Back Nine Highlights: Making the Turn at Starr Pass Will Keep You Coming Back for More

By Shane Sharp, Contributor

TUCSON, Ariz -- Have you ever made the turn at a top shelf golf course, looked at the 10th hole, and felt that your round was only just beginning? The back nine at the TPC at Starr Pass evokes this very anticipatory emotion, and it does it with fascinating routing, some of the smallest greens in the desert southwest, and scenery that will leave you drooling.

According to Director of Golf Operations, Joan Fails, the battle of strategy that is Starr Pass truly begins on the back nine. "The go for it golfer will have a lot of birdie opportunities," says Fails. "The course is much more penal on the back nine if you screw up."

Some holes at Starr Pass may frustrate you, enamor you, drive you to the beverage cart, or leave you scratching you head regarding the course designer's true intent. The 10th hole, however, is one of the great golf holes at Starr Pass.

The view from the tee box is inspiring, as it turns you back towards the Tucson valley. The fairway slopes down and to the left, and the approach shot to a rather undulating green is one of the more fascinating shots on the course.

The next point of interest on the back nine comes with the par-4 14th hole that plays 325 yards from the blue tees. According to Fails, long hitters actually go for the greens on this hole by enjoying a kick off the hill to the right.

The par-3's at Starr Pass are very consistent - consistently uninspiring that is. And the par-3 14th hole is no exception. A short three spot at 136 yards from the blues, perhaps the only interesting aspect of the 14th is that it inspires some pro shop debate as to which hole on the course actually "boasts" the smallest green. Some at the Pro Shop say the 7th is smaller, and some say the 14th. But who's counting ... every green at Starr Pass is of the abbreviated version.

The 15th and 16th holes are round makers, what with the former being the signature hole (as covered in the hole profile) and the later, which is according to Fails, the most photographed hole on the course.

A golf course's finishing hole is typically designed to take your breath away one last time - to present within one hole, a microcosm of the entire course. The 18th at Starr Pass makes a noble attempt at this arduous endeavor, and only comes up a few feel good points short of the task.

Nonetheless, the hole is as interesting as any other on the Cupp/Stadler layout, and the culmination of the hole by the deftly designed clubhouse patio is cause for celebration at the 19th Hole.

If the desire to play a truly challenging desert style course in the "old school fashion" should overtake you one day as you are sitting watching the Golf Channel, or watering the Mesquite trees, then the TPC at Starr Pass will surely whet your appetite.

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 from 1997 to 2003.

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