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Talking Stick Golf Club's North and South courses are a win-win in Scottsdale, Arizona

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Gamblers don't mind losing money in casinos. It's part of the arrangement. You win some, you lose some more.

Golfers, on the other hand, hate wasting their money. Few things are worse than plopping down $150 to play on bare fairways or bumpy greens.

Fortunately, the Salt River Indian Community, which built the Talking Stick Resort and the two golf courses that sit on its property in Scottsdale, the North and South courses at Talking Stick Golf Club, got both designs right.

The casino and 497-room resort is so opulent that gamblers won't complain much if their wallet is lighter when they check out. And the North and South golf courses provide golfers of every skill level an enjoyable day in the sun.

Talking Stick's two courses, both designed by Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore, are polar opposites. The North course is an ode to links layouts across the Atlantic. The bunkers are steep and treacherous, the greens crowned. There's no water or trees to navigate, but it's a beast, a par-70 that stretches 7,133 yards from the back tees.

Three of the four par 3s are at least 194 yards -- No. 11 is an incredulous 261 yards from the tips -- and six of the par 4s are at least 445 yards.

The distinct look of the North course at Talking Stick has garnered its fair share of accolades: Golfweek Magazine ranked it the No. 1 golf course in Arizona in its ranking of the Top 100 modern courses.

Talking Stick Golf Club's South course is much friendlier for the average hacker. Water comes into play on four holes on the back nine, and there are roughly 4,500 trees to avoid, but it's a flat, relatively harmless par-71 layout that plays only 6,833 yards from the back tees.

Take it from a guy with about a 17-handicap. I shot a 39 on the front with three birdies. I don't do that often. Or ever.

"When both of them were built (in 1998) the South was looked at more like the stepchild," General Manager Scott Heideman said. "For the higher handicapper or older people it is a little easier to get around.

"But some guys love the North and some guys love the South. I think they're both great. What's unique is that they're so different. A lot of properties have two courses, but they're very similar in the way they play. But that's not the case here."

Both courses do share one characteristic: They're in great shape. The fairways were lush and perfectly manicured; the greens rolled true.

Just a word of warning: The golf courses are ringed by farmland and sometimes during the planting or harvest season a farmer will set off a horn to scare birds. It can be a bit of a distraction during the downswing.

As you might imagine, the golf courses have several specials in conjunction with the hotels. The best option: Clear out the day and play both courses. You'll feel like you played at two different resorts. Plus, the more time you spend on the course, the less money you can lose in the casino.

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