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Travel tip: Great golf courses by Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport

By S. Adam Cardais,
Phantom Horse golf course - hole 12
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Only a 10 minute drive from the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, Phantom Horse Golf Club is full of memorable holes. (Courtesy Phantom Horse G.C.)

It's 9:30 in the morning and you're sitting by a gate at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, waiting for your next flight. You look at your watch - only seven hours more.

This is the moment when you should wake up. You're sitting in arguably the hottest upscale golfing destination in the country. Phoenix has some of the nation's top golf courses, and Scottsdale and Tempe are just minutes away.

Don't waste your time staring at the clock at the check-in gate. Dust of your swing at one of these great golf courses near the Phoenix's airport.

Karsten Golf Course: Only about eight minutes from Sky Harbor, this is the perfect track to play on a layover. Run by Arizona State University, Phil Mickelson's alma mater, Karsten is known as one of the most difficult college courses. The bunkering is all the proof required to validate this claim.

The trap at Karsten's No. 8 "isn't a bunker as much as it's a rite of passage," Chris Baldwin wrote in a GolfArizona.com review. "Running along a huge chunk on the left side of the 380-yard par 4, sunken into the earth like a Martian crater, it looks more architectural dig than obstacle."

Pete Dye is credited with the Karsten design, so the crater doubling as bunker isn't a surprise - though it's worth noting that according to many observers, Dye's son Perry did much of the work.

TPC of Scottsdale, Stadium course: Located about 20 minutes south of the airport, this course was designed by Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish. The track, measuring 7,089 yards, is home to the Phoenix Open. It has a deep rough and more than 70 bunkers.

Phantom Horse Golf Club: Phantom Horse is only a 10-minute drive from the airport, a gift considering what's in store. All courses aspire to have memorable holes; few do the way this track does. The recollection of the Jailhouse Steps (No. 12) and Alcatraz (No. 18) will stay with you for years.

Relative short, Phantom Horse is a good bet for women's and seniors, but its no pushover - this traditional design plays longer than its 6,336-yard.

Wigwam Resort and Golf Club: Originally designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr., this club is about 30 minutes from the airport. Wigwam's Gold course and Blue course, two of the three tracks there, recently got a $5 million facelift; renovation architect Forrest Richardson used 1960s aerial photos to re-create Jones' original bunkering.

The Blue course had the most work, but the renovation of the now 7,300-yard Gold course has had more of an impact, mainly via that intimidating Jones-style sand.

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Phantom Horse Golf ClubFairway bunker at Karsten Golf Course
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