It's not surprising that with more than 180 golf courses in the Phoenix area, a number of national tournaments are played on Phoenix links. The PGA Phoenix Open is held at the Tournament Players Club, and the Tradition, an annual Senior PGA tour event at Desert Mountain, in Scottsdale. The LPGA Standard Register Turquoise Classic also stops in Phoenix. It's quite possible to secure a tee time on a course that hosted some of the nation's top professional golfers just the day before.

There are more than 70 public courses, 25 resort courses, 55 private, and 25 executive courses.

The concept of desert target golf courses, characterized by fairways closely guarded by the desert, has reached near-perfection in new layouts like Troon and Desert Highlands.

Major league baseball's spring training has been a tradition in Arizona since 1909 when the Chicago White Sox played their first exhibition games in Yuma and Tucson. It carries on today with the Cactus League, including the new Arizona Diamondbacks who are part of the National League West division.

Other top professional teams include the NBA Phoenix Suns, the NFL Arizona Cardinals, the NHL Phoenix Coyotes, the Arizona Rattlers arena football team and the WNBA Phoenix Mercury. Venues include the 19,000-seat America West Arena next door to the new Bank One Ballpark, and Sun Devil Stadium.

The most apparent innovation in downtown Phoenix, unmistakable on the skyline, is the Bank One Ballpark, affectionately nicknamed BOB by enthusiastic Phoenicians. As home to the Arizona Diamondbacks, it hosted its first major league baseball game in April. It seats 48,500 spectators beneath its retractable roof, which is open to blue skies a good share of the time. The roof is made of six movable panels, each weighing 280 tons. Unlike other roofed stadiums, BOB has a natural grass playing surface that is destined to flourish. When the turf needs a revitalizing touch of Old Sol, the roof is simply rolled back.

The mammoth structure houses the largest microbrewery in Phoenix and has six private party suites, as well as a swimming pool and hot tub from which bathers can watch the game. The pool and picnic area may be reserved for private functions. DiamondTown, displaying the history of baseball, ranges along the entire U-shaped concourse. Ten video walls play historic film footage of decades-old games. Motocross races, rock concerts, basketball, soccer, and more will find a home in BOB.

SHOPPING AND DINING INCLUDE THE ELEGANT AND THE ECLECTIC Within the last decade or so, retailers and restaurateurs have realized that top-notch dining and shopping go hand in hand, and have cleverly situated great places to eat among stores and boutiques. Especially in the Phoenix area, visitors can pace a day of intensive acquiring by stopping for coffee or lunch at eateries adjacent to upscale shops.

In the realm of haute cuisine, award-winning restaurants and chefs are a Phoenix area mainstay, rivaling those anywhere in the world. In this eclectic dining scene it's possible to grab a fabulous taco from a small unassuming stand, or settle in for six-course dining and world class wines, all with a casual, low-key air.

Visitors are pleased to find that established restaurants like The Stockyards, Durant's, El Chorro, and Monti's La Casa Vieja are still serving top-notch beef and prime rib. Names like Christopher's are synonymous with the finest Continental cuisine. Vincent's on Camelback has built a reputation on its creative American- Southwestern menus.

The tradition of cowboy mesquite-grilled steaks is alive and well at institutions like Rawhide Steakhouse & Saloon and Pinnacle Peak Patio. Mexican food, an integral part of the Arizona heritage, stays true to its authentic roots at places such as Los Olivos Mexican Patio, Macayo's, Serrano's, Guayo's, and others.

The newest shopping venue is Arizona Mills, a value-oriented mega-mall and theme park that opened last fall to overflow crowds. Its racetrack configuration allows shoppers to simply keep circling the 175-plus shops until they arrive back at the spot where they started.

For fashion seekers, Biltmore Fashion Park is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year, home to Oilily and Escada, Talbots, Ann Taylor, Saks Fifth Avenue, and others.

Scottsdale Fashion Square, an upscale aggregate of more than 160 fine stores, has a shopping concierge on hand. Scottsdale's famous Fifth Avenue Shops include more than 200 specialty boutiques with Native American handicrafts and jewelry.

At the other end of the spectrum are outlet malls, about an hour south of Phoenix.