Southern Arizona Tucson

Dell Urich Golf Course

Dell Urich Course at Randolph Park - Tuscon

It is considered the “Little Sister,” but for nearly 50 years, the Dell Urich Golf Course at Randolph Park has been like the favorite uncle to public golfers in southern Arizona. Formerly called Randolph South, it was renamed in honor of the first golf pro at the municipal facility, which hosted an LPGA Tour event for several years at the Big Sister course, now simply known as the Randolph Course. Together they are the second-most played public golf complex in the country, behind only Torrey Pines, the San Diego facility that hosts a PGA Tour event annually and was the site of the U.S. Open in 2008. That might be apropos in that the legendary William F. “Billy” Bell designed both golf complexes.

Dell Urich, which opened in 1961, plays to par 70 at 6,633 yards from the back tees and features some dramatic elevation changes and two large lakes that come into play on four holes. It is considered the easier of the two Randolph Park layouts, but still offers plenty of challenges. The course underwent extensive renovation and got its new name in 1996, along with a new clubhouse. It has a traditional, player-friendly design, devoid of the desert hazards that gobble up errant shots, which has particular appeal to many public golfers. For example, there are seven holes longer than 400 yards, but most play downhill. The 17th is the signature hole and one of the toughest short par-3s in the Tucson area. It plays at just 137 yards, but the tee shot is into a prevailing headwind, water surrounds the front and right side of the green and a shallow bunker and trees stand guard on the left. It plays like an island green and is one of Tucson’s more memorable holes.

Another bonus of the Dell Urich course is its location in the heart of Tucson, even though it has a more isolated feel once you get away from the clubhouse area. After your round, there are plenty of good options with restaurants, hotels and the University of Arizona in close proximity.

Southern Arizona Tucson

Del Lago Golf Club

The Buzz: This public course, which opened in 2000, serves as the centerpiece of Rancho del Lago, a master-planned adult community located about 20 miles from downtown Tucson off Interstate 10. The course was designed by Nugent Golf Associates and boasts elevation changes of 120 feet. Del Lago winds its way through the hills and valleys of the high desert, with excellent and unique views of the Rincon and Santa Catalina Mountains. Nine lakes come into play on seven holes, strong bunkering around the undulating tiff-eagle greens adds to the challenge and, from the tips it is a handful at 7,206 yards with a rating of 73.3 and slope of 142. There are five sets of tees on the par-72 layout, with the front tees playing at 5,044 yards.

Southern Arizona golfers appreciate the natural beauty of the course, not to mention its elevation of 3,400 feet, which makes it considerably cooler than Tucson during the summer, and at affordable green fees. The first hole plays at the highest point on the course, which then dips down into a Valley and runs along the Pantano Wash on the back nine. Unlike many desert courses, Del Lago also has a links feel to it, with wide sweeping fairways that drift into surrounding valleys, leading to oversized greens where bump-and-run shots are in order. There is nice variety in this layout, which requires shot-making with many different clubs. Right behind that scenic and intimidating first hole is an excellent par 3 at 203 yards to an elevated green guarded by a pot bunker on the left side and a cluster of bunkers on the right. The back nine builds to a strong finish, starting with the 13th hole, a 198-yard downhill par 3 over water. No. 17 is a risk-reward par 5 at 510 yards from an elevated tee that is reachable in two shots, but only if they are well placed because a wash cuts through the fairway on an angle. No. 18 is a 421-yard par 4 with two lakes. You need to clear the first one off the tee and the second bisects the fairway about 50 yards from the green and wraps around its right side.

The clubhouse has a full-service restaurant, Hacienda del Lago, which serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. An expansive practice facility includes a 12,000-square-foot practice green. Along with scenic mountain views, golfers here are treated to wildlife sightings with rabbits, prairie dogs, ducks and roadrunners among the desert dwellers. Vail is a small community of about 2,500 people in an area named after pioneer rancher Edward Vail, originally served as a water stop for Southern Pacific Railroad and is known for the nearby Colossal Cave, Rincon Mountain District and Saguaro National Park.

