Enjoy the vistas, challenge of the Hilton Tucson El Conquistador golf resort's Canada Course

By Mike Bailey, Senior Staff Writer

TUCSON, Ariz. -- By the time you get to the first green on the Canada Course at the Hilton Tucson El Conquistador Golf & Tennis Resort, you get a pretty good idea of what's in store.

Hilton Tucson El Conquistador - Canada Course #1
Saguaros and mountains dot the landscape backdrop to Hilton Tucson El Conquistador Resort's Canada Course.
Hilton Tucson El Conquistador - Canada Course #1Hilton Tucson El Conquistador - Canada Course #8Hilton Tucson El Conquistador golf resort - Canada Course - hole 3Hilton Tucson El Conquistador golf resort - Canada Course - hole 16
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El Conquistador Golf & Tennis - Canada Course

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Nestled at the base of the Santa Catalina Mountain Range, El Conquistador’s three golf courses all offer breathtaking canyon and mountain views. One of these three courses is the Canada Course, which is known for the amount of strategy that is required to do well.

18 Holes | Resort golf course | Par: 72 | 6636 yards | Book online | ... details »

From the left side of the elevated green on the par-4 first hole is the perfect backdrop of the Santa Catalina Mountains. Then you make your way to the second tee, which is perched above a green some 175 yards away and below. And so it goes -– elevated tees, elevated greens, a few lakes and streams, you get the picture. Basically, the vistas and several imaginative holes are probably why the Canada Course is the favorite 18-hole layout among resort guests.

There are actually 45 holes at the Hilton Tucson El Conquistador Golf & Tennis Resort. There's the nine-hole Pusch Ridge Course, which is located on the hotel property. The Canada Course, which is named for the nearby Canada del Oro River, and the Conquistador Course are about a 10-minute shuttle ride away from the resort. Both were designed by Jeff Hardin and Greg Nash. The Canada Course opened three years after Conquistador, in 1985.

"I feel like they are two very different layouts," said Jay Synkelma, lead golf instructor at the Hilton Golf Academy. "Canada has more doglegs and elevation changes, and to me, it plays shorter with more course management involved."

Hilton Tucson El Conquistador's Canada Course: A desert feel

While the Conquistador Course has more of a parkland style feel to it, you get a little more taste of desert golf with Canada.

The fairways are little more narrow, surrounded by mesquite trees, cactus and rocks. (Yes, if you play from the rocks, you will damage your clubs.) There are also arroyos that come into play on this par 71 that ranges from 5,093 yards to 6,626 yards.

There are plenty of interesting, if not good, holes. The third is a fairly short par 4 that plays at least a club longer than you think. An uphill approach to a green that's deceivingly back sees to that.

The eighth hole is also uphill. At 183 yards from the back tees, it plays even long because it's uphill and into the wind. Protected by bunkers and a sloping green, it surrenders few birdies.

And the golf course ends with a nice finishing stretch, starting with the 533-yard, par-4 16th, where the tee shot plays over a wash and the approach along a lake with fountains. Foreboding bunkers and mounding loom behind the green to the right.

The only hole that might be a little quirky is the par-5 ninth. Downhill, it's only 506 yards one tee up, so you might be thinking it's an easy two-shot birdie opportunity. But with out-of-bounds left and plenty of trouble right of the fairway, it's easy to hit through this dogleg right.

"When I'm just having fun, I'll hit driver here," said Synkelma. "But for score or a tournament, it's a long iron off the tee."

Hilton Tucson El Conquistador's Canada Course: The verdict

I really enjoyed Hilton Tucson El Conquistador's Canada Course, and when you think about it, shouldn't that be the goal of a resort course?

There are lots of great views, twists and turns. And after the par-5 16th, you get a couple of nice, uphill, finishing-hole par 4s.

The overall golf experience is pleasant as well. There's a good practice area complete with pitching and chipping greens, a practice bunker and large putting green as well as a grass range.

You can also book lesson packages at the Hilton Golf Academy, headed up in Tucson by Synkelma, a veteran teacher who has played in a number of PGA Tour events.

Synkelma has at his disposal a private teaching area, which includes target greens for the short game as well as a range separate from daily play.

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.

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