IN THE PUBLIC EYE: Oak Creek Country Club in Sedona, Ariz.
THE LAYOUT: This picturesque 6,824-yard course, which winds through the vivid red rocks of Sedona, was designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr. and Jr., with father doing the honors on the back nine and son on the front.
Oak Creek, which opened in 1968, has hosted the Arizona Women's Golf Association Stroke Play Championship, the Southwest Section PGA Seniors Championship and U.S. Senior Open qualifying.
The course lives up to Robert Trent Jones Sr.'s motto that, "Every hole must be a hard par and an easy bogey."
Oak Creek is located below famous Bell Rock, where John Wayne, Glenn Ford, Elvis Presley and countless other celluloid cowboys once rode the range.
The golf course is laid out over 145 acres and includes three lakes.
Renovations to the Oak Creek course in recent years include new concrete cart paths, and all the greenside bunkers were rebuilt under the watchful eyes of the Robert Trent Jones Jr. design firm.
Even though it is located in Northern Arizona, the course is more typical to one you might find in the Midwest.
In traditional Trent Jones manner, the fairways are classic tree-lined doglegs with fairway bunkers strategically placed in the landing areas, and the greens are slightly elevated and surrounded by large bunker complexes.
The golf course is user-friendly, allowing plenty of room for error, with the golfer usually able to get errant shots back into play.
GENERAL MANAGER: Tony Rizzo.
LOCAL KNOWLEDGE: When temperatures in the Valley of the Sun around Phoenix climb well into three digits, Northern Arizona is something of an oasis, although Sedona always is a cool place to be.
Oak Creek is a typical Jones design that features 10 dogleg holes and water that comes into play on five holes.
The signature hole is No. 4, a picturesque par-3 that plays 187 yards from an elevated tee to an elevated green and is framed by the steep cliffs of Gunsight Ridge.
The No. 1 handicap hole is the par-4, 460-yard ninth. This monster requires not only a long drive, but also a precise fairway wood or long-iron second shot because the fairway slopes toward a large lake that lurks on the right side of the green.
The 445-yard, par-4 18th hole is nearly as difficult -- though without the lake -- because it generally plays into the wind.
Most underrated hole on the course is No. 6, a 375-yard par-4. It plays slightly uphill to a fairway landing area that slopes severely from left to right. The approach again is to an elevated green that is surrounded by the large swirling Trent Jones bunkers, but the view of the magnificent red rocks when you reach the green is worth the trip.
Locals will tell you that all putts at Oak Creek break toward Phoenix, or in the direction of "The Saddle," a mountain ridge visible on the horizon to the south of Sedona.
Be sure to stop by Mulligan's Grille on the Green, overlooking the lake that separates the first tee and ninth green, after your round.
OTHER COURSES IN THE AREA: The course at the Hilton Sedona Resort and Spa, designed by Gary Panks and opened in 1988, is another remarkable layout with the same panoramic views virtually next door to Oak Creek.
Verde Santa Fe Golf Course, located about 15 minutes southwest of Sedona in Cornville, is more of a desert-style course in the Verde Valley, with views of Mingus Mountain and the Black Hills that range from historic Camp Verde to Cottonwood. This is where Gen. George Crook and the U.S. Army cavalry chased Geronimo in the 1870s.
Beaver Creek Golf Course at Lake Montezuma is a user-friendly, country-style course that also is about 15 minutes away, to the Southeast. This was the first golf course in the area, designed by Arthur Jack Snyder and opened in 1962.
Canyon Mesa Country Club, across Highway 17 from Oak Creek and Sedona Golf Resort, is a par-28 layout that is good practice for your short game and comes with all the scenic beauty of the championship courses.
WHERE TO STAY: The Hilton Sedona Resort and Spa offers all the amenities of a full-service resort, but there are a multitude of places to stay in the area, from bed-and-breakfasts to upscale resorts.
