Oro Valley Southern Arizona Tucson

Vistoso Golf Club

Arizona Golf Course Reviews: Located just north of Tucson, the Golf Club at Vistoso marks Tom Weiskopf’s first solo design effort after he parted with architect Jay Morrish and it’s obvious from the get-go that the former PGA Tour pro had a real knack for creating memorable golf holes.

Golf Club at Vistoso

Vistoso is Spanish for “colorful views” and the course offers plenty due to its setting in the picturesque Santa Catalina Mountains, with panoramic views of the nearby Tortolita and Tucson Mountains.

It is a true desert course with all the forced carries one would expect on that style of layout, combined with concepts from classic designers Alister Mackenize, A.W. Tillinghast and Donald Ross including Winged Foot-type finger bunkers and elongated rectangular tee boxes.

The native desert flora and fauna produce a virtual rainbow of colors in cooler months and desert wildlife is abundant here. Little wonder then that after it opened it was nominated by Golf Digest for “Best New Course of the Year” in 1997.

Vistoso has four sets of tees, stretching to 6,932 yards, with a rating of 72.1 and a hefty slope of 147. The front tees play at 5,095 yards.

Head and shoulders above all the great holes here is the signature offering is No. 14, named “Risky.” Every course Weiskopf has designed since features this type of memorable, risk-reward hole but few if any are better than this.

The par-4 measures 350 yards but, because of the dogleg configuration, the green is drivable for long hitters. It has a split fairway and playing to the end of the first portion leaves a 100-yard shot over desert transition to the pin. Hitting to the second portion of fairway leaves a shorter approach but it is to a shallow green with a large bunker in front and three more behind.

No. 8 is memorable as well. The par-4 plays at 389 yards from the tips with a sweeping dogleg left that has a large lake inside the elbow. The lake extends along the left side, wraps behind the green and is backed by a waterfall. Two large bunkers guard the right side of the green and a pot bunker looms on the left side.

The most photographed, however, is the third hole, a 166-yard par-3 named “Tillinghast” in honor of its classic design. The tee shot must find an elevated putting surface featuring two mammoth bunkers on the left side, with the rugged Catalina Mountains serving up a glorious backdrop.

Practice facilities and amenities here are top notch, including the Tortolita Terrace, which is a great spot to relax with wonderful views after the round. The Golf Club at Vistoso is part of the Wildcat Trail network, a local program which offers discounted golf to its members at several of Tucson’s finest courses.

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It’s “All Things Arizona Golf” from the Arizona Golf Authority.

Oro Valley Southern Arizona Tucson

The Views Golf Club at Oro Valley

Arizona Golf Authority AZGA Arizona Golf Course Review: Built in 1986 as a private course called Sun City Vistoso north of Tucson, the Views Golf Course now operates as a public facility that was renamed to reflect the panoramic views of the sprawling Santa Catalina Mountains.

The Views, designed by Greg Nash and Jeff Hardin, is a community-owned facility that blends well with its scenic surroundings north of Tucson with large, rolling greens that are slightly elevated.

The front nine meanders through dry washes and arroyos, while the back climbs to higher elevations up to 2,600 feet with elevated tee shots, sharp doglegs and excellent mountain views. Four sets of tees range from 5,111 to 6,715 yards, with a rating of 72.4 and slope of 137 from the tips.

Each nine has an excellent finishing hole. The ninth, a par-4 of 399 yards, has been voted as one of Tucson’s “18 Dream Holes.” It features a split fairway on a hole where the best play is to lay up as close as possible to the edge of large bluff in order to shoot for a green that is surrounded on the right side and behind by a series of large bunkers.

Right behind it, the par-4 10th, at 408 yards, is the only hole with water in play; a lake threatens the left side of the fairway, a smaller pond lurks on the right.

The par-4 18th plays at just 349 yards from the back tee, but a pot bunker at the end of the fairway seems to attract more than its share of shots. The approach shot must be precise as bunkers guarding the entire front portion of the green swallow up anything short and a large bunker positioned in back grabs everything long.

The Views offers annual passes as well as daily-fee rates and has popular 9- and 18-hole leagues for men, women and couples that play weekly events. Members are allowed to use private carts. Amenities include an all-turf driving range and complete short-game practice area. The full-service restaurant called The Café, offers a patio that overlooks the course and provides an excellent spot for post-round libations and scenic mountain views.

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Oro Valley Southern Arizona Tucson

Stone Canyon Golf Club

Arizona Golf Authority AZGA Golf Course Buzz: If you would like to experience the true beauty of Arizona’s rugged desert landscape and play a little golf while you’re at it, Stone Canyon is just the place for you.

Stone Canyon Golf Club - Oro Valley

This private club, nestled against the Tortolita Mountains just north of Tucson in Oro Valley, is one of those layouts where you’ll wish you had a camera in your golf bag.

