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.

Northern Arizona Show Low

Torreon Golf Club – Tower Course / Cabin Course

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.

torreon-golf-club-cabin-course-photoVon 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.

Northern Arizona Sedona

Sedona Golf Resort

Arizona Golf Courses – Sedona Golf Resort

Located in the surreal red rocks that surround Sedona, a new player may suddenly realize the primary challenge of teeing it up at the golf resort of the same name is Mother nature. Yes, the toughest test in the “Land of Awe’’ is simply staying focused on the golf shot at hand as panoramic vistas, majestic mountain backdrops, and contrasting tones of red and green present boundless distractions.


And the golf’s pretty good, too. What’s weird about Sedona Golf Resort is that despite the 18 awesome holes designed by Gary Panks (well, 17, if you don’t count the 18th), this pristine property has gone bust – twice. That’s right, Sedona Golf Resort filed for BK in 1989, made a righteous comeback for 20 years and counting, and then fell back into bankruptcy in 2010.

Considering the course’s entertaining variety and spectacular views, not to mention some beautiful bent-grass greens, it makes an avid golfer shake his or her head.

Certainly the 210-yard 10th hole will blow your golf socks off, as the par 3 stretches out before your eyes with regal Cathedral Rock rising up in the background. It’s the single best view of Sedona’s red-rock splendor and those unfortunate souls who don’t play golf never see it.

In fact there are numerous red-rock formations of note in almost every direction, all day long. And the 10th is not the only stellar par 3 on the course, as the 17th, a 155-yard mid-iron over water to a semi-island green, is also worthy of signature status.

And the same can be said of Nos. 4, 6, 11, 13, 15 and 16. But NOT 18, which is a downhill par 4, with water on the left, that simply runs out of room. And, by the way, if you slice the ball at the 18th, expect to pay for one of those ubiquitous condo windows that frame the right side, at least that’s what it says on the irritating sign posted on the tee box.

It’s all just a modest reminder that really good stuff in life is not all good, all the time. Sedona Golf Resort is so good, though, it warrants consideration as a one-day turnaround day trip from the Phoenix-Scottsdale metro area. Better yet, wine and dine around town, spend the night and make a loop or two the next day as well, it’s that good.

The Arizona Golf Authority AZGA “Local Hang” for Sedona Golf Resort is no drive at all; the onsite bar and restaurant has perhaps the best view of well-known Bell Rock, with a picture window that literally frames it like a masterpiece. In other words, the perfect spot to enjoy a Oak Creek Amber that just happens to be brewed right down the road.

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

Flagstaff Northern Arizona

Pine Canyon Golf Club

Arizona Golf Courses — Pine Canyon Golf Club

Flagstaff is known for having some pretty awesome private clubs and this one, surrounded by Coconino National Forest, definitely ranks among the finest in the state. Pine Canyon was one of the last courses designed by Jay Morrish before his retirement. When you visit you’ll see he certainly saved some of his best for last.

Pine Canyon Golf Club’s tag line calls it the place “where upscale meets down to earth” and that is apropos for this facility that rests at about 7,000 feet of elevation with the impressive San Francisco Peaks providing a stunning backdrop.


Combine that with an award-winning clubhouse, soaring pine forests and aspen trees, seven ponds and lakes, numerous winding streams, generous fairways, six-to-10 tee boxes on each hole and lush bent-grass greens and you’ve got a truly memorable golf experience.

From the tips, it plays at 7,272 yards and is rated at 73.1 with a slope of 133. While it has plenty of challenges and hazards, especially from the back tees, Morrish made this a player-friendly layout with open landing areas in the fairways and open-entry greens like those found on links courses.

“It certainly isn’t Scotland, but I’ve always liked that type of golf where you can hit knockdown shots and run your ball up to the green,” Morrish said. “I think you need to give golfers options to play a variety of shots.”

There are so many good holes and postcard views at Pine Canyon, which opened in 2004, that it’s tough to pick a signature, but many would choose the 18th. The downhill dogleg par 4 plays at 487 yards from the tips to a green with a pond along the front and right side. A large lake stands behind the green with San Francisco Peaks in the background.

The entire back nine is a delight, starting with the 10th hole, a 435-yard par 4 that has a lake wrapping around the right side of the green, a creek cutting across in front, four bunkers surrounding the back and a fairway that slopes toward the water.

Hole 11 – Eagle’s Nest – Pine Canyon Golf Club, Flagstaff, Arizona

Next up is a 152-yard par 3 to a peninsula green, and then the 12th, named “High Five”, a risk-reward 548-yard par 5 with a long sweeping dogleg right where cutting the corner is tempting but only the longest of hitters dare try.

No. 16 also gets votes for “signature” honors. It is a 595-yard par 5 with a double dogleg, Dawson’s Creek running down the left side and a lake on the right with another stream cutting across the front of the green and wrapping around the left.

Once your last putt drops, you can actually fish for trout in the lake behind the 18th hole or you can head to the 19th hole, aptly named “Double or Nothing” to settle your final bets.

Along with its captivating course, Pine Canyon has an award-winning 35,000-square-foot clubhouse with gourmet dining, outdoor dining, whirlpools, a steam room, health and fitness facility and a full-service spa that offers manicures and massages.

Pine Canyon also has its own trail system and it’s just two miles to historic Walnut Canyon where Sinagua Indians built their dwellings into the cliff faces over 800 years ago; in 1915 it was declared a national monument. It’s worth the short drive to see the remnants of this remarkable feat.

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.