A Desert Delight: Westin La Paloma Golf Resort and Country Club

By Scott Behmer, Contributor

Chip Shot: Looking to play a Jack Nicklaus layout? Interested in teeing it up at the most picturesque course in Tucson? Well, you're in luck. The Westin La Paloma Golf Resort and Country Club offers a 27 hole-Jack Nicklaus design as well as stunning views of the lush desert

TUCSON, AZ - Jack Nicklaus is not only the greatest golfer of all-time, he also has developed into one of the game's preeminent course designers. One course that helped bring him such high acclaim was his 1984 design, the Westin La Paloma Golf Resort and Country Club

La Paloma lies in the foothills of the Catalina Mountains, complete with natural arroyos, striking vistas, and breath-taking saguaro valleys. Three distinct nines offer players unparalleled golf holes and stunning views, unmatched by any course in Southern Arizona. Furthermore, its friendly customer service and superbly conditioned course complement this luxury golf experience

Last Thursday I made the 15 minute drive over from Ina Road and I-10 to La Paloma. Upon arrival, I left my clubs at the bag drop and rang a bell, signaling a customer assistant to load them onto a cart, which would be waiting for me following check-in

Meanwhile, the friendly pro shop assistants asked me if I'd played here previously and gave me a few first-timer tips. Then they told me where I could find my cart, which came equipped with water jug, cups, and towel. I drove over to the starter who handed me a yardage book, directed me to the range, and promised to call me prior to my tee time

At the range, the balls were laid out for me. There were individual greens to play to; however, I was somewhat disappointed that there weren't any distances indicated. As my tee time drew nearer, I walked over to the adjacent chipping green. It was very small but did allow me to gauge how the greens would respond to my chip shots

A couple minutes prior to my tee time, the starter came out and called me in. He showed me the practice putting green. I had time for only a few putts before hitting the links, but that was enough to confirm how fast the greens would be. These slick, bent-grass putting surfaces roll about 10 on the stimpmeter

The starter explained that I would go off on the Hill nine and that I should check in at the turn to find out my other nine. Utilizing all three nines helps to space out the groups and keep play moving. On this day, though, I played all three-Hill, followed by Canyon, then Ridge

Hill is the most forgiving nine off the tee, but will still penalize a wayward drive. Opening the layout are two straightforward par 4's with desert guarding both sides of the fairway. In fact, desert lines almost every fairway at La Paloma, and many of the approaches are over the natural terrain as well

My favorite hole of Hill is #6, a slight dogleg right, 555-yard par 5. The downhill drive leaves a 250-yard second to the green. A wash follows the right side of the fairway and crosses over at 100 yards to border the left side of the green

With a precise second you can be putting for eagle. However, with any miscue you'll be in the wash struggling for par. From the forward tees, players still must take into account how the wash will affect their third shot. Will you try to carry it or lay up to the edge?

The Canyon nine has numerous elevated tee shots where, if you flirt with the desert, you'll be rewarded with a much easier approach to the small-to-medium greens. Desert surrounds many of the greens, demanding accurate approaches. They are receptive, though, rewarding good shots by keeping them near the hole. But miss a green into the shallow traps and it's very difficult to get up-and-down. Pin positions are attached to the cart, so I knew precisely what shot I had to hit

Finally, the Ridge nine is without a doubt the most picturesque nine holes in southern Arizona. Elevated tees provide amazing views of the city, the mountains, and the valley of saguaros

Nicklaus designed the tees so that everyone could enjoy the views and still be faced with a demanding shot. Many of the holes require target golf-miss the target and you'll never find your ball. This is a stunning nine holes that can be enjoyed by all players. If you could only play one nine, this is the nine to play

La Paloma's yardage book devotes an entire page to accolades. From "One of the 100 Most Women-Friendly Courses in America" to "One of the Five Toughest Courses in America," it deserves all the praise. Each of the four tees is a tough test of golf, but with well-played shots you will be rewarded with ample birdie opportunities. And no matter how you play, you'll experience wonderful scenic views unmatched by any course in Southern Arizona

Exit I-10 at Ina Rd., La Paloma is 9 miles east on Ina, which becomes Sunrise Drive.

Scott Behmer, Contributor

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