Road Holes — 23 December 2012 by Jim Street
Top Five: Arizona/Tucson

Par-3 hole on the Torolita course, Dove Mountain

Where’s the best place to play golf on the West Coast? We’ll give you hundreds of choices. continues its annual assessment of the Top Five courses to play within 12 West Coast states and British Columbia. Today, the 25-part series focuses on: Arizona/Tucson.


LOCATION: 6501 Boulder Bridge Pass, Marana

DIRECTIONS FROM I-10: Take Tangerine Rd. East and turn left onto N. Dove Mountain Blvd. At roundabout, take first exit onto N. Secret Springs Dr. From Tucson, take LaCholla to Tangerine Rd., go left to N. Dove Mountain Blvd. Turn right to roundabout, take first exit onto N. Secret Springs Dr.

PHONE: 877-572-2770

GREEN FEES: Rates vary, check website:

OPENED: 2009 (Architect: Jack Nicklaus)

LAYOUT: (Saguaro): Par 36, 3,894 yards, serves as front nine for the Accenture Match Play Championship; (Tortolita): Par 36, 3,955 yards, serves as back nine for the Accenture Match Play Championship; (Wild Burro): Par 36, 3,897 yards.

LOWDOWN: Nestled in the desert foothills of the Tortolita Mountain Range, the 27 holes at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club at Dove Mountain feature dramatic elevation changes and stunning views. The three nines were all designed by Jack Nicklaus and are played in three different 18-hole combinations.

The Wild Burro/Saguaro golf course combines Nicklaus’ favorite nine, Wild Burro, with the front nine of the Accenture Match Play Championship. The golf course features intricately contoured greens and carefully placed fairway bunkers. The course plays through canyons and desert washes covered in centuries-old Saguaro cacti.

The third, fourth and fifth holes on the Wild Burro nine are notably challenging with the third featuring an ‘island green’ standing amidst sand and cacti.

SIGNATURE HOLE: No. 6 par-5, 586 yards (Wild Burro). It’s spectacular. Water stretches out from the tee along the left of a narrow landing area, with a pot bunker in play on the right. A wide wash runs in front of a small green, affecting the decision to go for it, or lay-up. Good luck.


LOCATION: 955 West Vistoso Highlands Drive, Tucson

DIRECTIONS FROM I-10: Take Tangerine Road to N. Rancho Vistoso Blvd. Go left to West Vistoso Highlands Dr. Go left to golf course. From downtown Tucson go north on Oracle and go left on Tangerine Rd. Go right on N. Rancho Vistoso Blvd. to West Vistoso Highlands Dr. Go left to golf course.

PHONE: 520-797-9900

GREEN FEES: Rates vary, check web site:

OPENED: 1995: (Architect: Tom Weiskopf)

LAYOUT: Par 72, 6,954 yards (four tee positions)

LOWDOWN: The layout is interesting in that each hole has its own unique personality, making it fun for all golfers. The desert target-style course behooves accuracy off the tee. You will stay dry most of the round as the only hazard is No. 8, a 371-yard, Par-4.Vistoso Golf Club has won many awards since its debut, including the best public golf course in Tucson by Golf Digest.

SIGNATURE HOLE: No. 14, par-4, 323 yards. A classic risk/reward hole as a well-struck drive directly at the pin can get you home, but stray a little and trouble lurks right and left. Wise shot would be left of the green, about 100 yards from the green.


The Preserve at Saddlebrook


LOCATION: 66567 E. Catalina Hills Road, Tucson

DIRECTIONS: From Tucson Airport, take I-10 north to Miracle Mile. Turn right at the light and continue to AZ 77 (Oracle Road). Go left for nearly 30 miles onto Saddle Brooke Blvd. Turn left onto Catalina Hills Drive. Turn left onto E. Catalina Hills Drive and course is on the right.

PHONE: 520 825-9022

GREEN FEES: Rates vary, check web site:

OPENED: 2003 (Architect Dick Bailey)

LAYOUT: Par 72, 7,006 yards (four tee positions)

LOWDOWN: The views are spectacular and virtually every hole is challenging at The Preserve at Saddlebrooke. It winds through the picturesque canyons and foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains north of Tucson. The 18-hole course gives you the feeling that you’re literally on top of the world.

With elevated tees and holes amidst dramatic boulders, the semi-private desert course presents an enjoyable challenge to novices as well as avid golfers, offering a variety of challenging holes, perfectly manicured fairways and majestic mountain views. Join the fun with groups for your skill level.

SIGNATURE HOLE: No. 6, par-3, 147 yards (from the gold tee; pictured at the top). This little par-3 is one of the most spectacular holes in the Tucson area. It sits in the middle of trouble, starting with a bushes and worse from tee to green. Go left and your ball is on a hillside. Hit it right and you are down a hill. In other words, aim for the middle and don’t miss in any direction, although going a bit long is OK.


