open.