The Buzz: This semi-private course, designed by regarded architect William Francis “Billy” Bell, is one of the oldest layouts in the Tucson area and one of only two to host both PGA and LPGA tour events in that city. In fact, it was the host site when Jack Nicklaus made his only appearance in the former PGA Tour event played under various names, including the Tucson Open. The course, which opened in 1961 and hosted PGA events in 1964-65, is a traditional design nestled between the Catalina and Rincon Mountains, where it meanders along a wooded riverbed with fairways lined by mature trees and native desert shrubbery. It’s a layout that places emphasis on accuracy over length, and players who try to overpower it usually end up in trouble. There are three sets of tees at 6,641, 6,114 and 5,661 yards, and the par-72 layout has a rating of 70.5 and slope of 126.
Mesquite, giant cottonwood, eucalyptus and weeping willow trees line the fairways, which include several dogleg holes. The back nine is the more interesting of the two. It starts and ends with par-3 holes at 154 and 161 yards where tee shots must clear the same lake and those over the greens leave tough up-and-downs.
No. 11 is a 530-yard par 5 with a narrow landing area, bunkers and out-of-bounds along both sides and a green that slopes steeply back to front. Nicklaus once made an 11 on 11.
No. 12 is another strong hole, a 396-yard par 4 with a 90-degree dogleg left and a large tree that dissuades you from cutting the corner. On the front, the third hole is a tough par 3 at 198 yards from the back tee, where a bunker looms on the right side of a small green that slopes front to back, making it difficult to stop your ball on the green. Short shots won’t run up to the green and long shots always run off the back.
Its status is a little unusual in that it offers memberships and features amenities common at private clubs, yet it allows public play and is part of the IRI Golf Group, which handles four courses in the Tucson Area (Arizona National, San Ignacio and Canoa Hills are the others) and the Raven at South Mountain in Phoenix. It also is one of seven courses on the “Wildcat Trail,” a frequent-player program that offers green-fee discounts.