Southern Arizona Tucson

Tucson National – Catalina Course

The Buzz: Nestled in the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains, the Catalina course at Omni Tucson National has hosted more than 30 PGA Tour events and countless amateur championships while providing its guests with one of the best golf resort experiences in Arizona. In fact, it has been named one of Golf Digest’s “75 Best Golf Resorts in North America” and is a Conde’ Nast Silver Award winner, all with good reason.

Tucson National - Catalina Course

The National, as many locals call it, provides a first-class experience all the way around, and that certainly includes its two golf courses – Catalina and its baby sister, the Sonoran Course. Catalina is a traditional, tree-lined layout that originally was designed in 1960 by noted architect Robert Bruce Harris. Now, Robert von Hagge and Bruce Devlin often are recognized as the designers, and they probably deserve the credit because they overhauled much of what Harris created and added another nine holes, which later became part of the second course. Catalina began hosting a PGA Tour event that was played under about 15 names before being erased from the tour schedule, and its winners included Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson, Lee Trevino and Phil Mickelson. Its most famous champion, however, was Johnny Miller, who captured the title three consecutive years from 1974-76, earning him the title “The Desert Fox.”

The Champions PGA TOUR chose the Catalina course to host its Cologuard Classic PGA TOUR Champions event beginning in 2015 to take advantage of all the trademarks of this plush layout. You can expect a stout defense of his title from reigning Cologuard Classic champion Bernhard Langer, World Golf Hall of Famer, when the tournament returns February 21-28, 2021.

Catalina has four sets of tees at 7,262, 6,610, 5,717 and 5,414 yards. The par-73 is rated at 75.4 with a slope of 136 from the tips and tends to play longer than the yardage suggests. Although the terrain is fairly level, plenty of challenges are created by trees lining the fairways, water hazards that come into play on seven holes and more than 80 strategic bunkers, some of which are very deep and penal. Course knowledge is a definite bonus on this layout, especially with its dogleg holes, where bunkers and hidden ponds are positioned to dissuade golfers from cutting corners. Greens are pure, medium in size and feature undulations that put a premium on high, soft approach shots.

Signature holes are the ninth and 18th, a pair of par 4s of similar length. No. 9, at 436 yards, is a sharp dogleg right with a lake lurking around the right side of the elbow. With that, the tee shot requires both length and precision, and an approach to an elevated green well protected by bunkers front and back.

The finishing hole, at 443 yards, annually ranked as one of the five toughest holes on the PGA Tour when it was part of the rotation. The dogleg right has large lakes squeezing both sides of the fairway, creating a somewhat blind tee shot, which leaves a mid- to long-iron to an elevated green protected by large, deep bunkers front, left and back. On the way to one of his two tour victories at National, Mickelson once dazzled fans and fellow pros by intentionally skipping a shot across the lake on the left side because he had to hit his ball under overhanging tree branches. Palmer, on the other hand, once took a seven on this hole, costing him the tournament title.

When your round is finished, there are several places to relax, including the poolside Cabana Bar, Legends Bar & Grill overlooking the 18th green, and Bob’s Steak & Chop House. This resort has a more intimate feel than most of the others that have been built further north in recent years, but offers plenty of five-star amenities, including 167 well-appointed guest rooms, casitas and haciendas, a fitness center, luxurious spa, swimming pools, hot tubs and tennis courts.

Southern Arizona Tucson

Sewailo Golf Club

Sewailo Golf Club at Casion del Sol – Arizona Golf Course Reviews
The golf buzz in Tucson for over a year now has been all about the city’s latest, greatest golf course, Sewailo, the first true champion- ship layout to be built in Arizona in the past five years. Adding to the excitement: former PGA Tour player/ Golf Channel analyst/architect Notah Begay has his name on it.

Sewailo, pronounced “Say-why-lo,” is an enterprise of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe, which also owns Casino Del Sol. The casino is in the southwestern corner of Tucson off Valencia Road, and the 7,500-yard golf course, which is managed by Scottsdale-based Troon, is directly south of the casino.

Begay and his NB3 Consulting Company served as the driving force for Sewailo, with help from fellow architect Ty Butler and the tribe.

So what does Begay, a budding star in both the architectural and broadcasting industries, think of his third course, which follows Sequoyah National in Cherokee, N.C., and Firekeeper Golf Club in Topeka, Kan.?

“It’s vastly different from anything I’ve done yet, chiefly because we had to move a lot of dirt to create the type of big-theater feel we were after,” said Begay, a three-time All-American at Stanford and a four-time winner on the PGA Tour.

“What we came up with in working with the Pascua Yaqui Tribe is a golf course that is a hybrid between a desert and parkland style of layout. It’s a golf course that is in harmony with the desert, and that’s really the heritage of the Pascua Yaquis, who according to their history come from the ‘Flower World.’ ”

Landscapes Unlimited, which works with Begay on all of his projects that are done exclusively with Native American tribes, had the task of moving 30,000 shrubs and trees, as well as hundreds of saguaros and other indigenous plants.

According to Begay, the planting and replanting were quite successful on the 100-acre property that includes 14 acres of lakes and 1 mile of creeks. Additionally, there was a massive amount of rockwork done throughout Sewailo, including bridges and green settings.

“Sewailo has three distinct feels or segments to the golf course,” said Begay, 40, who has an economics degree from Stanford and once shot 59 in a Tour event, the third player in history to do so.

