In Scottsdale, give us one round of golf and a spa

Who wants to play 36 holes of golf in a gorgeous desert setting full of luxurious spas? Here are four indulgent golf  resort alternatives to the afternoon round.

Image of the Boulders golf resort maze

The labyrinth at the Boulders resort.

YOU’RE PROBABLY going to want to escape your weather soon and escape to a golf resort where the courses have fairways that are still firm and warmed by the sun. So it’s off to Scottsdale, Arizona, where most of the courses overseed in October so that the golf ball is off and running through the gorgeous months ahead.

There are plenty of choices for golf, but the recommendation from GottaGoGolf is to cut that off at 18 holes a day and then head for the golf resort spa. The problem is, as with the golf, the range of options is overwhelming.

Here are four tried-and-true, can’t-miss options for whiling away the afternoon while those other fools are playing 36 in the Valley of the Sun, listed alphabetically:

Spa at the Boulders

When it opened as the Golden Door Spa in 2001, this stand-alone complex in the resort up north in Carefree set a lofty precedent for the Scottsdale set. At 33,000 square feet, with a decor and theme that fit naturally within the desert landscape, it still has an air of tranquility, that authentic feel and the all-important adult pool that make it an all-day destination.

For our purposes — probably after golf on one of the Boulders Resort and Spa’s two acclaimed courses — let’s settle for a half-day.

The signature Turquoise Wrap — based on the color Native Americans believed protected the wearer and offered peace and well-being — wouldn’t be a bad call. It starts with a bath in turquoise oils, then exfoliation in blue cornmeal, a shower, and a wrap in ionized turquoise clay. While the guest rests, the therapist cleanses the spirit with a rain stick ritual including essential oils. Finally, a warm honey mask followed by a slathering of rosehip lotion.

The Boulders’ Spa has a labyrinth and a tipi, with a shaman on call to guide meditation and maybe even offer a few putting tips. Seriously — of the four destination spas listed here, only the Boulders has two impeccably groomed championship golf courses on site, and so the fitness center here has training sessions just to improve your game.

Joya Spa

Image of Joya Spa terrace at dusk

The view from the Joya Spa terrace.

After checking in at the Omni Scottsdale Resort at Montelucia’s Joya Spa, take the grand staircase instead of the elevator up. Immediately you know you are in an exotic place, with Moroccan inspired decor and a global sensibility. Joya even has a signature scent inspired by the rare cactus flower outside its doors that blooms only at night under a full moon.

Jewel colors of gold and bronze create a sumptuous ambiance, especially in the relaxation room where guests often bring books, then realize it is too dark to read and so they just chill or even nap. One of the new Joya Spa treatments is in fact designed to enhance the nap — the 80-minute Restorative Sleep Ritual, which uses reflexology to promote and enhance sleep and includes a foot wrap and full massage.

The final stop must be the Pool Terrace, which overlooks not only the lovely resort but offers an intimate view of Camelback Mountain from the lounge chair — with a spa menu, wine and cocktails available. Thirty-six holes, yeah, right.

Sanctuary Spa

Sanctuary Spa, at the same-named resort on Camelback Mountain, has a sleek, Asian-inspired design that creates ambiance via feng shui. For instance, the water feature in the courtyard is deliberately set within view of the eye of the camel. No wonder I recommend the water massage experience at Sanctuary, an in-pool treatment called Watsu.

My practitioner, Jean, tells of her 100 hours of training in this special art, which combines shiatsu and stretches. The guest puts on a swimsuit and earplugs, and then gets into a small pool about 4 feet deep. The practitioner gets in the water too. Relaxing into the breath, which is amplified via the earplugs, the guest is rhythmically moved through the water while being massaged and stretched. (It was suggested that I take a small dose of motion sickness tablet beforehand, and I was glad I did.) With deep stretching and breathing, it seems like a deeper form of yoga. Jean said for some it recalls the experience of being in the womb, and can stir emotion. I just thought, what a great treat for the golf-battered body and psyche.

Unfortunately there’s no adult-only pool at the Sanctuary, but families are scarce at this quiet and pricey resort, so a nap in the sun could be next on your agenda.

Well & Being Spa

The spa at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess has knocked golf off my schedule for a day every spring for several years now, beginning when it was known as the Willow Stream Spa. A friend and I start with early-morning yoga, add in a treatment, order lunch, plunge under the outdoor waterfall of massage jets, and hang out at the kid-free pool up on the roof — everything except lunch comes with just one booking. Before we know it, it’s supper time.

Then the Willow Stream rebranded with the Well & Being, a fusion of spa, fitness and wellness. So it’s not all about massage and facials, but body analysis, acupuncture and nutrition. Thank goodness a few pampering experiences remain on the menu, including the unique Golf Performance Massage that mixes massage, stretching and acupressure. (Two fabulous TPC courses are practically right next door to the resort.)

I’ve got my eye on the new Well & Being renewal for next time — a 90-minute super-sensory experience with various essential oils, a grain body buff, hot towel compresses, butter body massage and lifting facial massage.  See you in the spring, Well & Being.

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