Be ready for forced carries over desert at The Golf Club at Vistoso in Tucson

By Scott Bordow, Contributor

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Like many golf course operators, the folks who run The Golf Club at Vistoso like to name their holes.

Golf Club at Vistoso in Tucson - 9th hole
Long par 3s, forced carries and blind shots make The Golf Club at Vistoso quite a challenge.
Golf Club at Vistoso in Tucson - 9th holeThe Golf Club at Vistoso in Tucson - hole 11Golf Club at Vistoso in Tucson - 18th hole
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For example, there's Prickly Pear, Waterfall, Devil's Nest (that name is never a good sign) and Risky.

Perhaps the golf course itself should have a new name, too: Forced Carry, The Golf Club at Vistoso.

Not to say there are a lot of forced carries over desert at Vistoso -- a 6,954-yard, par-72 layout located in northeast Tucson -- but you might want to fill out a flight plan before you play a round there.

The forced carries -- both from the tee and in the fairway -- aren't the only thing that differentiates Vistoso from its peers. For example, there are five par 5s and five par 3s, and there's only one par 4 in the last seven holes. That variety is more fun than a typical par 72 with four par 5s and four par 3s.

Vistoso, a Tom Weiskopf design, is a bit of a mind bend. Golfers who look up the course on the Internet will see that it's less than 7,000 yards from the back tees and think it can't be that difficult.

But then they drive up to The Golf Club at Vistoso and see nothing but desert -- and notice that even at less than 7,000 yards, it has a rating of 71.8 and a slope of 147 -- and then discover that the shortest par 3 is 178 yards and two of the five par 3s are more than 200 yards.

In other words, that hybrid club is going to get a workout.

"I thought it was a very interesting layout," said golfer Jim Adams of Phoenix. "The closing holes are very unique with all the par 5s and par 3s. But if you hit the ball in the wrong place you can get in a lot of trouble. Sometimes, with all the desert, you can't even see the course."

It's not that the forced carries are beyond the reach of the average golfer. Vistoso isn't asking players to hit it 250 yards to the fairway, for example. But the carries are almost on every hole, which can wear on the psyche.

Plus, while the fairways are generous compared to many nearby layouts, including Westin La Paloma, they look narrow from the tee box because of the forced carry over desert.

"If you hit it decently it's not that hard," Adams said. "But it mentally wears you down. You can't miss it. But that's what makes it interesting."

What also makes Vistoso interesting -- and sometimes frustrating -- are the blind shots from the fairway. Take the par-4, 419-yard ninth hole, for example. The hole turns so hard to the left it's almost impossible to see the flagstick from the fairway.

Even if you can see the green, the forced carries over desert make it difficult to know whether there's a safe landing area left or right. And while the greens are nice and big, they're severely angled, which narrows the landing area. Fortunately, Weiskopf left the front of the greens accessible to bump-and-run shots from about 70 yards in.

Adding to the degree of difficulty are ravines that wind their way through the course. No. 14, for example, is a short 350-yard par 4 with a ravine that splits the fairway. Going left shortens the hole but, as usual, the fairway looks about 10 yards wide from the tee box. Going right requires a 200-yard carry over desert.

The toughest hole on the course has to be No. 11, a 465-yard par 4 that plays straight uphill and has a green protected by three bunkers short and to the left. No. 8, a 389-yard par 4, also stands out because it's the only hole where water comes into play. A huge lake runs from the fairway all the way up to the left side of the green, and the fringe is shaved so anything left will fall into the water.

The closing stretch at Vistoso can deliver a swift kick: No. 15 is a 221-yard par 3, No. 16 a 589-yard par 5, No. 17 a 210-yard par 3 and No. 18 a 529-yard par 5 that requires a carry over a ravine on the second shot.

Because of the forced carries and blind shots, Vistoso is one of those courses that will become much easier to play after several outings. But even then, the course will be tougher than its yardage would indicate.

The Golf Club at Vistoso: The verdict

The long par 3s, forced carries and blind shots make The Golf Club at Vistoso quite a challenge. It might be one of the more difficult 6,900-yard golf courses in Arizona. It requires solid play with the driver and long irons, and the mental acuity not to let the challenges become too overwhelming.

Scott BordowScott Bordow, Contributor

Scott Bordow is the golf columnist for the Arizona Republic. Follow him on Twitter at @sbordow.

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