If you have the time, Colossal Cave is worth a visit. It is a cave system with 3.5 miles of mapped passageways, where the temperatures stay around 70 degrees year-round and was discovered by hotel owner Soloman Lick in 1879 when he was looking for lost cattle. From 900 to 1450 AD, it was occupied by the Hohokams, Sobaipuri and Apaches, and later became a source of guano, a type of odorless manure used to make fertilizer and gunpowder.

Southern Arizona Tucson

Davis-Monthan AFB Blanchard Golf Course

The Buzz: Rank has its privileges, and at this Tucson Air Force base, it includes access to the Gen. William Blanchard Golf Course, which was designed by civil engineers and opened in 1969. Retired and active military personnel, civilians who work within the base and their guests are allowed to tee it up on this delightful little course that features a traditional layout with plenty of grass, tree-lined fairways and some nice mountain backdrops provided by the Tucson and Santa Catalina ranges.

Blanchard has three sets of tees at 6,611, 6,155 and 5,792 yards with a rating of 70.6 and slope of 128 from the back tees. The course is relatively flat and devoid of homes, making it easily walkable. There are two lakes that bring water into play on the fourth, 13th and 14th holes, with the same hazard encroaching on the latter two.The fourth is a dogleg par 4 at 380 yards. No. 13 is the longest hole on the course, a par 5 at 528 yards and the 14th is another par 4 at 390.

One of the most memorable holes is the par-4 16th, a 342-yard hole that offers up a birdie opportunity if you avoid the large bunker shaped like a vintage aircraft in the left-center of the fairway. In fact, there are several birdie chances on this layout as long as you don’t try to overpower it. Only two of the par-4 holes are longer than 400 yards, with the seventh being the longest at 438, which means it’s not a course where you need to reach for the driver on every tee.

Blanchard has complete practice facilities with a driving range, chipping and putting greens and practice bunker, and its green fees are among the lowest in the Tucson area. After the round, golfers relax in the Eagles Nest, which serves up lunch and breakfast and offers low-cost daily specials. Located in the heart of Tucson, there are plenty of dining and lodging options nearby.

If you’re lucky, you might get an air show during your round, and if you are a fan of historic military aircraft, the Pima Air and Space Museum, just south of Davis-Monthan, is well worth the visit.

Southern Arizona Tucson

Crooked Tree Golf Course

AZGA Arizona Golf Buzz: Formerly known as Arthur Pack Golf Course, this is the only course owned by Pima County and might be the best value play in north Tucson. Designed by golf hall-of-famer Lee Trevino and David Bennett, the course sets among saguaro cacti, ironwood and mesquite trees in a wide-open area of the Sonoran Desert that is devoid of homes and other structures. It has been ranked among the “best places to play” several times by Golf Digest magazine.

The course opened in 1977 and hosted a PGA Tour qualifying event for several years as well as the Southern Arizona Open and is the home of the annual Pima County Amateur Championship. It is desert golf, but with a more traditional design and green fees well below most of its golf neighbors in this area known for upscale resort and private courses.

Crooked Tree is a user-friendly course with generous fairways and relatively flat terrain, which makes it a walkable layout. There are six sets of tees, ranging from 4,965 to 6,919 yards, and the par-72 course is rated at 72.2 with a slope of 132 from the back tees.

The first hole, a 370-yard par 4 also is one of the best on the course. It’s a dogleg right over desert with a fairway bunker on the elbow, but you can carry them with a 260-yard drive. The approach shot is over water and it plays a little longer than the yardage due to a prevailing wind. The green is protected by one bunker on the left and two on the right. Water also comes into play on the sixth, a long par 4 with a lake on the left side of a tiered green and a steep-faced bunker on the right.

