NFL football and golf: A look at the courses of the NFC West

Fall, of course, is for football. But it's a great time to play golf in most climates: The leaves start to change, the weather cools and the courses generally often look their best. Of course, if you're not a big football fan, game time is often the best time to play.

But if you are a fan -- and your team is playing the early game on Sunday -- schedule an early round, follow the round with a couple of cold ones in the clubhouse and watch the game.

Of course, the ultimate would be following your favorite team to away markets and taking your golf clubs. So with that in mind, we've broken down the NFL by divisions. Here's a look at the NFC West and where our readers are recommending you play.

Arizona Cardinals

If there is one NFL location where bringing your golf clubs is a no-brainer, it would be the Phoenix/Scottsdale area. After all, there are more than 200 golf courses here, and when you get late in the football season (after overseeding), weather and course conditions are downright perfect. The usual suspects are all great plays but can be a little pricey in season, of course. They include courses and resorts such as Troon North, We-Ko-Pa, Grayhawk, Ak-Chin Southern Dunes and Talking Stick, just to name a few. But let's zero in a little closer to Glendale, which is where the Arizona Cardinals play their home games.

Glendale is actually northwest of Phoenix, across from Scottsdale. Some of the courses in the area aren't as well known as the Scottsdale golf courses, but they rate pretty well and are often priced well below their Scottsdale counterparts. Just seven miles from the stadium in Litchfield Park is Wigwam Resort, which Golf Advisor readers rated at more than four stars. The resort dates back to 1930 with two of the three courses -- the Gold Course (which plays more than 7,400 yards and was recently renovated by Tom Lehman) and the Patriot Course (originally known as the Blue Course) -- designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr.

Sun City West, which is about 15 minutes north, between Surprise and Peoria, is also a popular golf spot. This retirement community has seven golf courses (three are executive style), all open to the public. They generally rate a little more than four stars with Golf Advisor readers, and they're usually a pretty good deal. Other courses in the vicinity that did well in our reader rankings include: The Phoenician; the Palmer Course and Faldo Course at Wildfire Golf Club (host of the LPGA's JTBC Founders Cup); the Greg Nash-designed Cimarron Golf Club; and Trilogy Golf Club at Vistancia.

Close to University of Phoenix Stadium: If you're looking for a quick nine holes, there are two options just around the corner from where the Cardinals play. The closest is Desert Mirage Golf Course, a par 31 built in 1999. It's less than two miles from the stadium. Glen Lakes is a couple miles farther away to the east, and it's a little older, built in 1966. As one Golf Advisor rater said, "When I pulled up to the clubhouse, it wasn't too impressive. But the course itself grew on me as I played it."

San Francisco 49ers

Top rated on Golf Advisor: The 49ers actually play in Santa Clara, which is about 50 miles south of San Francisco just northwest of San Jose. Between the two cities, there is plenty of great golf. Santa Clara isn't too far from Pebble Beach, either, but if you want to stay in the Santa Clara/San Jose area, our readers have some recommendations. Among the more popular offerings in the San Jose area is Coyote Creek Golf Club, which has two Jack Nicklaus-designed layouts, the Tournament Course and the Valley Course. Located in Morgan Hill, only one of them, however, the Valley Course is open to the public and rated more than four stars with more than 350 golfers submitting reviews to Golf Advisor.

Another popular choice is the Ranch Golf Club in San Jose. Despite some flood damage earlier in the year that temporarily closed some holes, readers still rated this 6,800-yard par 72 more than four stars. Rancho Del Pueblo Golf Course, also in San Jose, scored well, too. Originally designed by Robert Muir Graves in the 1965, the popular municipal course got a more recent update by Damien Pascuzzo.

Some munis that scored well included Callippe Preserve Golf Course, which is about 20 miles to the northeast of the stadium, and 6,300-yard Los Lagos in San Jose, a well kept, 5,400-yard par 68 built adjacent to Coyote Creek.

Close to Levi's Stadium: Across the street from where the Niners play is Santa Clara Golf & Tennis Club, which is open to the public. This Robert Muir Graves design can get quite busy, so some of our readers have complained of pace of play at times, but they generally like the layout and conditioning of this 6,704-yard par 72 that opened in 1987.

