Arizona Golf Courses — Torreon Golf CLub
The late Robert Von Hagge worked as a commercial artist before he became a golf course architect and liked to sketch his projects before they became reality. Many who have played Torreon’s Tower and Cabin courses say he created a masterpiece here, but then, he started with a pretty awesome canvas that lies in the heart of the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest.
Von Hagge, who died in 2010, has always been considered an eccentric designer. But his course designs at Doral’s Blue Monster and Tucson National are traditional classics, and he was completely captivated by the topography he found at the Torreon site amid the natural beauty of the White Mountains in northeastern Arizona.
“It’s beautiful, rolling country with stands of Ponderosa Pine you wouldn’t believe,” he said while he was designing the Tower Course, which opened in 1999. “We have some spectacular open meadows and marshlands, so we have all the natural elements we need to create a premier, world-class facility.”
Tower is the first of the two golf courses built at Torreon, a private club located in the White Mountains community of Show Low. At the wish of Desert Troon of Scottsdale, which spearheaded this project, Von Hagge created holes that were both memorable and distinctive. His design embraces the landscape with seven lakes bringing plenty of water into play, and each green seems to have its own personality. Forced carries approaching several greens add to the challenge. The Tower Course has five sets of tees ranging from 5,195 to 7,134 yards and is rated at 72.3 with a slope of 143 from the tips.
Highlights of the layout include the eighth, ninth and 15th holes. The par-5 eighth is the longest hole on the course at 593 yards and features a double dogleg that can be shortened slightly by attempting to carry the first bunker complex along the right side. From there, it plays downhill and to the left, requiring a shot over a series of pot bunkers to cut off a little more length.
The ninth is a 424-yard par 4 that doglegs right, around a tree-lined corner to a green situated between two ponds and surrounded by wetlands. No. 15 is a 181-yard par 3 that leaves little margin for error, although there is some bailout room on the right side. The putting surface is a medium-sized target but is protected by a small pond in front and three bunkers around the left side. Tower also has a delightful risk-reward finishing hole; the 377-yard par 4 plays through more wetlands to a green in a serene postcard setting.
The Cabin Course, completed in 2007, has a little more of a wilderness feel. It is set among a thick pine forest and travels over hilly terrain with a lot more change in elevation than the Tower Course. With elevated tees on virtually every hole, and small greens with subtle undulations, it presents some terrific downhill approach shots and some challenging uphill climbs, with par-3 offerings being the strength of the layout.
Von Hagge was joined by his longtime partners Michael Smelek and Richard Baril in this design, and it’s routed in the classic manner of nine holes out and nine holes back to the clubhouse, with the popular namesake “Cabin” located at the turn. This unique rustic building serves as a snack bar during golf rounds and a delightful dining establishment in the evenings.
The Cabin Course has five sets of tees ranging from 5,348 to 7,148 yards, with a rating of 73.5 and slope of 138 from the back tees. The front nine presents some interesting routing with three par-3’s, three par-4’s and three par-5’s. The Cabin’s par-3 collection plays at 172, 211, 237, 162 and 222-yards, and they leave quite an impression on first-timers to the course. The ninth is the longest of those and features a penalizing wash that runs from the front of the tee area down the left side of the hole; a high draw is the shot required to avoid a bunker and wash to reach the green.
No. 12 is the shortest of the group and is a deceptive hole with a green framed by water and fronted by a small pot bunker. With the elevation here, you can afford to take one club less than the yardage suggests and that will help in avoiding the water behind the green. Some consider the fifth to be the signature hole, however. This par 4, which plays at 416 yards from the tips, requires a tee shot over a ravine and an approach over another ravine to reach an elevated green.
Very few homes encroach upon the Cabin Course property, which presents views from the highest elevations of the sprawling White Mountains, a landmark engulfed by the wondrous playground that is known as the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest and spans 2.63 million acres. Once inhabited by Native American tribes and pioneers, it now serves as a wonderful summer respite for residents of the often-sweltering deserts of Arizona.
Torreon, another word for fortress, is a private club with three membership levels, for property owners and non-owners. Members have access to first-rate dining facilities, a fully equipped fitness and aquatic center, spa, tennis facilities, an equestrian center and family recreation center. This area of the White Mountains is an outdoor activities paradise with more than 600 miles of streams, more than 40 lakes and a 200-mile trail system, that offers some of the best hiking, biking, canoeing, fishing, horseback riding, and of course golf, in the Arizona.