Best Driving Range 2010 | Fiddlesticks Family Fun Park | Sports & Recreation | Phoenix
Considering how golf-mad Arizona is, you might expect to find more mega-ranges like south Tempe's Fiddlesticks spread across our green-with-wastewater Valley. Not really. This large range is well lit in the hot desert evenings and open late, featuring a two-story tee structure to maximize space and 60 grass tee boxes for purists looking for the realest deal they can get. You can get 100 balls for $8, which isn't a bad price considering how posh the range is, and they've got a slate of pros on hand to help you with your swing if you're interested in purchasing a lesson. Also of interest to busy parents: Since this is a full-service family fun center, it's not hard to find something to occupy the kids while you sweeten your swing. After all, if there's anything better than working out some stress by crushing a bucket at the range, it's doing it guilt-free while the rest of the family rides go-karts or bumper boats.
When it comes to golf carts, Kierland Golf Club is still the best for one reason: air conditioning. Kierland already had top-of-the-line carts, but about two years ago, the course took what was already state of the art and cooled it off with G2 air conditioners designed by Phoenix based company Coolwell Inc. Some say using a cart is lazy; those people have probably never played golf in Phoenix in the summer. Golfers at Kierland can cruise the course in the Cadillac of carts in total comfort, even when it's 120 degrees outside.
Chances are, you're not good enough to play at TPC Scottsdale, and you have no business ever setting foot on the course to do anything but watch the pros. Be that as it may, it's fun to pretend, and in the summer you can pretend on the cheap. For $65, you can play where the pros play and enjoy all the bells and whistles of a PGA Tour course. If $65 for a few hours of golf doesn't seem like a bargain, look at it this way: To play the same course in December, it's gonna run you about $300.
We all love to play the pro courses, and in the Valley there's no shortage of great greens. The problem, however, is that if you want to play them in the winter, you may have to find a second job. That's why summer golfers at Troon North or TPC Scottsdale often find their way to the public courses once the rates go up. Public courses — for the most part — suck. Ken McDonald is one of the few exceptions. The par-72 championship course is scenic, always in great shape, got brand-new carts last year, and, most importantly, you can still play on the cheap. Winter rates at Ken McDonald fluctuate but rarely go above $38, and they can be as low as $28.
We're always on the lookout for a beautiful view on a golf course (yeah, we know . . .), what with our collective game being so darned lousy that we need an excuse to be out there. Well, the par-4 10th at this North Phoenix resort does it for us, and then some. It starts with the tee box, more than 10 stories high on a desert hillside. Looming magnificently before you are both Piestewa Peak and Lookout Mountain. At some point, you've got to hit the little white ball, which is a whole other trip. Just get the darned thing airborne and it will stay up forever, looking vaguely like a pro's shot as it drops about 175 feet or so to the fairway. With your second shot, you have to navigate three bunkers that protect a sloping green. Putting? Well, can't help you much there. It's the getting there that provides the fun.
During a bad round, every golfer has that moment on the golf course when he or she stops and asks, "Why do I play this miserable game?" That's when it happens: One good hole changes your entire outlook and you start thinking about joining the PGA Tour. The 11th hole at the Ken McDonald Golf Course has serious ego-boosting potential. It's a par 5 and plays about 570 yards from the tips, but it's a fairly straight shot with a flat green. Hit a good drive, plop your second shot on the green, and you're lookin' at eagle. At that point, your double-bogey-filled front nine becomes a distant memory that will be forgotten completely when you tell your friends how you played.
ASU's running track has a lot to offer joggers. Its dirt surface is easier on the feet than asphalt. It's a long-ish 0.44 miles (750 yards), which gives a sense of accomplishment for each lap. And it's safer than dodging SUVs in the streets. The best part, though, is the inspiration: the young men and women showing off their athletic prowess in the grass fields inside the track. Whether they're playing soccer or softball, practicing a 100-yard dash or just cavorting with each other, these hard-body college folks make being in great shape look easy. The glee on their faces counterbalances our grimace, and the mood is infectious. Watching the energized students, we're reminded that being fit is fun — and that puts more spring in our step.
The paved and dirt pathways along the Highline Canal in South Phoenix received some sprucing up recently, making a great recreation spot even better. We've long enjoyed the rural nature of the trail along the Highline, far enough south of Baseline Road to offer real peace and quiet. The hulking gray-green mass of South Mountain graces the skyline to the south, and the mix of lower-income houses and mini-mansions in the foothills preserve a lot of aging mesquite and other vegetation. This past spring, the city of Phoenix dedicated a new art project and renovation along the Highline called the Zanajero's Line (the name refers to the Spanish word for a farm worker who takes care of the water supply). New pedestrian bridges, shade trees, and benches invite rest breaks, and rock sculptures add to the scenery. The art project runs only to 12th street, but the canal path stays decent until Seventh Avenue.

Best Canal to Run, Walk, or Bike, Scottsdale

Arizona Canal

The Valley's nine canals serve as an oasis to pedestrians and bicyclists who are thrilled to escape the inevitable close calls with Danica Patrick speed demon wanna-bes. We're partial to the part of the Arizona Canal in Scottsdale, near the art galleries and cool little restaurants near Goldwater Boulevard and Fifth Avenue. The Arizona Canal runs 38 miles from Granite Reef Dam to the east and 75th Avenue to the west. But this flat stretch of unpaved but hard-packed dirt is perfect for a relaxing walk or a hard bike ride alongside the flowing waters. Even if it's a hot one out there, there's something about being next to the canal that cools the spirit (if not the body). After the workout, the step back into reality is eased by the coffeehouses and myriad other neat places within walking distance in Old Scottsdale.
Crossing freeway interchanges on a bicycle sucks, especially in this expressway-heavy place. However, it's possible to avoid that madness, especially if you want to connect from Central Phoenix to Scottsdale and/or Tempe. The secret is Oak Street, a mostly residential road that, thanks to the awesome pedestrian and bicycle overpass at State Route 51, makes it possible (and super fun) to ride to the two 'burbs. Heading east from Central Phoenix, you can link up with Oak in the Coronado neighborhood before crossing 16th Street and then SR 51. From there, there's a dedicated bike lane on the slightly busier street that links up with the Arizona Canal trail just east of 24th Street. Or you can keep riding, north of Papago Park to 68th Street (which will more or less lead you to Old Town Scottsdale) or all the way to Chaparral Park, which makes it possible to hit up north Scottsdale or Tempe.

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