With over 200 golf courses and more than 300 days of sun on average annually, the greater Phoenix metropolitan area—known more poetically as the Valley of the Sun—has become one of America’s most popular winter destinations. With its unmatched combination of exceptional golf, stunning desert scenery and luxurious hotels and resorts, the Valley is without equal in the country. Lovingly manicured fairways (surrounded by cacti and desert scrub), lake-size swimming pools and towering palm trees are ringed by jagged mountains and random rock formations seemingly from the dawn of time.
Many resorts and courses are concentrated in and around Scottsdale, also the best place in the area for shopping and dining, and rated by the Robb Report as America’s best place to live. Outstanding golf facilities cement Scottsdale’s reputation as the golfing mecca of the U.S. Troon North is home to the two top-ranked daily fee courses in the state: the Monument course, designed by Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish, and Weiskopf’s Pinnacle course.
Perhaps the state’s best examples of desert courses, they are considered highly challenging for golfers of all levels. The Grayhawk Golf Club has the Tom Fazio-designed Raptor course, known as one of the state’s most difficult, and the Talon course, designed by David Graham and Gary Panks, and famous for its tough 13th hole, nicknamed ‘Heaven or Hell’.
In addition to the courses at the Boulders and the Phoenician, a host of first-class resorts and hotels in the Valley cater to golfers and non-golfers alike. The Camelback Inn, opened in 1936 at the base of Mummy Mountain, has two championship 18-hole courses and 453 guest rooms, some with sundecks and private pools, and a spa whose adobe-mud purification treatment is well worth experiencing. It’s also Arizona’s only resort with a chapel, built of adobe in 1959, in case you want to make this your honeymoon.
Set in the foothills of Pinnacle Peak, the Southwest-styled Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North offers guests priority use of the adjacent Troon North courses and boasts lavish adobe casitas, each with its own terrace and some with private plunge pools. Stick around for Sunday brunch at Acacia, one of the best restaurants around.
A Moorish aesthetic, royal palms and tiled fountains give the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess the air of a Spanish palacio. One of its two courses, the TPC of Scottsdale, is home to the FBR (formerly Phoenix) Open. The resort’s top-notch Willow Stream spa and a water playground for the kids will keep the whole family happily engaged. Also on the premises are La Hacienda and the Marquesa, two of the area’s best restaurants.
At Phoenix’s Royal Palms Resort and Spa, a historic estate at the foot of Camelback Mountain, guests can choose from 117 rooms or casitas gathered in small clusters, and dine at T. Cook’s. The Wigwam is the only resort in the area with three championship golf courses, including the classic Gold Course, designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr. Four- and five-day golf schools let you hone your game.
The state’s largest infinity pool and the unparalleled Asian-inspired Sanctuary spa are part of the Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain, set on lushly terraced acres with breathtaking vistas across the Paradise Valley. Secluded casitas (some with outdoor soaking tubs) are the most sumptuous of its 98 suites. Camelback is the highest mountain in Phoenix; take the Summit Trail for the finest views around.