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Arizona's West Valley offers diversity near Phoenix

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PHOENIX -- When it comes to sports, the West Valley is known for the University of Phoenix Stadium and Jobing.com Arena, the respective homes of the Arizona Cardinals and Phoenix Coyotes.

But there are also several golf courses in the area. They're not as bunched together as those in north Scottsdale, but they're also not as expensive.

In fact, given the quality of the layouts and the lower-priced tee times, they're some of the best bargains in Arizona.

Here are just a few West Valley golf courses to check out:

Raven Golf Club at Verrado

If the Raven Golf Club at Verrado was located in north Scottsdale, it would be on everyone's must-play list. It's that spectacular.

Unfortunately, because Verrado is situated at the base of the White Tank Mountains on the far west side of the Valley, it doesn't get the attention it should.

The scenery is unbeatable and, in many ways, so is the golf course. The 7,258-yard par 72 designed by Tom Lehman and John Fought features sweeping elevation changes -- one par 3 drops 60 feet from tee to green -- and length that will bedevil even the longest of hitters; four par 4s are at least 464 yards and seem to always play into the wind.

The conditions at Verrado are impeccable and, to try to entice golfers to head so far west, management offers some of the best deals in town.

Wigwam Resort

Wigwam, located in Litchfield Park about 30 minutes west of Phoenix, is a blast from the past. The three courses, two of which were designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr., are straight-forward, no-trick layouts nestled among rolling hills, parkland trees, lakes, canals and streams.

There's no desert to speak of, and Wigwam's traditional look makes for a much easier round of golf.

The three courses are as different as three courses can be on one property. Wigwam's Gold Course is a monster, 7,430 yards from the back tees. The Patriot Course -- which is known as 'the great contradiction' because the front nine is 3,250 yards long and the back nine is only 2,750 yards -- features smaller greens, many of which are crowned like Pinehurst No. 2. The Heritage Course, a 6,852-yard par 72, is probably the easiest to play, but its finishing three holes are quite the kick.

The best way to enjoy Wigwam: Stay for a night or two at the resort, now owned by Jerry Colangelo, enjoy the amenities and play all three courses.

Golf Club of Estrella

The Golf Club of Estrella may be the least-talked-about great course in the Valley.

That's in large part due to its location at the far southwest corner of the greater Phoenix area.

But Estrella, a 7,139-yard par 72, is well worth the trip. In 2007, Golfweek named it the seventh best golf course in Arizona.

What makes Estrella special? The same things that make it difficult. Because there's little development around Estrella, the wind blows constantly, testing a golfer's club selection and patience. The greens are extremely fast and difficult to read.

Most of all, however, it's the bunkers. There are 83 and all and many of them are so deep you'd swear they were transported from a British Open course.

Maryvale Golf Course

Maryvale Golf Course is for the blue jeans and t-shirt crowd.

The municipal was designed in 1961 by William Bell, who also was the architect at Torrey Pines. It's a classic, tree-lined layout with gentle doglegs and, at only 6,500 yards, ideal for the beginning golfer.

Conditions aren't the best -- as is the case with most municipals -- but the price is right. Rounds are as low as $20.

Quintero Golf Club

Qunitero Golf Club, located about 15 miles east of Wickenburg along the Carefree Highway, is one of several private Valley courses that have opened their doors to the public to bring in a little more cash.

The Rees Jones design has been named one of America's top 100 modern courses by Golfweek magazine and is arguably one of the top five courses in the Valley.

The conditions are immaculate and the surrounding Hieroglyphic Mountains are beautiful, but what really separates Quintero is a collection of par 3s unmatched in Arizona. Two examples: No. 6 features a 110-foot elevation change from tee to green, and the par-3 ninth has a 60-foot drop that has to clear a lake in front of the green.

Given its once-private status and second-to-none conditions, Quintero is surprisingly affordable. Tee times in May, for example, are as low as $75.