SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- There's only one thing wrong with planning a Scottsdale golf vacation: It's hard to find enough time to play all of the city's great courses.
Phoenix may be the capital city, but there's no question Scottsdale -- north Scottsdale in particular -- is the golfing nexus in Arizona.
Hit a 3-wood in any direction and you're apt to find a course that has made some top-10 list. Here are just a few of the options:
The Stadium Course at TPC Scottsdale isn't as visually spectacular as some of the city's other name courses, but the allure of playing the same track that hosts the Waste Management Phoenix Open is too great to pass up.
It's a kick to stand on the 18th tee, look at the lake left of the fairway and know that PGA Tour pros like Bubba Watson and J.B. Holmes routinely fly their drives over the water's far edge, 300 yards away.
Alert golfers also will spot the plaque marking the spot on the 13th hole where Tiger Woods received the infamous 'loose impediment” ruling in 1999, allowing several fans to move a large boulder so he could have a free swing.
And it's impossible to stand on the par-3 16th tee and not imagine 20,000 fans -- many of them intoxicated and boisterous -- booing your shot if it doesn't land on the putting surface.
Troon North Golf Club
Golfers can't go wrong on either course. The Monument is a love letter to British Open-style links, complete with greens that are receptive to bump-and-run shots. Even the names of the holes are borrowed from overseas. The par-5 ninth hole is Hell Bunker and the 18th is St. Andrews.
The Pinnacle is a more traditional desert course, with forced carries and elevated greens. Oh, and those greens are extremely fast. Imagine putting on the sidewalk in front of the house -- with severe undulations.
Troon North isn't cheap, but the crown jewel of Arizona golf is worth the price of admission.
Kierland Golf Club
There may not be a more unique golfing experience in Scottsdale than Kierland Golf Club.
It's in the middle of the desert, but there isn't a single saguaro on the property. There's no 18-hole course, either. Instead, there are three nine-hole courses -- Acacia, Mesquite and Ironwood -- and they all feature wide fairways and generous greens.
But what truly makes Kierland special are the extra touches, like the air-conditioned golf carts or the bagpiper that plays near the ninth green of the Acacia late in the afternoon. Golfers also can tool around the course in a Segway after taking a one-hour instructional lesson.
Talking Stick Resort
Take the 101 Loop South a few miles from north Scottsdale and golfers will discover the 36-hole Talking Stick Resort.
Neither the North Course nor the South Course, designed by Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore, are as challenging or as visually spectacular as, say, Troon North, but they provide resort guests with a nice day out on the town.
The North Course is the tougher of the two, a par-71 links-style layout with steep bunkers that measures 7,133 yards from the tips. The South Course is flat and built for high-handicappers.
The best part about the courses is location. The resort and casino are next door, and the spring training home of Major League Baseball's Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies is right across the 101.
We-Ko-Pa Golf Club
If Troon North is No. 1 on Scottsdale's must-play properties, We-Ko-Pa Golf Club is No. 2.
We-Ko-Pa's Cholla Course, designed by Scott Miller, was named one of the 10 best new public golf courses in the world by Sports Illustrated after it opened in 2001.
But the true gem is We-Ko-Pa's Saguaro Course. It's a rarity these days, a desert course that is made for walking, with each green only a few yards from the next set of tees. Golfweek named it the best public-access course in the country.
Like Troon North, the scenery is eye-popping and the courses are always in pristine condition. The big difference: We-Ko-Pa's desert layouts are a bit easier to navigate than Troon North and will appeal more to the weekend hacker.