Blanchard Course at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base Takes Flight
TUCSON - Nestled in the middle of dozens of Tucson's roses is a carnation. Not as expensive but just as pretty and sweet smelling. That carnation is the Blanchard Course located in the heart of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.
The course is surrounded by the mountain ranges of Tucson and every hole has spectacular views, with an especially commanding panorama of the Santa Catalina's to the north.
The course is a short drive from any of the local resorts, and is located close to the Tucson International Airport for those who desire a final, quick eighteen before hopping their flight back home. To get to the course, take Interstate 10 to the Alvernon Boulevard exit, than take Golf Links Way to the front gate of the Air Force Base.
If you are not military, you will have to stop and get a day pass to drive on the base and get to the golf course. Military regulations require that you have your driver's license, vehicle registration and proof of insurance to enter. After getting on the base proceed straight ahead for about one mile until you see the course off to your left.
Tee times are usually required and can be arranged at the pro shop or through the course director, Randy Newsome, at (520) 228-3734.
After battling the difficult holes of some of the toughest courses in the area, you may find it time to take a break and play a shorter, less formidable course to get that ego back where it belongs.
For the men, this is a par 72 course. From the back tees, this course comes in at 6611 yards with a rating of 70.6 and slope of 129. For the everyday golfer, the middle white tees play 6155 yards, with a 68.2 and 119 rating and slope. The red front tees are 5792 yards, and are rated for the senior men and for the women. For the seniors, the front tees come in at 66.8, and 115. The ladies will find that they are playing a 72.7, 120, par 73 layout, which is an interesting venture without being overwhelming.
The first thing you will notice that distinguishes this course from the more expensive ones in the area is that no one will greet you at your car to take your bag. It is your responsibility to haul your equipment to the pro shop, where once registered, you are assigned a cart.
You can play this course in collarless shirts but no tanktops. Shorts must be of an appropriate length and no cutoffs. Metal spikes are also banned, so change them if you haven't already.
Now that we have the preliminaries down, we are ready to play golf. There are only eighteen holes for the course, which is unusual for an Air Force Base, since they are known to have the finest support facilities as compared to the other branches of the military.
For this old Army soldier, the long standing joke is that the typical Air Force philosophy is to build the recreational areas and other amenities for the base, and than go back to Congress for more money to build the runway and hangers. This is the Army explanation for why the Air Force has such nice golf courses and the Army has more camping facilities.
The course is flat and, since it is not built through a housing development, easily walkable. Water comes into play only three times during the entire round. Each time it is the same lake you have to hit over or around, with a lazy fountain in the center for the appropriate amount of distraction. The Bermuda grass greens are relatively flat with little undulation, so getting a good read is not really a problem.
With the proportionately narrow fairways and the fairly short overall length of the course, there is no need to pull out that Big Stick, which can only get you into trouble. Only the seventh hole, a 426-yard par 4, requires a long tee shot to reach the green. If you miss the fairway, there is little rough to go through before you hit sand and rock, making accuracy much more important than length.
Although this course is not the target-desert type often found in this area, errant shots off the fairway, while easier to find, are just as unforgiving for the golf swing and the club head.
What I would call the signature hole is the 342-yard, par 4, number 16. This hole has a sand bunker in the left middle of the fairway that is shaped like an A-10 Warthog airplane. The average golfer can easily reach this bunker with his drive, making the second shot to the green even more challenging.
During your travels around the course, there are some very interesting sights. For the little boy or girl in us, you will get a close-up look at the great behemoths of our past Air Force.
The scenery along several holes is filled with the mothballed fleet of old aircraft, taped and striped of many of their parts to supply aircraft still in service. Here you will find C-141's, A-7's, H-53's and more waiting to be put back into service should the nation ever need them again. While ambling along this stretch, the golfer may lose his or her concentration with dreams of being behind the stick of one of those powerful aircraft.
Should the urge to get closer to one of these aircraft become too great, there is an airpark on Craycroft Street, the main street of the base, where you can get a close-up view of the B-52, the U-2, and many other aviation giants. Here you can read about the different aircraft and find out what missions they performed.
Should you have an even greater desire to learn more about aviation, you and your family can go to the Pima Air and Space Museum, located just south of Davis-Monthan to get a better look at these and other past legends of aviation.
Unless you are military, there are no hotel facilities available on base, however there are many hotels and resorts located close by. For the active duty or retired military, lodging is on a space-available system unless you are on official military business. And if you are on official business what are you doing out here golfing anyway.
Practice facilities are average for a course in this price range. The putting green is fairly large to accommodate an adequate number of golfers at one time. The practice range has both natural and artificial turf to hit off and buckets of practice balls cost $1.00 for a small bucket and $2.00 for a large. There is also an area to practice your chipping and pitching.
Before or after a round of golf, you can relax with a nice breakfast or lunch in the Eagle's Nest. The Nest is a cafeteria style snack bar that serves fast order food and liquid refreshments. If you want a cold one between nines there is a refreshment stand at the practice ball hut.
The pro shop carries the mandatory array of golf balls, shirts, hats, towels, shoes and clubs at reasonable prices for a pro shop. The employees are always helpful and courteous and ready to get you out on the course as soon as they can.
Although this course is not the most challenging in Tucson, it remains enjoyable for relaxed play for golfers of any skill level. All in all, a visit to this carnation in the desert is a satisfying experience, one that you will remember and want to repeat on your next visit to the Tucson area.
July 7, 2000