The 15th hole at the TPC at Starr Pass

By Shane Sharp, Contributor

TUCSON, Ariz - Local Tucsonans will site this claim to fame as quickly as they can rattle off the starting five of the 1988, Final Four Arizona Men's basketball team. This claim to fame is that the Tucson basin is one of the oldest continually inhabited areas in north America.

What in the world does that factoid have to do with golf? Nothing really. It just sets the stage for the fact that despite it's location in the wild, wild west, Tucson has some serious history going for it. That history is reflected in Starr Pass's signature hole, the 350 yard par-4 15th hole.

In the early 1800's, the Richard Starr Stagecoach line traveled through the mountain pass that is now the 15th hole on its way to downtown Tucson. Today, the 15th presents one of the more entertaining challenges of golf in the Old Pueblo as it takes you ever closer to the the inviting Starr Pass clubhouse and proshop.

The hole literally runs through the middle of two craggy desert mountains, and a blind tee shot conjures up the same anxiety that early travelers through the perilous pass must have felt. When it played host to the Tucson Open up until 1996, the 15th must have been one of the more entertaining holes to watch the Big Boys attempt to conquer.

The Hole: The 15th hole at the TPC at Starr Pass. A par-4 that plays 350 yards from the tips, 295 yards from the middle tees, and 267 yards from the ladies tees.

Architect: Robert Cupp and Craig Stadler

The Layout: Looking out from the tee box, the pinnacle of Starr Pass rests at the top of the hill, framed by a fairway that jogs slightly to the right. A rock outcropping looms large on the left side of the fairway, but a solid tee shot should take it out of play. Your approach shot will be to one of the many postage stamp sized greens on the course that is protected both front and back by greenside bunkers.

The Strategy: On the 15th is largely dependent upon just what you need to finish up your round that day. If you are in need of a low score to get in at or below you handicap, the downhill slope of the backside of the fairway will enable you to go for the green in one.

If you just are in need of some solid course management to finish up at you number or to take a tasty Nassau booty home with you, poke a nice long iron on top of the hill to set up a nice little approach shot.

The Average Golfer: Should employ the same strategy that has gotten them through holes 1 through 14 - keep it straight and narrow. Whatever club you feel will place your ball front and center in the short stuff should be the play of choice. Do not worry about going for the green off the tee - chances are you will just be playing rock pool with the landscape.

Don't Play: A high week fade that will drop off into the desert to the right. A strong hook is not the ideal shot either, but at least it stands a chance of ricocheting off the hardpan.

Play the Holes: Late in the afternoon when the hole becomes one of the most scenic golfing experiences in Tucson. Unlike desert courses that are located in the valley itself, the Tucson Mountains create some of the most unbelievable shadows in the desert southwest.

Inside the numbers: The 15th Hole is the No. 6 handicap hole at Starr Pass.

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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