Looking for a fair, enjoyable test? Hilton's Conquistador Course in Tucson has game

By Mike Bailey, Senior Staff Writer

TUCSON, Ariz. - Among the 45 holes under management of the Hilton El Conquistador Country Club, the nine-hole Pusch Ridge Course sits on the hotel grounds, while the two 18-hole layouts - also part of the Hilton Tucson El Conquistador Golf & Tennis Resort - require a 10-minute shuttle ride from the property.

Hilton El Conquistador C.C. - Conquistador golf course - hole 1
A large oak tree presents an obstacle on the first hole of the Conquistador Course at Hilton El Conquistador Country Club in Tucson.
Hilton El Conquistador C.C. - Conquistador golf course - hole 1Hilton El Conquistador C.C. - Conquistador course - hole 5Hilton El Conquistador C.C. - Conquistador golf course - hole 9Hilton El Conquistador Country Club - practice greens
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El Conquistador - Conquistador Course

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The Conquistador Course is one of three courses at the El Conquistador. The course has been consistently ranked as one of the top courses not only in Arizona but throughout the Southwest.

18 Holes | Resort golf course | Par: 71 | 6720 yards | Book online | ... details »

Resort guests, it seems, prefer the Canada Course, with its plentiful views and elevation change and a couple of tricky holes. But day in and day out, the club's members prefer the Conquistador Course - your first clue to play it. And if you stay at the resort for two consecutive days, you'll get your chance, because the golf courses alternate between members and guests.

"Conquistador is more straightforward," said Jay Synkelma, lead instructor of the property's Hilton Golf Academy. "And there are not as many short par 4s."

Jeff Hardin and Greg Nash designed both courses. The Conquistador opened first in 1982 as a semi-desert layout with more of a parkland feel. The golf course starts with its trickiest hole, a dogleg-right, downhill par-4. A huge tree plays havoc with approach shots from the left side of the fairway.

The par-71 Conquistador, relatively flat in comparison to the Canada Course, features six tee combinations, from 4,804 to 6,755 yards. Many of the bunkers have been removed over the years, so basically, you get to hit it, find it and hit it again.

Plenty of bueno holes on the Conquistador Course

The Conquistador Course offers lots of solid golf holes with everything out front. If you can't carry to the green, most holes include run-up avenues.

But the golf course will test you, especially from the back tees.

No. 8, a long, straightaway par 4 with a narrow, deep green, plays 441 yards as the No. 1-handicap hole.

At 539 yards, the par-5 11th, with its very wide but shallow green, offers a good risk-reward opportunity. And on the par-5, 532-yard 16th, you hit your tee shot straight toward the Santa Catalina Mountains, which, alone, provide a pretty good view.

The Conquistador Course at Hilton El Conquistador C.C.: The verdict

If you're looking for Ritz-Carlton-like conditioning, the Conquistador might disappoint, but you will get good playing conditions.

The Conquistador does not provide wall-to-wall, thick ryegrass in the winter, though the fairways and greens are overseeded.

In fact, the Conquistador presents an exception to the rule among resort golf courses in Arizona. Grown as a warm-season golf course, it thrives when the temperatures rise and the Bermuda grass grows thick.

Conditioning aside, the Conquistador is a straightforward, good test of golf with a nice variety of holes. Hardly a pushover, it demands use of all the clubs in your bag. And the course flows nicely from its challenging opener.

Hilton El Conquistador Country Club: Stay and play, practice and lessons

The Hilton offers golf packages that encompass all 45 holes. And you can book a package with the golf school, directed by Synkelma, an excellent, veteran teacher who has played in a number of PGA Tour events.

The Hilton Golf Academy, situated away from the main driving range at the country club, features a plush grass range and an extensive short-game area reserved for students. Individual and group lessons are available.

Mike BaileyMike Bailey, Senior Staff Writer

Mike Bailey is a senior staff writer based in Houston. Focusing primarily on golf in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America with an occasional trip to Europe and beyond, he contributes course reviews, travel stories and features as well as the occasional equipment review. An award-winning writer and past president of Texas Golf Writers Association, he has more than 25 years in the golf industry. Before accepting his current position in 2008, he was on staff at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeBaileyGA and Instagram at @MikeStefanBailey.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • Yikes, get me outta here

    Jim wrote on: Mar 24, 2010

    Yikes. My local municipal is better than this piece of dirt. Don't you guys do research before you go?