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Leave the Snow Behind and Head West

By Shane Sharp, Contributor

This frightens me:

Oh, the weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful. So if we've no place to go, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.

First, frightful weather never produced anything good. Car wrecks, depression, increases in net handicaps, and a few extra pounds around the sans-a-belts, maybe. But nothing good.

Second, if you don't ski, what good is snow, honestly?

Third, and most importantly, who said we've no place to go? I can think of a few places, and they don't involve frightful weather, snow, or anything that entails scraping windshields, frozen pipes, or a heating bill.

I am not a curmudgeon, just a golfer. So here's where I would go after I sang my last Christmas carol.

Las Vegas

If you haven't treated yourself to a golf vacation in Sin City, you haven't had a chance to play some of the most mind-boggling courses in the country. Imagine a desert oasis where the world's best golf course architects were given endless budgets by over zealous developers competing to see who could have the highest of the high-end golf courses.

Then throw in the casinos, the shows, the synergy, the Las Vegas Bowl (okay, maybe not the Las Vegas Bowl), and you have a long weekend from heaven, or hell, depending on how you look at it.

If I could go anywhere, leaving tomorrow, it would be Vegas. If I could play anywhere, starting tomorrow, it would be Reflection Bay, the Jack Nicklaus-designed playground with all that shimmering water and generous landing areas. Then I would toss the sticks in the rental car and head to Primm Valley to gaze out on the artful tapestry that is a Tom Fazio course design.

A night at the casinos, and a few bets on the evening's NBA games and then I'd turn in early. Not too early, just early enough to make my tee time at Rio Secco, an fine offering from the Open Doctor himself, Rees Jones. Quick lunch and I am on my way to Las Vegas Paiute Resort to test my game against Pete Dye and his hidden snares and pitfalls.

Before I left I would play Siena Golf Club (at right), the new Brian Curley-Lee Schmidt tract that is being heralded as one of the Valley's best for the money. Just couldn't get on that plane home, though, until I played the Revere at Anthem, TPC Canyons and Bali Hai.


If I couldn't get to Vegas, if morality got the best of me, I'd go to Scottsdale. Book it... I am there.

The original upscale golf destination, where the warm southwestern sun still bakes your soul in the middle of winter. Can you imagine anything better than a cloudless, waterless, 70-degree day at Troon North? A Coppertone tan cart girl serving you a frosty one, award winning Pinnacle and Monument courses ready to show you target desert golf at its finest. Can you? No way.

Unless its that same scenario, at Grayhawk's Talon and Raptor Courses, or a walk through the plush green fairways of Eagle Mountain or the challenge of Kierland followed by a round at TPC Scottsdale -- the home of the Phoenix Open.

And speaking of Phoenix, this is all one big happy Valley of the Sun, right? So why not cart me down to Raven at South Mountain, or Legacy Golf Club, or one of the valley's best kept secrets - Ocotillo Golf Club?

I would plan my trip for late January, so I could take in a couple rounds of the always competitive Phoenix Open and maybe a couple of Phoenix Suns games.

Myrtle Beach

If my budget was a little tight from the holidays, I could always hit Myrtle Beach. No, its not going to be 70 and sunny all week in January, but it may be in the 60's and you can play some of the southeast's best golf courses for criminally low rates during this time of year.

I would start in the south Strand, and play at the Caledonia Golf and Fish Club and True Blue - both award winning courses from controversial designer Mike Strantz. The former, lavish and fair, the later hellish and bold.

I'd hit Nicklaus's track at Pawleys Plantation because I admit it: I am a big fan of the Golden Bear's work, and this plantation course has a couple of water holes you won't soon forget. Then I would make my way north, bypassing all the gentlemen's clubs and tourist traps and until I hit Wild Wing Plantation off Highway 501. Four courses, all in some of the best shape you'll find at the beach.

Eventually, I would wind up at Tidewater, one of the few Grand Strand courses that actually plays out into the water. Then on to Glen Dornoch, Rivers Edge, The Players Club at St. James Plantation, and ultimately, Magnolia Green Plantation (pictured) in Wilmington.

That's what I would do. Or you can just let it snow, let it snow...

Shane SharpShane Sharp, Contributor

Shane Sharp is vice president of Buffalo Communications, a golf and lifestyle media agency. He was a writer, senior writer and managing editor of TravelGolf.com from 1997 to 2003.

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