Tucson golf goes wild on the Starr Pass Roadrunner course's speeding greens

By Chris Baldwin, Contributor

TUCSON, Ariz. - It's easy to get cocky on the Roadrunner at Starr Pass Country Club. There are two par 3s in the first three holes, and at 3,241 yards this golf course is by far the shortest of Starr Pass' three nines.
Resist the temptation. Or else this Roadrunner is liable to run right over you.

Starr Pass Country Club Roadrunner course - Tucson Golf Course
Starr Pass' Roadrunner nine runs close to the JW Marriott yet remains true desert golf.
Starr Pass Country Club Roadrunner course - Tucson Golf CourseStarr Pass Country Club - Roadrunner nine - Tucson Golf Course GreenStarr Pass Country Club - Roadrunner nine - Tucson Golf Course - Golfer
If you go

The Club at Starr Pass - Coyote/Roadrunner

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The Club at Starr Pass offers three nine-hole courses that you can play in three different 18-hole combinations. One of the courses is the Coyote/Roadrunner, which blends a challenging test with a serene atmosphere.

18 Holes | Resort golf course | Par: 71 | 6729 yards | Book online | ... details »

The Club at Starr Pass - Roadrunner/Rattler

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The Club at Starr Pass offers three unique nine-hole courses that are played in three different 18-hole combinations. Possibly the most challenging of the courses is the Roadrunner/Rattler, which offers both a demanding test for golfers of all skill levels and also stunning views.

18 Holes | Resort golf course | Par: 71 | 6707 yards | Book online | ... details »

These speeding, zigging, zagging greens might make you feel like Wile E. Coyote sprinting off a desert cliff and suddenly finding nothing under his feet. Where - or if - your putt will stop only the golf gods know.

Starr Pass Director of Golf Todd Howard swears Roadrunner's stimpmeter readings are similar to those of the club's Coyote and Rattler nines, between 11 and 12. Your eyes tell you different.

"The pin placements can be put in spots that are almost impossible," he allows. "But we try not to do that."

They don't always succeed.

"Getting it close can sometimes be a victory," Starr Pass member Bob Sereno said, shrugging his shoulders.

"Resort course" often translates as staid and easy, but this is one resort course with an evil streak.

Not surprising to learn, then, that the course predates the affiliated JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort. This Arnold Palmer signature design was crafted to wow hardcore golfers into buying homes.

Despite the real estate, you're not going to forget you're in the desert at Starr Pass - even on Roadrunner, the nine that plays closest to the resort.

And Tucson desert golf is to Phoenix-Scottsdale desert golf what an African safari is to a trip to the zoo. Out here you'll find towering, 150-year-old Saguaro cacti that gobble golf balls like Peter O'Toole used to down drinks.

"You don't feel like you're in a city. You're pretty close, but you'd never know it out on the course. You're away from it all," Howard said. "It reminds me a little of Boulders [in greater Scottsdale] - or at least the way Boulders used to be."

Roadrunner brings its own run of unique holes. There's a tight par 3 where you need to shoot up over a hill and right (No. 3). There's a 557-yard par 5 with plenty of room to drive and plenty to gawk at (No. 6).

With all the chances to find desert, golfers tend to exhale when they reach the greens - but that's where the numbers really mount up. Roadrunner's putting surfaces are as temperamental as Barry Bonds. Even if you know them well.

"I can't read these greens either," regular Starr Pass player Monique Berger said, laughing.

The verdict on Starr Pass Roadrunner

Guests staying at the JW Marriott tend to play Starr Pass' three nines almost exclusively, especially if it's a short stay, but with Roadrunner changing things up on you (and maybe throwing off your putting stroke), you won't get bored.

"I think [guests] get the feeling of at least two different golf courses," Howard said.

Overall Starr Pass gives you a good feel for Tucson golf and takes you out into desert many golfers have never seen before. This isn't just another resort course, and for that you can be thankful.

Tucson hotels

Close to Tucson's airport but feeling far removed from civilization, the JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort & Spa (520-792-3500) offers a private luxury retreat. Tucson Mountain Park is steps from the hotel's front drive, and from the patio you can have a drink and look out over the entire city.

Tucson restaurants

JW Marriott Starr Pass head chef Ryan Littman sets the tone for the resort's restaurants with his commitment to fresh food and local ingredients. Primo, the high-end spot, hits with its fish, and the meats are even better. There's also a restaurant at the country club that does good braised short ribs.

Fast Fact

Want pushover? Look elsewhere. Starr Pass' Roadrunner nine combined with Rattler produces a daunting 146 slope rating.

Chris BaldwinChris Baldwin, Contributor

Chris Baldwin keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.

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