LOCATION: 10000 North Oracle Road (Pusch Ridge) and 10555 N. LaCanada Road, (Conquistador and Canada courses)


El Conquisator Golf Club

DIRECTIONS: For Pusch Ridge: From I-10, take Tangerine Road to Oracle Rd. Turn right and look for the Hilton Resort entrance on your left. From downtown Tucson: Take Oracle Road to the Hilton Resort entrance on the right.

PHONE: 520-544-1900

GREEN FEES: Rates vary, check web site:

OPENED: 1982 (Architect: Greg Nash/Jeff Hardin)

LAYOUT: (El Conquistador): Par 71, 6,801 yards (four tee positions); (Canada Course): Par-72, 6,713 (four tee positions); (Pusch Ridge): 9-hole, 2,788, par-35.

LOWDOWN: The resort offers 45 holes of championship golf on three courses, providing challenging play with course enhancements to provide a true desert golf experience.

Surrounding the resort itself, is the nine-hole Pusch Ridge Course which winds, dips and climbs through 175 feet of vertical drop in the Tucson foothills. The Conquistador and Cañada Courses are located off the main resort grounds and offer traditional layouts in spectacular settings.

SIGNATURE HOLE: No. 5, par-5, 541 yards. The difficult fifth hole on the Conquistador requires every type of shot to play over a pond to a two-tiered green protected by bunkers, so choose your club and shot wisely.


LOCATION: 9777 Sabino Springs Drive, Tucson

DIRECTIONS FROM TUCSON AIRPORT: Take a right on Tucson Blvd. and go a half mile. Take a right on Valencia for 9.9 miles then a left on Houghton for 12 miles. Turn left on Snyder for 0.4 mile and take a right on Sabino Springs at the gatehouse.


Arizona National

PHONE: 520-749-3519

GREEN FEES: Rates vary, check web site:

OPENED: 1995 (Architect: Robert Trent Jones, Jr.)

LAYOUT: Par 71, 6,785 yards (five tee positions)

LOWDOWN: Arizona National Golf Club is Southern Arizona desert golf at its finest. The course is nestled in the foothills of the beautiful Santa Catalina Mountains adjacent to the Coronado National Forest. The golf course follows the rugged natural flow of the land across shady mesquite-lined arroyos and skirts craggy rock outcroppings.

Since the golf course opened, it has continued to earn accolades in various categories, including the top golf course in Arizona by the Arizona Republic. It also is the home course for the University of Arizona.

SIGNATURE HOLE: No. 18, par-5, 513 yards. A great finishing hole, the safe play is a left-to-right tee shot between the bunkers on the left and right of the fairway. A well-placed tee-shot leaves the player with a long iron or fairway wood into the green, but for most golfers, a player has a better shot at a birdie with second-shot lay-up and short iron into the green.

– Jim Street

TOMORROW: British Columbia/Vancouver area



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About Author

Jim Street

Jim’s 40-year sportswriting career started with the San Jose Mercury-News in 1970 and ended on a full-time basis on October 31, 2010 following a 10-year stint with He grew up in Dorris, Calif., several long drives from the nearest golf course. His first tee shot was a week before being inducted into the Army in 1968. Upon his return from Vietnam, where he was a war correspondent for the 9th Infantry Division, Jim took up golf semi-seriously while working for the Mercury-News and covered numerous tournaments, including the U.S. Open in 1982, when Tom Watson made the shot of his life on the 17th hole at Pebble Beach. Jim also covered several Bing Crosby Pro-Am tournaments, the women’s U.S. Open, and other golfing events in the San Francisco area. He has a 17-handicap, made his first and only hole-in-one on March 12, 2018 at Sand Point Country Club in Seattle and witnessed the first round Ken Griffey Jr. ever played – at Arizona State during Spring Training in 1990. Pebble Beach Golf Links, the Kapalua Plantation Course, Pinehurst No. 2, Spyglass Hill, Winged Foot, Torrey Pines, Medinah, Chambers Bay, North Berwick, Gleneagles and Castle Stuart in Scotland, and numerous gems in Hawaii are among the courses he has had the pleasure of playing. Hitting the ball down the middle of the fairway is not a strong part of Jim’s game, but he is known (in his own mind) as the best putter not on tour. Most of Jim’s writing career was spent covering Major League Baseball, a tenure that started with the Oakland Athletics, who won 101 games in 1971, and ended with the Seattle Mariners, who lost 101 games in 2010. Symmetry is a wonderful thing. He currently lives in Seattle and has an 8-year-old grandson, Andrew, who is the club's current junior champion at his home course (Oakmont CC) in Glendale, Calif.

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