Next up is a 135-yard par 3 over that same lake, followed by a snaking 550-yard par 5 with desert along both sides of the fairway and a shallow, horizontal green guarded by three steep bunkers. The ninth hole, a 400-yard par 4 concludes this memorable four-hole stretch with a mirror image of the first hole as it also has a dogleg and lake coming into play.

Among the best holes on the back nine are the par-3 13th, which plays at 175 yards over water and has a severely sloping green, and the par-4 18th at 443 yards with cross bunkers to an elevated green that is well-guarded by bunkers.

Crooked Tree has full practice facilities, including a 13,000-square-foot putting green and pitching green. The clubhouse includes the Crooked Tree Bar and Grill, full-service restaurant with beer and wine bar and free wi-fi service, and there is a comfortable flagstone patio overlooking the course.

The golf facility is located within Arthur Pack Regional Park, which spans 513 acres and includes baseball, softball and soccer fields, armadas with tables and grills, comfort facilities, a snack bar and other amenities.

The course is close to St. Philip’s Plaza, which offers dining, galleries, fashion boutiques and the Windmill Inn & Suites, a clean, comfortable hotel with reasonable rates; the colorful Tucson Botanical Gardens are also nearby.

AZGA Arizona Golf “Local Hang” for Crooked Tree includes Acacia Restaurant, The Marketplace and Pizzeria Vivace, all nearby.

Green Valley Southern Arizona Tucson

Canoa Ranch Golf Course

Arizona Golf Authority AZGA Arizona Golf Course Review: The Santa Rita Mountains, Elephant Head and the Santa Cruz River Valley provide the setting for this course, which Golf Digest named one of its “New Favorites” in 2006. With its dramatic elevation changes, this is both a challenging and scenic course created by design partners Brian Curley and Lee Schmidt of Phoenix, who are known for their innovative designs worldwide.

That becomes apparent early in the round with an imposing rock wall that stands majestically beside the second fairway, producing the first of the “wows” you probably will utter during your round. Several more will be prompted by views of Elephant Head, which has an intriguing history.

This mountain summit, which offers excellent hiking and biking, climbs to 5,607 feet and has had many names, most of which came from Indian tribes.  According to legend, it might have been a site of holy sacrifices or violent death, where Indians killed tribal enemies by throwing them off the peak.  From certain angles, the head of an elephant on the face of the monolith is easy to see, with head held high and the trunk curling downward on the backside of the formation.

“I’ve seen the elephant” was a popular expression by emigrants crossing the plains during the California Gold Rush area and was used as an indication of the progress of their journey in both directions. Now, it is used by golfers who tee it up on this course, which is part of the Wyndham Green Valley Ranch Resort and plays to par 70 at 6,552 yards from the back tees.

As scenic as the front nine is, it gets better after you make the turn. Among the more memorable holes is the 11th, a beast of a par-5 at 577 yards that plays downhill to a green set on a ridge about 40 feet below the fairway. Next up is one of the state’s tougher par-3s that plays at 230 yards with a forced carry across a gully, up a mountainside and often into a prevailing wind. The elevated tees, particularly at 13 and 16, offer stunning scenery. For a touch of the Old West, No. 15 features an aged wind wheel tower in the rough that is clearly visible from another elevated tee on a drivable downhill par-4. This is a course with character and some unconventional design, including its six par-3 holes.

After the round, you can whet your whistle at Grill on the Green. More golf is always a good idea and the resort has a second course called Torres Blancas, designed by golfing legend Lee Trevino, right across the street.

Expert golf instruction and most importantly, custom club fitting, is available at Canoa Ranch from Gary Blaisdell and his Blaisdell Performance Systems teaching staff. Gary has been improving player’s games and customizing their equipment for over 30 years for one very simple reason; his players improve. If your goal is playing more enjoyable golf than you do today, ask Gary to help. He’ll have you authoring those precise golf shots you’ve often seen, but now they’ll be coming off your own clubface.

Along with birding and hiking in the Madera Canyon, attractions in the area include Colossal Cave, Kartchner Caverns, Asarco Mineral Discovery and several historic Spanish missions.

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.