Among the best are Amara Resort Hotel & Spa, L'Auberge De Sedona Resort, Poco Diablo Resort, the Creekside Inn at Sedona, Boots and Saddles Bed and Breakfast, the Briar Patch Inn, the Apple Orchard Inn, and the elegant Enchantment Resort, which features a fun pitch-and-putt course and putting green.
ON THE WEB: www.oakcreekcountryclub.com
THE LAST RESORT: Legacy Golf Resort in Phoenix
THE LAYOUT: Dwight B. Heard was perhaps the man who had the most influence on the growth of Phoenix into a major metropolitan area and the development of the Valley of the Sun as a viable community in the desert.
Heard, who died at age 60 in 1929, is given much of the credit for the Arizona Republic newspaper (of which he was publisher), the Heard Museum, the Phoenix skyline, Roosevelt Dam, vital irrigation canals and the Arizona cattle industry.
And, in 1999, the exquisite Legacy Golf Resort was created on the last 280 acres remaining from the Heard Ranch and the Bartlett-Heard Land and Cattle Co., which he founded in 1900 with his father-in-law, A.C. Bartlett.
Centerpiece of the resort is the 6,908-yard, par-71 championship course designed by Gary Panks, the noted golf course architect who has his headquarters in nearby Scottsdale.
The Legacy Resort was good enough in its infancy to host the LPGA Tour for the 2000 Standard Register Ping, when tournament officials were looking for a one-year alternative because the host course at Moon Valley Golf and Country Club across town was being renovated.
The Legacy features Panks' trademark large greens, which are carpeted by hybrid TifEagle Bermuda grass and usually run to about 11 on the Stimpmeter. Be sure use enough club on approach shots to the greens because few balls bounce onto the elevated putting surfaces.
The course, which plays to a USGA rating of 72.1 with a slope of 128, is dotted by more than 50 bunkers but only two water features, which come into play on three holes.
The elevation of the property at the Legacy affords guests panoramic views of the Phoenix skyline and the mountains that ring the city, including Squaw Peak, Camelback Mountain and South Mountain.
DIRECTOR OF GOLF: Tony Barten.
LOCAL KNOWLEDGE: Unlike many courses in the Valley of the Sun, the Legacy is not all sand and target golf. Because it is located at the base of a mountain, Panks' masterful design plays over rolling terrain.
Many of the holes play from elevated tees to the fairway and then to elevated, or at least pedestal-type, greens, making accuracy a must. The course was originally designed with tourists in mind, but the level of difficulty was increased, and it is more of an upscale public course now.
The beginning of the course is adjacent to the historic Sierra Vista House, the original bunkhouse on the ranch, where the likes of Teddy Roosevelt, a good friend of Heard, and Pancho Villa visited in the early 1900s.
The first hole is a strong par 4, 424 yards from the back tee, and requires an accurate tee shot because bunkers await on either side of the fairway in the driving area. Another bunker protects the right side of the two-tiered green.
No. 7, which plays 150 yards from the tips, is one of five par 3s on the course and perhaps the most unique because of the two-tiered green that is 35 yards wide is almost surrounded by five bunkers. However, there is a narrow peninsula of ground in the front on which a low, running shot might bounce onto the putting surface.
Even if you have a nice round going midway through the back nine, you must negotiate the strong finish at the Legacy to reach the sanctuary of the Trail's End Bar and Grill in the hacienda-style clubhouse.
After a first encounter with the water on the par-4 12th hole, which requires a 170-yard carry across a lake on the tee shot, the second lake plays a prominent role on the 14th and 15th holes.
No. 14 -- rated the most difficult on the card -- is a three-shot par 5 at 580 yards, with the lake and a 10,000-square-foot landscape bunker guarding the left side of the green, leaving some bailout room on the right.
The 15th hole, which might be the signature hole on many courses, is a gorgeous par 3 that plays 185 yards across the same lake to an elevated green guarded by three strategically placed bunkers.
