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Urban escape: Arizona Grand Golf Resort shines near downtown Phoenix

PHOENIX -- Just a couple miles southeast from downtown Phoenix, South Mountain Park serves as a quiet, natural escape where residents come to mountain bike, walk their dog and play golf at next door Arizona Grand Golf Resort.

Arizona Grand, a resort and 18-hole golf course just a 10-minute drive from Sky Harbor International Airport, is a little slice of peace in a built-up area. The metro park is a jewel of the city that dates back to the 1920s and is the nation's largest metro park at 16,000 acres, which includes 51 miles of hiking and biking trails.

The golf course, opened in 1989 (formerly named Phantom Horse Golf Club) and designed by Forest Richardson, presents one of the desert's most unique plays with three very different environments. The opening four holes play in a wide-open, green and lush, flood-control zone. Here, the fairways are inviting and even a little bowled, but water hazards await around the greens.

The course winds up towards the mountain through a residential area, where precision will be needed much more than power. The course routing is a unique one in that the 10th hole, the furthest point from the clubhouse and resort, is about two miles from the start. Once you emerge from the community after the 11th hole, the course winds back home, playing beside South Mountain's eastern base. This part of the course also yields plenty of opportunities for wildlife spotting, from quail to coyotes.

Unquestionably one of the top holes in all of the Valley of the Sun is the ensuing par-5 13th, a long brute of a hole, albeit a pretty one. Playing more than 500 yards from the back tees, reaching the elevated, narrow green in two shots demands a bold play up a hill and over a row of bunkers.

The course ends with a gorgeous panoramic view from the par-3 18th tee box. Locals and visitors alike couldn't ever get tired of this view, which showcases landmarks such as the Phoenix city skyline to the west, the McDowell Mountains to the east and other points of interest, like Camelback Mountain.

At just less than 6,400 yards from the championship tees, precision is needed more often than power at Arizona Grand, especially on the five par 3s. Conditions and hole variety -- plus fine resort amenities such as a recently renovated clubhouse area -- make this course standout amongst the crowded Phoenix golf scene.

Stay and play at Arizona Grand Golf Resort: Arizona Grand Resort is a AAA Four Diamond property that features recently renovated units. Suite accommodations feature a private balcony or patio and a separate living area.

On top of golf, a 7-acre water park is the main attraction during the warm summer months, while a 20,000-square-foot athletic club features boot camps, yoga classes and much more. Other resort amenities include a spa and multiple dining venues, including a revamped bar and market that is adjacent to the clubhouse and makes for a fine 19th hole option after golf.

The resort has a variety of unique golf packages that include perks such as free rental clubs, happy hour bar pricing with scorecard, spa and dining credits, and room upgrades.

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