Carefree is a Smart, Last-Minute Escape

Six Ways to Beat Arizona’s Coming Summer Heat Now

With the LPGA Tour returning this week to Phoenix for the JTBC Founders Cup at Wildfire Golf Club, we’re reminded there’s still time—albeit a short, tentative window—to beat Arizona’s approaching summer heat and head south for a blissful vacation. And while Phoenix is a great choice, there is a fabulous alternative just a few miles north amid the elevated, saguaro-fertile foothills of the Continental Mountains.

Carefree is its no-worries moniker. Perhaps more than any other town in the Southwest, diminutive Carefree is an “it” spot for affluent and avid golfers. The mountain-view surrounds entice with über-exclusive golf properties like Desert Forest, Desert Highlands and Desert Mountain, and nearby Whisper Rock, Scottsdale National (formerly the Golf Club of Scottsdale, pictured below), Blackstone, Silverleaf and others.

Finagling a tee time at any of these private communities is well worth the effort. If you can’t, don’t despair—Carefree and its nearby neighbors deliver on dynamite, public-access golf. Here’s a six-course, stay-and-play sampling:

THE BOULDERS: This five-star vacation destination offers explosive, Jay Morrish-designed golf. The twin 18-hole courses weave through space shuttle-size granite boulders—hence the resort’s name—with some holes offering soaring balata rebounders that are mere steps from tight greensites. Steer clear of the skin-piercing desert foliage and watch for native javelinas, the desert’s wild pigs. Preferred tee times available for guests of The Boulders, a Waldorf Astoria Resort. 480-488-9009 or

RANCHO MAÑANA: Also in Carefree, semi-private Rancho Mañana beguiles with transcending mountain panoramas and a well-paced, woman-friendly layout crafted by Bill Johnson. Players quickly discover that this innocuous-looking routing can be both testy and tenacious, especially when teeing into tight landing zones where desert flora gobbles anything offline. 480-488-0398 or

WILDFIRE: Unmitigated fun is the operative lexicon of Wildfire’s twin courses, site of the LPGA Tour’s JTBC Founders Cup. Sited in northeast Phoenix, golfers may opt for a forgiving, Arnold Palmer-designed layout that offers wide fairways and generous greens, or they can test a beastly, Nick Faldo-crafted course that demands pinpoint precision and nerve-tasking patience. Preferred tee times available for guests of the JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa. 480-293-5000 or

TROON NORTH: This is 36 holes of the West’s best golf—quintessential Morrish- and Tom Weiskopf-designed courses set amid heaving granite rock outcroppings, sloping arroyos, giant saguaros and gangly mesquite and ironwood trees. The jaw-dropping mountain scenery of North Scottsdale is simply a bonus. Preferred tee times available for guests of the Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North. 480-515-5700 or

TPC OF SCOTTSDALE: The Weiskopf/Morrish designed Stadium Course in North Scottsdale is the celebrated host of the PGA Tour’s Waste Management Phoenix Open, yet less well known is its stunning sister, the Desert Course, a highly underrated track crafted by and recently updated by Weiskopf. Preferred tee times available to guests of the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess. 800-344-4758 or

KIERLAND: In North Scottsdale, architect Scott Miller bulldozed 1.3 million cubic yards of earth to create a sublime, 27-hole golf experience rimmed by sweeping mountain views. Evenly paced and playable, the triplet nines are noted for plunging elevation changes and Troon Golf-managed conditioning. Preferred tee times available for guests of the Westin Kierland Resort & Spa and for pupils of the on-site LaBauve Golf Academy. Kierland also offers the “Great Scott Experience” of playing in a kilt and sampling different Johnnie Walker blends. 800-354-5892 or


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Chris Duthie is a contributor to Colorado AvidGolfer, the state’s leading resource for golf and the lifestyle that surrounds it. It publishes eight issues annually and proudly delivers daily content via