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Desert Golf

A Walk on the Wild Side

Desert golf, a walk on the wild side! Have you played desert golf in Arizona, Las Vegas, Reno, Palm Springs. Why play a traditional golf course when you can always do that at home?

Tighter fairways, a totally different environment treated in a totally different way. No set game in the desert, surprises at every turn, but whoever said golf was not exciting? Before 1983 and eco-sensitive considerations, most desert courses were grass and more grass.

They were designed just like the ones in Ohio, Michigan and at the beach, but around 1983 when Jack Nicklaus teamed up with Lyle Anderson to do Desert Highlands (the home of the first Skins Game) north of Scottsdale. They conceived what would become the first "desert golf course.

Everyone talks about those desert golf courses - what do they mean? A desert golf course is one that is in keeping with the environment. Defined by the eco-sensitive natural plants and animals in the area.

The maximum area that can be covered in grass is 90 acres divided up between fairway and green. The transition areas are sand or dirt that separates the grass fairways from the desert.

The desert is not considered a hazard and you can ground your club. There is forced carry - meaning the areas of vegetation that a shot must carry from fairway to tee. There are arroyos or "dry wash" areas that often cut through the fairways.

You will see critter warnings watch out for rattlesnakes, coyotes, and chollas (a very mean desert cactus, that reaches out and grabs you- it is called a "jumping cholla").

There is normally a 90 degree rule in effect, meaning carts must run perpendicular to the cart path (to preserve the desert)...and the air is thinner and the ball goes farther! Lee Trevino sums it up pretty well (as usual) "it's like a voyage into the unknown". 

Consider the Desert courses for some of the best golf around!

A great desert course in the Scottsdale area is Gold Canyon Dinosaur Mountain - situated on the side of Dinosaur Mountain the views will take your breath away. A more recent desert course, watch those rolling greens - read 'em or weep!

Scottsdale just happens to have several desert courses that we enjoy including Las Sendas, another outstanding design by Robert Trent Jones, Jr. How does he do it?

Golf Magazine suggests that this course is one of top 10 to play in the country. Like a walk through the desert. Beautiful course and you need to plan your strategy here to get the best scores.

Find out about all that desert golf has to offer for your next golf vacation, when you visit

Joan Ewart is an artist, a writer and world traveler, devotes many hours to authoring and maintaining major travel web sites. Publishes many articles on travel spots around the world.

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