Picture the typical golf resort: lush, green hills; old guys in Dockers. Troon North is pretty much as far from that vibe as possible. The club's two courses, Pinnacle and Monument, snake through the ravines and foothills of the Sonoran Desert – meaning you're driving over massive granite boulders and swaths of rusty sand, chipping and putting among cacti and other prickly plants, and glimpsing coyotes darting through the brush. (And if you miss the fairways? Pull a new ball from your bag, or risk a nip from a rattler.) "Visually, these are two of the coolest and scariest courses you'll ever tackle," says director of instruction Doug Hammer. "Back home, your regular 18 will feel like a piece of cake."
The terrain attracts players who lean a bit more adventurous than your average golf nut. It's a crowd well suited to Scottsdale, which, as home to the PGA Tour's raucous annual Waste Management Phoenix Open, is golf's party town. The city is loaded with bars and restaurants, and there are tons of desert activities when you get tired of double-bogeying holes you thought you'd reach in two. Hike the 4.5-mile Gateway Loop trail in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve, just a 15-minute drive away, or off-road with Green Zebra Adventures, kicking up dust in a military-grade vehicle called a Tomcar as you weave among wild horses and beneath bald eagles. "It's a huge adrenaline rush," says Scottsdale resident Megan Neighbor. "But the guide also stops to explain the flora and fauna of this virtually untouched land. It's awesome." If you want someone else to do the driving, try a helicopter tour of the Sonoran, or a seaplane ride that ends on nearby Roosevelt Lake.
Stay here: The affiliated Four Seasons has a bi-level pool and rooms with fireplaces for cool desert nights. Stay-and-play packages from $410 per night for two, including two golf rounds.