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Go-pher Sunny Arizona
Wiinter golf destinations from Golf Minnesota.

Arizona has been a winter home for Minnesota snowbirds for decades, as the warm sun, glorious desert views and active lifestyles have attracted so many from the Gopher State and other Midwestern strongholds.

One community northeast of Scottsdale has caught the attention of Minnesota natives, as it was built by Gophers, for Gophers, and offers a golf experience that will conjure up memories of playing back home (sans the 10,000 lakes).

Situated northeast of Scottsdale along the foothills of the McDowell Mountains at the edge of the Tonto National Forest, Rio Verde Community and Country Club was founded by a group of Minnesota businessmen who bought the then-Box Bar Ranch in the early 1970s. They believed the ranch’s unique location would make the perfect retreat for golf and nature lovers to escape the cold winters up north.

More than 40 years and nearly a thousand residences later, Rio Verde is still a shining North Star in the Valley of the Sun.

Rio Verde sports two 18-hole golf courses, recently redesigned by British Open champion and – you guessed it – Minnesota native Tom Lehman. Playing to 6,535 yards, the White Wing Course has a slight modern flair, with fairway mounding, open green fronts and deep bunkering. At 6,602 yards, the Quail Run Course offers a more traditional layout reminiscent of America’s great Midwestern golf venues.

Quail Run is also the site of a unique nine-hole, par-3 course – Roadrunner – allowing Rio Verde members and their guests to quench their golf thirst in a fraction of the time of a full round. Measuring 1,088 yards, Roadrunner utilizes regulation tee boxes off the back nine fairways to provide a variety of approach shots to greens. Thus, higher handicappers and scratch players can utilize the course to hone their games.

Yet, golf is only part of the story at Rio Verde – the club also offers a spacious contemporary, southwestern-style clubhouse that is the hub of the community’s social life; six tennis courts; two Pickleball courts; an equestrian club; a swimming area; Bocce Ball courts; hiking and walking trails and other amenities.

Earlier this year, Audubon International recognized Rio Verde with its prestigious Sustainable Community Certification. The community achieved this accreditation by developing and implementing management practices and policies addressing 15 focus areas, including wildlife conservation and habitat enhancement, water conservation, energy efficiency, health and transportation.

Various memberships – including full golf, full family and seasonal-rental guest – are available for residents and non-residents. Rio Verde is a designated 55+ retirement community. Residents pay no town or school taxes, just county taxes, which along with its competitive real estate prices and tranquil location, appeals to primary and vacation home owners.

And that was clearly evident after our latest visit to Rio Verde. The sun was shining, the warm temperatures soothed our bodies and souls, and several Twins, Vikings and Golden Gopher flags were proudly on display at several homes – flapping in the refreshing desert breeze.

For more information on Rio Verde Community and Country Club