Rio Rico Golf & Country Club near Tucson: Uncommonly uncrowded with treacherous bunkers

By David R. Holland, Contributor

RIO RICO, Ariz. -- During the Apache Wars, the U.S. Calvary used the area around Rio Rico as a refuge. The governor of Sonora, Mexico once called the Santa Cruz River Valley home. Father Kino passed through before establishing the Tumacacori Mission just seven miles away.

Rio Rico Resort and Country Club
Originally designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr., Rio Rico Resort and Country Club was redesigned by Robert Trent Jones Jr., in 1975.
Rio Rico Resort and Country ClubRio Rico Resort and Country Club - hole 18Rio Rico Resort and C.C.
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And Robert Trent Jones Sr. put his signature on the land almost three decades ago in designing Rio Rico Resort and Country Club.

"When laying out the design for Rio Rico I really felt like I had a classic on my hands," said the late Jones Sr. "Today, years later I still feel that way. Its gently rolling fairways and large greens provide a beautiful, yet challenging golf experience for even the most accomplished golfers."

Today Rio Rico Resort is uncrowded -- a haven to get away from it all only 45 minutes south of Tucson and 15 miles from Nogales, Mexico.

"Rio Rico's strength comes in the peacefulness, the desert nature and the uncrowded feeling you get when you play here," said Rob Thomas of Phoenix. "The fairways are generous and the greens are great bent, but your approach shot can be treacherous because of the bunkering. Many times you must clear a deep sand trap to reach the greens safely."

Rio Rico is definitely in a pristine Arizona desert setting and at a lofty 4,000 feet, it's not uncommon for winter frost and cool mornings. The afternoons in winter can be in the perfect 70s.

This traditional layout presents a variety of hilly to flat terrain, fairways that are tree-lined (pine, willow and poplar) and water comes into play on six holes. The facility has hosted U.S. Open qualifiers for the PGA and Senior tours, as well as the 1997 U.S. Amateur qualifying rounds. It was redesigned by Robert Trent Jones Jr., in 1975. Members are permitted to walk the course.

Another recent $2.5 million re-tooling of its hotel and golf course has given Rio Rico even more sparkle.

Opened in 1972, Rio Rico stretches out to 7,119 from the back tees at par 72. The layout begins benignly in its first four holes, but eventually becomes challenging with numerous risk-reward scenarios. The front nine is located on a river flood plane and expands into the rolling Cayetano hills.

No. 3 is a testy par 3 at 204 and is almost completely encircled by a huge sand trap.

Coming home No. 16 is a beautiful par 4 at 392 yards downhill, but placement of the drive is important with water jutting into the fairway 125 yards out continuing down to in front and right of the green. The 17th is a 184-yard par 3 with a lake guarding the right to a tricky putting surface with three tiers.

Rio Rico Resort

Rio Rico Resort & Country Club is a AAA Three Diamond resort and is situated in one of the most picturesque and historically fascinating areas of Arizona. Today, the area retains much of the look and feel of the old days. The Resort has just completed a multi-million dollar guest room renovation, remodeling of the Olympic-size swimming pool, newly resurfaced tennis courts, landscaping enhancements and the addition of a business center for the convenience of Resort guests.

A guestroom makeover has added new furnishings and bold color schemes to the resort's existing 180 guestrooms and suites. The Territorial pieces, handcrafted in Mexico, and rich jewel tones perfectly complement the existing Spanish hacienda-style decor.

Tennis at Rio Rico

Rio Rico Resort features a view from four championship hard courts which overlook the Santa Cruz River Valley. The tennis center is lighted for night play and it is staffed by full-time USTPA Professionals.

A playmate Ace Ball Machine is available, along with rental rackets, restringing and accessories. Private, semi-private, and group instruction is available with past USTPA-SW Professional of the Year and Director of Tennis Jerry Winder. Tennis packages are available, as are match arranging services with prior notice.

David R. HollandDavid R. Holland, Contributor

David R. Holland is an award-winning former sportswriter for The Dallas Morning News, football magazine publisher, and author of The Colorado Golf Bible. Before launching a career as a travel/golf writer, he achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force reserve, serving during the Vietnam and Desert Storm eras. Follow Dave on Twitter @David_R_Holland.

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