Bear Creek in south Chandler fits both bills. Besides offering good golf at a great price, the course has an expansive and affordable driving range as well as an 18-hole executive course great for a quick $10 round. The main attraction is still the Bear course, designed by Nicklaus Design's Bill O'Leary. The course, while built for speed, offers subtle risk/reward scenarios on each of the links-style holes, with water, sand and gnarly desert scrub waiting to eat an errant or ill-conceived shot. In the off-season, you can have this private-club-caliber golf challenge for around $20, and even less if you find a deal on Web sites such as www.golf602com. And you can often bag 18 holes in three to four hours. Also, yearly memberships can be had for around $1,000, which includes unlimited driving range balls. For a golf nut on a budget, this is an incredible deal.
This is heady stuff, and certainly debatable. Better than Troon North? The Boulders? Grayhawk? That's like saying Ferrari is better than Lamborghini. It's more a matter of taste than quality.
But for a weekend golf getaway from Phoenix, especially in July or August, particularly if you're not a trust-fund kid, Apache Stronghold is a hands-down winner. It is a lovely course in a lovely high rangeland setting 3,000 feet above the Valley.
Apache Stronghold, part of the Apache Gold Casino/Resort complex east of Globe on the San Carlos Apache Reservation, is probably better suited for the under-10-handicap golfer. The San Carlos Tribe offers great stay-and-play deals throughout the year. As for the course, not only is it long, at about 7,500 yards from the black tees, but most every shot is greeted with a brain-grating risk/reward scenario.
Expect to shoot poorly and love it.
Non-members are welcome for lessons and clinics by club pro Jarek Jabczynski, a world-ranked player and member of the Polish Davis Cup team.
And no, we don't know how many Polish tennis players it takes to win a Davis Cup match.
Phoenix Rock Gym was the first indoor climbing facility in the state, and still carries the most cred with the outdoor extremists. On weeknights, once the kids have cleared out, the 15,000-square-foot mini-canyon is filled with Dief's pro bouldering buddies. But the 17-foot overhang in the spacious beginners' area is designed to bring home the thrill of the big-time climb to the lil' lowlanders. "The kids love it, 'cause when you fall, you kind of swing out, and go for a ride," Dief says. "As long as you've got a rope on, falling is fun!"
One of the longest, meanest and most rewarding hikes in the Superstitions begins at the Reavis Ranch Trailhead. From this trailhead, you can work yourself deep into the wilderness and onto several of the area's most scenic walks.
Twelve miles in, in Roger's Canyon, you'll reach one of the finest Salado cliff dwellings in the region. Vandals apparently aren't willing to hike 24 miles round-trip. The cliff dwellings are in pristine shape.
Obviously, this is not a hike for the weak or ill-prepared. Take all precautions necessary for a long, difficult hike in the desert. There are many switchbacks, washouts, sharp drop-offs, sharp rocks and other obstacles that make this trip not only one of the most beautiful in the area, but also the most dangerous.