Hilton Country Club Gears up for the Future

By Shane Sharp, Contributor

TUCSON - Canada and Conquistador are the two most beautiful times of day in Arizona. Shadows dance around the cactus, prairie dogs come out to play, sprinklers spring on to soak the parched grass, the beverage cart girl hands you the keys to the beverage cart - o.k., so maybe that doesn't actually happen. But there are two courses at the Hilton Country Club that will be catering to the fantasies of golfers in the near future.

The Canada and Conquistador courses at Hilton have been Tucson staples of country club/resort style golf for years. Only a free seven minute shuttle ride away from the Sheraton Resort, these twin tracks of the northwest valley offer one of the fairest tests of golf around. And hang on to your visor Tucson, because these tests are about to notch up in difficulty and enjoyment.

Both the Canada and Conquistador courses were designed by Jeff Hardin and Greg Nash, so similarities abound throughout each layout. But cognizant of the fact that the local membership would require some disparity between courses to keep their interest perked, Hardin and Nash have distinguished each track by using the surrounding landscape to the fullest extent.

The Canada Course presents the most interesting terrain, with elevation changes and elevated tee boxes. A Hardin and Nash trademark, a number of the hole on the Canada Course feature fairways that seem to rise up from the desert floor, reaching their pinnacle at elevated greens. The key on the Canada Course are accurate approach shots - greens are slightly faster and better bunkered than the Conquistador Course.

The Conquistador Course, while it may lack some of the changes in elevation, is considered by many to be the more challenging layout. The course follows the ravines and traces the foothills of the west Catalina Mountains like rainwater after a storm. The key on the Conquistador Course lies in accuracy off the tee, as the fairways do not boast the generous landing areas of the Canada Course

This differences may appear subtle to the average student of course design, because frankly, they are. But not for long. As Director of Golf Mark Bakeman explains, both courses will undergo significant redesigns in the upcoming months.

The Conquistador Course is down right now," says Bakeman. "It will become more of a park style course with grass from tee to green. The Canada renovation will take place from May of 2000 until November of 2000, and it will be a true desert style target course."

The impetus for the redesigns, according to Bakeman, was to provide both members and visitors with two distinct playing experiences. It makes all the sense in the world. If you are going to have two courses, spice it up.

"Right now, the courses are fairly similar and we want to make sure we have two different courses to play since we have the money right now," adds Bakeman. "This will appeal to both members and tourists. There will be four sets of tees and we are adding yardage to the tips of both courses."

When it is all said and done, the Nash redesigns should reassert the Hilton Country Club as one of the finest multi-course facilities in southern Arizona.

CHIP SHOTS: The Conquistador Course will reopen with its new look in November of 1999.

Classification: Resort
Guest Policy: Open
Dress Code: No denim, collared shirt and bermuda shorts required.
Season: Open all year
Tee Times: Accepted 2 days in advance.
Earliest Time To Call: 6:00 a.m.
Pro Shop Phone: (520)544-1800
Pro Shop Ooens: 6:00 a.m.

Shane SharpShane Sharp, Contributor

Shane Sharp is vice president of Buffalo Communications, a golf and lifestyle media agency. He was a writer, senior writer and managing editor of TravelGolf.com from 1997 to 2003.

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