Seattle Seahawks

Top rated on Golf Advisor: The Seahawks play in the heart of Seattle, so everything in the area is pretty much fair game. Where would I start? That's easy: I'd want to play Chambers Bay in University Place, about 20 miles south. Despite the controversy surrounding the 2015 U.S. Open, Chambers Bay still rated more than four stars on average from our reviewers. It's a little pricey at nearly $300 for out-of-towners, but it's a very unique experience and highly recommended if you like links golf.

With that said, there are lots of great choices in the Seattle area. Gold Mountain Golf Club in Bremerton has two outstanding tracks, both rated well over four stars by Golf Advisor reviewers. "Probably one of the best tracks on the peninsula and in Washington," one reader said of the Olympic Course at Gold Mountain, designed by the late John Harbottle, who is responsible for several exceptional layouts in the Pacific Northwest. (The Cascade Course at Gold Mountain is a Ken Tyson design that opened in 1971). Another highly lauded layout is White Horse Golf Club in Kingston. Harbottle had a hand there as well. He was brought in by the Suquamish Indian Tribe, which bought the course in 2010, to soften it up a bit, and our reviewers really love it, rating it around four and a half stars on average.

Another course owned by American Indians (Squaxin) also rates highly: Salish Cliffs Golf Club at the Little Creek Casino Resort in Shelton. Designed by Gene Bates, Salish Cliffs is one of the most enjoyable and scenic courses in the region. Other highly rated courses in the area include 27-hole Lakeland Village Golf Course in Allyn; Port Ludlow Golf Resort; Madrona Links Golf Course in Gig Harbour; Elk Run Golf Club in Maple Valley and the Bob Cupp/Fred Couples-designed China Creek Course and Coal Creek Course at the Golf Club of Newcastle.

Close to CenturyLink Field: There are a couple of historic munis within a few minutes of the stadium. West Seattle Golf Club is a 1940 Chandler Egan design. Jefferson Park is even closer (just three miles south), and it offers both a par-3 and regulation course. The regulation layout is a 1915 Tom Bendelow design that plays just less than 6,300 yards. Both can be played for around $44 or less.

St. Louis Rams

Top rated on Golf Advisor: Formerly of Los Angeles, of course, the Rams play at the Edward Jones Dome, which is the heart of St. Louis, right on the Mississippi River. Just west of downtown is Forest Park, which has 27 holes. Most impressive is that the course can trace its roots to 1912, when it started out as a nine-hole facility designed by Scotsman Robert Foulis. Another nine was added in 1915 and a redesign in 2004 by Hale Irwin brought the course to where it is today -- a local favorite and a reasonable option for anyone staying downtown for Rams game.

Two more outstanding courses in the St. Louis area are The Missouri Bluffs Golf Club in St. Charles, Mo., and Annbriar Golf Course in Waterloo, Ill. Both of them received more than four and half stars on average. Missouri Bluffs is a premium 7,000-yard-plus Tom Fazio design that costs around $80 on the weekend to play, but the club does offer online specials. And Annbriar, built on a family farm and named in honor of the late Ann Nobbe, is a wonderful Mike Hurdzan layout over rolling terrain that can be stretched to around 6,800 yards.

Some other courses that scored well with Golf Advisor reviewers include: Eagle Springs Golf Course and Emerald Greens in St. Louis; nine-hole muni Creve Coeur Golf Club; Tapawingo National in Sunset Hills; as well as Stonewolf Golf Club in Fairview Heights, Ill. Stonewolf is a Nicklaus design that opened in 1997, while Tapawingo was designed by the Golden Bear's playing and design rival, Gary Player.

Close to Edward Jones Dome: Ironically, one of the best courses and closest courses to where the Rams play isn't even in Missouri. Gateway National Golf Links is less than seven miles away, but on the other side of the Mississippi River in Madison, Ill. Our readers rave about the conditioning and the layout of this Keith Foster design that can be stretched to nearly 7,200 yards. Add in views of the St. Louis skyline and famous Gateway Arch, and you've got scenery to match the golf course.

Mike Bailey is a former Golf Advisor senior staff writer based in Houston. Focusing primarily on golf in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America with an occasional trip to Europe and beyond, he contributes course reviews, travel stories and features as well as the occasional equipment review. An award-winning writer and past president of Texas Golf Writers Association, he has more than 25 years in the golf industry. He has also been on staff at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeBaileyGA and Instagram at @MikeStefanBailey.

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NFL football and golf: A look at the courses of the NFC West