J.W. Marriott Starr Pass – Coyote / Rattler / Roadrunner Course

ADDRESS: 3645 West Starr Pass Boulevard
Tucson, Arizona 85745
TYPE: Resort
HOLES: 27
PHONE: 520-670-0400
WEBSITE: www.starrpass.com

Arizona Golf Courses – J.W. Marriott Starr Pass
This parcel has evolved from a historic stagecoach stop – to a Tournament Players Club, handpicked by the PGA Tour commissioner – to a golf course re-invented by the legendary Arnold Palmer as the centerpiece of the JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort and Spa. It opened in 1986 and remains one of the crown jewels of Tucson golf. It is comprised of three nine-hole courses – Coyote, Rattler and Roadrunner – that are played in 18-hole combinations, wrapping around and through the resort property.

Starr Pass – J.W. Marriott – Tucson

Rattler is the longest of the three and grabs you out of the gate with stunning views of the Tucson metro area and surrounding mountain ranges. Roadrunner, which starts just yards outside of the resort doors, features dramatic elevation changes and swirling winds created by the Tucson Mountains that make the challenge exceedingly more interesting. Coyote is the more isolated of the three, heading west, away from the city and into the natural habitat of jackrabbits, deer, quail and other critters common to Southwest climes.

Throw in six sets of tees on each nine and you’ve got about as many combinations as there are lottery numbers. So let’s try to simplify a touch. Played from the back tees, yardages, ratings and slope are: Roadrunner/Rattler 6,657, 72, 147; Coyote/Roadrunner 6,696, 72.1, 143; Rattler/Coyote 6,913, 73, 139.

Yardages from the front tees, respectively, are 5,450, 4,708 and 5,145. Common denominators are that these layouts aren’t particularly long, but the slope ratings suggest they are tough as shoe leather. Keep your golf ball in play or pay the price for errant shots. By resort-course standards, this represents a stiff challenge.

The course originated as an 18-hole layout called TPC at Starr Pass when Deane Beman was commissioner of the PGA Tour. Well-regarded Bob Cupp and Craig Stadler designed what are now the Coyote and Rattler nines to become a PGA Tour stop. That combination often is referred to as the Classic Course and at various times during the year is set up to play as it did formerly. The original layout served as host or co-host of tour events from 1987-96, including the 1991 event when Phil Mickelson, who was attending Arizona State University at the time, became the fourth amateur player to win a tour event.

Palmer and Company designed Roadrunner and revamped the original 18 in 2004, completing the layout which is sanctioned as an Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses. Public, daily-fee rounds account for about half of the play here.

Memorable holes include No. 5 on Rattler, No. 6 on Coyote and No. 2 on Roadrunner. The fifth on Rattler is a 510-yard par 5 with a split fairway and it, along with the third hole, a 193-yard par 3, were ranked among the most difficult holes on the tour while the course was part of that rotation. The sixth on Coyote is the resort’s signature hole, which is apropos because it marks the site of a stagecoach trail established by Richard Starr about 125 years ago. At 337 yards from the back tees, it is the shortest par 4 on the course but the temptation to hit a driver instead of a long iron off the tee is high, even though you can’t see the green. Roadrunner’s second hole is a downhill par 4 at 450 yards from the back tee where your approach shot has to carry a wash that wraps around the front and right side of a narrow green. The only water in play occurs when there is enough rainfall to flow through the normally dry washes.

Starr Pass also has a program that offers free golf to kids when accompanied by an adult. Practice and clubhouse facilities are first class and resort amenities are among the best in the Tucson area, including excellent dining at the Catalina Steakhouse.

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