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90 2009 GREATER PHOENIX ULTIMATE GUIDE TO LIVING HERE recreation by Jake Poinier G olfers love lists. But more than that, they love checking off the places they've played — and comparing scorecards ( and opinions) afterwards. With more than 200 choices, the Valley creates more 19th hole arguments than it resolves. Perfect foursome Nonetheless, a side- by- side comparison of the major golf magazines would dictate that the foursome of We- Ko- Pa, Troon North, Talking Stick and Gray-hawk should be at the top of anybody's leader board. Arizona's reputation as a resort town plays heavily into the equation as well, with Golf Digest, Golf Magazine, Golfweek and Condé Nast coming in near agreement as to the " must play" destinations: Four Seasons Resort at Troon North; the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess; the Boulders Resort & Golden Door Spa; Longbow Golf Club in Mesa; Westin Kierland Resort & Spa; and Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa. Travel + Leisure Golf also makes mention of the Phoenician as " Best for Family Trips" and the Four Seasons Resort at Troon North as " Best for Buddy Trips." Greener grass With some of the nation's heaviest play, the top courses occasionally need a bit of TLC. One of the most notable face lifts in the past year included TPC of Scottsdale's former Desert course, which recently re- opened after a $ 10 million makeover to lengthen the layout to 7,100 yards, among other tweaks. The work obviously paid off, earning the course a # 41 ranking in Golfweek's " Best New Courses" list. Kudos are also flowing for Troon North Golf Club's revamped new 36- hole configuration. The Monument course's place among Golf Digest's " 100 Greatest Public Courses," and both courses' place among Golf Magazine's " Top 100 Courses You Can Play," appear to be secure for years to come. Perhaps the most intriguing renovation in town is Papago Golf Course, built in 1963 and for a long time considered the best public golf course in the state. The course, tucked against the Papago Buttes, was designed by William Francis ( Billy) Bell, whose portfolio includes renowned Torrey Pines ( where Phil Mickelson played in high school) in San Diego. The course reopened for play in December 2008. Sometimes, of course, it pays to take the path least traveled — undoubtedly a relative descriptor in the golf- crazy Valley. An hour east from downtown Phoenix in the Superstition Mountains, Gold Canyon Golf Resort's Dinosaur Mountain track ranks among Golf Magazine's top 10 underrated courses, while Travel + Leisure names the Wigwam Golf Resort & Spa and Pointe Hilton Tapatio Cliffs Resort among the country's most underrated golf resorts. Par for the Course Believe it or not, you'd need to tee it up four days a week to play every course in the Valley in a single year The Valley of the Sun boasts more than 200 golf courses, making it one of the top golfing destinations in the country. photo: The arizona republic recreation