The panorama is dominated by a combination of spectacular mountain ranges, boulders as big as houses, virtual forests of towering saguaro cacti, flora and fauna with colors you didn’t think possible in a desert climate. You’ll be up close and personal with the native furry and feathered inhabitants as well, including mule deer, gila monsters, bobcats, roadrunners, javelina and desert quail. The whole property is a nature preserve that happens to be home to a golf course ranked the second-best in the state, #68 overall in the country and #2 for residential courses by Golf Digest magazine in 2010.

On the flip side, a struggling economy has made it difficult for this high-end, non-equity property to attract members in recent years, and the amenities package has taken a hit as a result. Stone Canyon opened in 2000 and although still doesn’t have a permanent clubhouse as of yet, its fitness facility is first-rate and the attendant indoor and outdoor dining is exquisite.

The course was designed by Jay Morrish, the famous understudy of Robert Trent Jones, George Fazio and Jack Nicklaus, who later teamed with Tom Weiskopf to create some of Arizona’s finest courses. Morrish said he was “overwhelmed by the site” and agreed to do the project “in about 14 seconds,” adding, “Nature designed the course. I was just the custodian.”

Stone Canyon offers five sets of tees, ranging from 7,353 to 5,133 yards, with a rating of 73.9 and a formidable slope of 145 from the tips. Just 78 acres of turf are in play, placing a premium on accuracy, while undulating greens, slopes, vast bunkers and thick rough put a golfer’s short game to the test.

Highlights of the round are two-hole stretches at Nos. 9-10 and 17-18. The ninth is a par-3 playing 227 yards from the elevated back tee; the tee ball falls some 75-feet to the green complex below. The 10th is a brutish par-5 of 622 yards, with another significant drop to the fairway, and plays to a smallish green with an approach over water. No, it’s not the longest hole on the course – that would be par-5 15th stretching 632 yards.

The finish at Stone Canyon is a pair of thrilling par-4s that vary in length by nearly 200 yards. No. 17 plays just 306 yards and is named Ambush Canyon because it swings down through a series of nefarious bunkers that will make you feel like you’re riding shotgun on a stagecoach with outlaws lurking behind every rock. The 18th, stretching 503 yards and a par-4 on the card, serves up the best mountain views on the course. If you can finish par, par here, your partners should carry you off the course on their shoulders.

Practice facilities are ranked among the best in the country, with about 12 acres of game-improvement area, and right behind it is a true 19th hole – a par 3 nicknamed “Double or Nothin” – that’s a lot of fun to play, even if there are no holdover bets to settle.

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It’s “All Things Arizona Golf” from the Arizona Golf Authority.

Oro Valley Southern Arizona Tucson

Oro Valley Country Club

Arizona Golf AZGA Buzz: It is one of the oldest private clubs in the Tucson area, but Oro Valley Country Club has remained a relevant player in the golf community by modernizing and delivering quality facilities and superb service.

While many such clubs are named after the towns and cities where they emerge, it worked a little differently in this case. Lou Landon, who was a frequent visitor to the area, saw the need for a course and had this one built, opening in 1959. A town grew up around the course and incorporated 15 years later, taking its name from the golf course to become Oro Valley.

Robert Bruce Harris, a noted golf architect from Texas, handled the design. The entire course was renovated in 1987 under the direction of Keith Foster, who was a protégé of regarded architect Arthur Hills.

Much of OVCC’s charm comes from its location along the beautiful Pusch Ridge section of the Santa Catalina Mountains. The club has hosted the Pac-10 Conference championships as recently as 2006, the Southwest Section of the PGA Championship in 2008 and has been the site of U.S. Open qualifying tournaments.

There are six sets of tees with the longest at 7,023 yards and the shortest at 5,596. From the tips, the course is rated at 73.8 with a slope of 132. It features a traditional style layout and is predominantly flat although there are some nice elevation changes, tree-lined fairways, smooth bent-grass greens and dramatic views on many of the holes.

No. 18 is the obvious signature hole, and was created during the redesign by adding a 1 ½-acre retention lake that runs down the left side. It starts about 225 yards from the tee on this 415-yard par 4 and wraps around the back of the green. A large bunker guards the right side, creating some difficult sand shots that can run all the way across the green and into the lake. That combination makes it one of the tougher finishing holes in the area and, with a waterfall and Pusch Ridge providing the backdrop, one of the most beautiful.

Foster did a particularly good job of creating dogleg holes that entice golfers to cut the corners but those who do are gambling that they can keep their shots clear of bunkers and mature trees on the inside of the elbows.

In 2006, the club built a beautiful $6 million clubhouse, which was four times as much as its members paid for the entire property in 1961. It includes a state-of-the-art fitness facility, several fine-dining options, a tranquil patio area and a busy social schedule.

Oro Valley Country Club has several member options, including regular, executive, single, corporate, intermediate and social memberships. It also has a member-for-a-day policy for prospective members.