Our country mourned with “Everybody’s Hometown,” Prescott, when the Granite Mountain Hotshots met their death in the Yarnell fire of 2013. Then the killing of aide worker Kayla Mueller by ISIS recently rocked the world. With good or sad news, a spirit of community extends to all who live in and visit this Southwest Scene.
90 minutes from Phoenix, savvy New Englanders are spotted around the greater Prescott area for vacation or relocation due to the temperate four seasons and versatile topography of pines, valleys, and canyons for exploration and golf.
At Antelope Hills Randy from Maine greets golfers. This was his first winter here. How did he like it? “We shut down for 3 days for snow. I don’t miss it,” he smiles. On a spring day, floral trees were popping with red and white at the entrance of the range where the deer and the antelope really do play and Buffalo with Billy Casper Golf have taken over operations. Ranger Al noted, “They improved the greens, widened the fairways, and play is up.”
Two 18 hole courses, north and south are very playable and walkable. Antelope Hills is laid back, so much so that jeans are prevalent on players. This speeds up the pace of changing to head to Whiskey Row downtown. Trade the golf shoes for boots, the cap for an optional Stetson and scoot and boogey over to The Palace Saloon, circa 1877. Today the dance floor is an expanded dining area but the bar and furnishings have been restored to their original glory including the clandestine upstairs with a period manikin in waiting. If these walls could talk! Across the road is the impressive courthouse plaza where Billy Jack fought. Today it’s a peaceful place. Blocks of western boutique shops and restaurants entertain.
Prescott Resort on top of the mile high town is the place to stay, serving a grand view, great food and Native artwork in and out along with flute music piping in peace. Greet the day or watch the sunset over the town by the fireplace on the veranda. A wedding, birthday party, business and wrestling conference shared the space with tourists from everywhere, all very happy with the digs and party at the indoor pool.
If you dig hiking, this is the place with plenty of trails, none more striking than Watson Lake en route to Talking Rock Ranch, named for the petroglyphs in Inscription Canyon. This master-planned golf community inspires a true sense of belonging. Our playing partner Tom joined seven years ago. He said, “You wouldn’t want to go to the store every day. It’s wide-open spaces to get away from it all.” Montana’s Mike, with a home among the grizzlies agreed. Here it is rare to see a bear but deer and bunnies abound. Talking Rock’s architect Jay Morrish incorporates the hallmarks of upscale living through the splendor of high desert terrain in the highly acclaimed Troon Prive’ course. The clubhouse, restaurant and open patio are set like a western town with enticing views.
South of town, Stoneridge is upgrading their clubhouse. The Randy Heckenkemper designed course is completely different, one you either love or hate. We LOVE it. The cart path snakes up and down desert canyons with a very unique routing due partially to consideration for ancient burial grounds. The finishing 18 is a steep, blind S curve with narrow chutes, down, then up to a false front, unlike any hole in the world. A good score here is as satisfying as golf can get. Check out the stay/play package for $175 at www.prescottresort.com.
There are many more public golf courses within 30 minutes as well as the private Prescott Lakes where members love the challenging layout, activities and their mascot, Ingrid.
And there is much more to explore like the Tuzigoot dwellings and Out of Africa with a zipline over predators. On the Verde wine trail, Alcantara is Martha Stewart approved as a wedding spot for its lovely setting next to the Verde River and great wine too.
Prescott is close to Sedona, Jerome, Cottonwood or Clarkdale where you can board the Verde Canyon Railroad through the red rock canyon along the Verde River. Serious historical narration mixes with humor and a medley of train songs. As if choreographed, a bald eagle pushed his talons from a boulder perch and soared around the train saluting us at the end, to the tune of, “I’m proud to be an American.” It’s a trip! www.visit-prescott.com