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.

Southern Arizona Tucson

Tucson Country Club

Arizona Golf Authority AZGA Arizona Golf Course Review: Tucson Country Club is one of only a handful of grand old golf course gems left mostly intact in Arizona, so it’s not surprising that it’s an exclusive, private club with the highest quality golf and amenities package.

Tucson Country Club was established in 1947 by a small group of people who purchased a 580-acre ranch in a then-remote area surrounded by stunning mountain views and abundant wildlife. That group wisely chose the legendary father-son team of William P. and William F. “Billy” Bell to design their golf course.

Updating projects by Bell family disciples Red Lawrence and Arthur “Jack” Snyder took place in ’63 and ’72. While they retained the classic design elements for which the Bells are well known, they also modernized it in a way that kept it relevant to an evolving game; proof lies in the course’s resume which some consider the most impressive in the state.

Tucson Country Club has hosted 18 USGA championship qualifiers, eight Arizona Amateurs, the 1964 Western Amateur and is the only Arizona course to host two USGA championships – the ’82 Senior Amateur and ’92 Senior Women’s Amateur.

The Club is the home course of Dr. Ed Updegraff, who many consider to be the best amateur player in Arizona history. He won 27 club championships, along with a U.S. Senior Amateur, played on numerous Walker Cup teams and received the Bob Jones Award, the top honor presented annually by the USGA.

So, history is dripping from this facility that once served as rich farming land for Navajo and Yavapai tribes. As for the course, it is a traditional, parkland layout with medium-sized greens, fairways lined with olive and eucalyptus trees, three lakes that bring water into play on five holes, and about 90 strategically-placed bunkers. Four sets of tees range from 5,708 to 6,954 yards with a rating of 72.8 and slope of 130.

Trickery is not part of the challenge, which is formidable, and the proximity of greens and tees makes it a good walk unspoiled. The front nine offers up far more birdie opportunities than the back, which can be a “back-breaker.”

Tucson Country Club

The real “fun” starts with the par-3 12th, which plays at 169 yards from the tips and requires a shot over a small pond. A larger lake borders the right side of the next hole, a 518-yard par 5, but the best is the three-hole finishing stretch.

No. 16 is a 411-yard par 4 with a tight fairway and large bunkers guarding the front-left and front-right of the green, leaving a narrow approach. The 17th, one of the state’s best par-3 holes, plays at 235 with two huge bunkers in front. The 18th offers a 462-yard par-4 with three cross-bunkers in the primary landing area and four more surrounding the green.

The toughest part about playing Tucson Country Club might be just getting to the first tee; regular golf memberships require two sponsors and five referrals on the application. Regular memberships are equity and others are non-equity, including junior, activity, social and non-resident varieties. Other amenities here include one of the finest tennis facilities in the state, with 11 courts, swimming, a fitness center, extensive children’s programs and casual and fine dining.

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.

Green Valley Southern Arizona Tucson

Torres Blancas Golf Club

Arizona Golf Authority AZGA Arizona Golf Course Review: Of the 10 courses built in the active adult community of Green Valley, about 20 miles south of Tucson, the Lee Trevino design at Torres Blancas ranks in the top three on most people’s list.

Torres Blancas, Spanish for “white bell towers” is nestled in the Santa Cruz River Valley at the foot of the picturesque Santa Rita Mountains, which provide some excellent backdrops. One of Arizona’s largest pecan orchards runs along a portion of the course, which also offers views of landmarks such as Elephant Head peak.

The course opened in 1995 and features three lakes with water in play on five holes, large, undulating greens and rolling terrain with mild desert transition areas. Trevino’s layout is certainly player-friendly until you step back to the tips where it’s loaded with challenges, particularly on the back nine.

Five sets of tees offer a level par-72 test from 5,010 to 7,111 yards; from the tips it’s rated at 72.6 with a slope of 130.

Highlights of the front nine are the 392-yard par-4 second where your approach shot must carry a desert-transition area, and the risk/reward par-4, 327-yard fifth hole, featuring an elusive, narrow, yet drivable green for the big hitters, a layup and tricky short iron approach for the rest of us.

The back nine at Torres Blancas plays 400 yards longer than the front and is the stronger of the two. The thrills begin at No. 12, the 181-yard par-3 signature hole. Only one shot will do; an all-water carry over the lake to an enormous, contoured putting surface.

One of the longest holes in the state of Arizona greets you at the 14th tee – a 648-yard par 5 – where you can shave off some distance if you hug the right side and manage to keep your ball in play. The green is wide open in front for run-ons but tricky to putt.

No. 18 completes the loop with a classic 466-yard par-4 that plays uphill; water threatens on the left. The green complex is a sloping affair with a bunker on the right; par here deserves special notation on the card.

Practice facilities at Torres Blancas include an all-turf driving range, putting and chipping greens. After the round, golfers can relax at The Grill at Torres Blancas restaurant.

Expert golf instruction and most importantly, custom club fitting, is available at Torres Blancas 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.

Torres Blancas is part of Tucson’s Wildcat Trail network, which offers discount pricing at seven of the Tucson area’s top golf facilities. Directly across the street is Canoa Ranch Golf Club, another quality layout in Green Valley and the sister course to Torres Blancas; ask about the memberships that provide equal access to the two 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.

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.

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.