“There are lakes and streams at the beginning, and then the water disappears and you’re in the desert before the water re- emerges. And from the first tee to the 18th hole, there are lots of wildflowers. That was my goal, to implement the Pascua Yaqui Tribe’s story into the golf course.”

The Yaquis migrated from Mexico to Arizona way back in 552 AD, where they lived between the Yaqui and Gila rivers. The history of the tribe can be found at Sewailo is the Yaquis’ biggest enterprise following the casino, which today employs more than 700 members. The course also could add as many as 75 jobs to the payroll.

Dan LaRouere is the course’s general manager, after spending the last 20 years as the GM of the Westin La Paloma, also in Tucson, and says the hype for Tucson’s latest property, which follows the opening of the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club at Dove Mountain in 2008, “has been off the charts.”

“This is a golf town with lots of great golf properties, and we’re the new guy in town. Plus, we’re managed by Troon. “It seems that everybody is talking about us, and that’s probably the reason we’ve already booked so many tournaments.

LaRouere noted, “It’s a beautiful golf course in a beautiful desert-mountain setting, with lots of water, bunkers and wildflowers.” He also labeled fairways as “generous,” with green settings that are “as good as any I’ve seen in Arizona.”

“The secret will be to navigate your ball through the strategically placed water because it will get you if you hit an errant shot,” LaRouere said. “And the bunkers, which are on nearly every fairway and around every green, also must be negotiated if you’re going to shoot a good score.”

The 18th hole is the perfect example, as the fairway and near- island green bring water into play. It is a dramatic conclusion that crescendos at the finish, although LaRouere wasn’t quite ready to concede that the 18th is Sewailo’s signature hole.

“That’s a matter of opinion. A lot of people think that, but a lot of people also think Number 3 is pretty special,” he said. “The third hole is a short par 3 over water, and, personally, I’m leaning to Number 3.”

One thing is already dead-solid perfect about Sewailo, LaRouere added. And it’s all about the guy who worked for four years with the tribe to conceptualize the idea.

“Notah Begay is a rock star to Native Americans, not just with the Yaquis,” he said.

Begay, who is one-half Navajo and one- quarter San Felipe and Isleta, understands his role for the tribes he builds golf courses for to a “T.” He also gets golf, which makes for a terrific one-two punch.

“The vast majority of the tribe has never played golf, doesn’t really know the game, and so my role is to help them form their ideas,” said Begay, who has several other projects with Native American tribes in various stages.

“I’m like a facilitator in that my experiences in golf help bring things to life for them,” he said. “And golf is a very tough business these days, so I want to make sure I’m going to get them a golf course that will be so good that it’s profitable.”

How good is Sewailo, according to the guy who dreamed it up?

“I think we hit a home run, although we still have to see how the people take to it,” Begay said with cautious optimism. “I think the water holes are exceptional, and we were very creative in that we brought in lakes to fill in all the dirt we moved to make mounding and bunkers. And we moved a lot.

“In the end, it was a very balanced project, and the cooperation and input from the tribe goes a long way in explaining why Sewailo is so phenomenal.” Visit Sewailo Golf Club at

Our AZGA “Local Hang” for Sewailo Golf Club is the attendant Casino del Sol Resort Hotel and Casino. Accomodations, casino gaming and food and beverage are all first rate. The hotel and golf course are such a great one-two punch, you ought to consider expanding your “hang time” to a few days. You’ll enjoy your stay and another loop or two around Sewailo will be time very well spent.

Before you tee it up in Arizona, click Arizona Golf Course Reviews for our “Insider’s Playing Review” of every golf course in the State – all 325 of ‘em!

It’s just part of “All Things Arizona Golf” presented by the Arizona Golf Authority.

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.

Read the Arizona Golf Course List AZGA Player’s Arizona Golf Course Review for every golf course in Arizona at

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

Duncan Southern Arizona

Greenlee Country Club

Arizona Golf Authority AZGA Golf Course Buzz: When it comes to golf in Duncan, Arizona, Greenlee Country Club is the only game in town. With a population of less than 1,000, Duncan is located in Greenlee County near the southeast corner of Arizona, where the Gila River crosses the Arizona-New Mexico state border. Technically, the town lies on both sides of the river, although it is primarily located south of the Gila. Duncan was founded in the mid 19th century as land added to the United States through the Mexican Cession.

Greenlee Country Club, a public course built in 1950, has few frills and is a nine-hole layout that plays at 3,226 yards with about 25 bunkers. For 18 holes, it is rated at 68.1 with a slope of 110. The par 5s, which are the fifth and seventh, play at 474 and 556 yards and the two par 3s are set at 136 and 167. A lake guards the green on No. 5 and is the only water in play on the course. The first hole, at 454 yards, is the longest par 4, and the finishing par 4 plays at 397.

Amenities include a bar, snack shop, driving range and putting and chipping greens. After your round, it is worth taking some time to explore this region. Duncan lies in a popular outdoor recreation area that is well known for the Native American artifacts left behind by Anasazi and other pre-historic cultures.

The little town has suffered greatly during its history, being destroyed twice by floods and once by fire. Its most famous resident is former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who grew up on the Lazy B Ranch and wrote a book about her experiences there.

Read the Arizona Golf Authority AZGA Golf Course Buzz for every golf course in Arizona at; it’s the complete Arizona golf course directory.

Southern Arizona Tucson

Forty Niner Country Club

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.