Use enough club, but not too much, because the come-backer from over the green can be almost as intimidating as the tee shot.
The 545-yard, par-5 finishing hole provides the signature at the Legacy, with three large grain silos from the Heard Ranch still standing sentinel on the right side of the fairway. These 30-foot structures were the tallest buildings in Maricopa County when they were built in 1902.
The final green can be reached in two shots by big hitters, but stay to the left because all the trouble is on the right side.
The course has hosted the Steve Young Desert Classic and is a favorite of other well-known athletes such as Michael Jordan, Jake Plummer and Jason Kidd.
OTHER COURSES IN THE AREA: The Phoenix-Scottsdale area is another of those regions that bills itself as the golf capital of the world, especially with weather that allows golfers to play all year if they can take the summer heat.
Not far from the Legacy in Phoenix are the Raven Golf Club at South Mountain (Panks-David Graham), Phantom Horse Golf Club (Forrest Richardson), Cave Creek Golf Course (Jack Snyder), Aguila Golf Course (Panks), Maryvale Golf Course (William F. Bell), Club West Golf Club (Ken Kavanaugh-Brian Whitcomb), the Championship (Nick Faldo) and Signature (Arnold Palmer) courses at Wildfire Golf Club, and the Links (Richardson-Bill Johnston) and Adobe (William P. Bell) courses at the Arizona Biltmore Resort and Spa.
In Scottsdale are the Resort (Arthur Hills) and Club (Snyder) courses at the venerable Camelback Inn, Troon North Golf Club (Tom Weiskopf-Jay Morrish), the Talon (Panks-David Graham) and Raptor (Tom Fazio) courses at Grayhawk Golf Club, Kierland Golf Club (David Miller) and the TPC of Scottsdale (Weiskopf-Morrish), which hosts the PGA Tour's Waste Management Phoenix Open every year.
Also in the area are the ASU Karsten Course (Pete Dye) in Tempe, the North (Snyder) and South (Morrish) courses at the Boulders Resort in Carefree, Estrella Mountain Ranch Golf Club in Goodyear (Jack Nicklaus II), SunRidge Canyon Golf Club in Fountain Hills (Keith Foster), Palm Valley Golf Club (Hale Irwin) in Goodyear, the Blue (Robert Trent Jones Sr.), Gold (Jones Sr.) and Red (Red Lawrence) courses at the Wigwam Resort in Litchfield Park, Dove Valley Ranch Golf Club (Robert Trent Jones II) in Cave Creek, We-Ko-Pa Golf Club in Fountain Hills (Scott Miller), and the Dinosaur Mountain (Ken Kavanaugh) and Sidewinder (Kavanaugh-Stuart Penge-Greg Nash) courses at Gold Canyon Golf Resort.
WHERE TO STAY: The Legacy Resort, an all-suite property in the shadow of South Mountain that bills itself as a family-friendly operation, is a reflection of the Heard Ranch's Spanish-mission village.
For non-golfers and guests looking for other activities after coming off the links, the Legacy also offers spa services, a health club, tennis, swimming, shuffleboard, volleyball, jogging and hiking trails, bingo games, arts and crafts, and a children's playground.
The Legacy Golf Resort is located minutes from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, and for sports fans looking for a ballgame, it is not far from Chase Field (Arizona Diamondbacks), the U.S. Airways Center (Phoenix Suns and Coyotes), University of Phoenix Stadium (Phoenix Cardinals) in Glendale and Sun Devil Stadium (Arizona State University) in Tempe.
Other golf resorts in the area include the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix, the Camelback Inn in Scottsdale, the Arizona Golf Resort in Mesa, the Boulders Resort in Carefree, Wild Horse Pass Resort in Chandler, the Wigwam Resort in Litchfield Park and Gold Canyon Golf Resort.
ON THE WEB: www.shellhospitality.com/The-Legacy-Golf-Resort