The No. 3 Hole on the Mountain Course at the Lodge at Ventana Canyon

By Shane Sharp, Contributor

TUCSON - How much money do you think it takes to build a golf course? Millions for sure. How about one golf hole? A par-3 for that matter. Well, as Austin Powers once said, how about "one millllllion dollars."

That's right, the No. 3 hole on the Lodge at Ventana's Mountain Course cost about as much to build as an entire small subdivision of homes. The vast majority of this cost is billable to a green that has been superimposed upon a mountain side, and sports one of the more sophisticated heating and cooling systems around.

"The green has nothing but mountain under it, so the mechanism melts the frost in the winter, and keeps the grass from burning," says Head Professional Chris Lamberti.

According to some sources, the hole is the most photographed west of the Mississippi, and with good reason. Despite its short length, the hole has a surreal feeling about it, as if it were carved out of some kind of moonscape. But if you're not careful on No. 3, it will bring you back down to earth.

The Hole: The No. 3 Hole on the Mountain Course at the Lodge at Ventana Canyon

Architect: Tom Fazio, 1984

The Layout: A short par-3 that plays only 107 yards from the championship tees. From an elevated tee box, views of the entire city of Tucson are available for the golfer who takes a moment to take in the surroundings.

The Strategy: According to Lamberti, "is to just get to the middle of the green."

The Average Golfer: Has about the same concerns as the low handicapper on this short par-3. Even the weekend duffer has a good shot at getting on this green with a little wedge shot, but a premium is placed on getting it close to the pin.

Don't Play: About the only way you could screw this hole up is by taking your putter off the tee. Hit a simple pitch shot as if you were about 60 yards from the pin on a level playing surface, and you'll be putting for birdie every time. "Once you get a feel for it, its not that hard of a hole," adds Lamberti.

Play the Hole: Early in the morning, or in the late evening, when some shred of darkness graces the mountains, and the shadows add to the beauty of the Mountain Course.

Wanna Play?

DRESS CODE: No denim, collared shirt and bermuda shorts required.
SEASON: Open all year
TEE TIMES: Accepted 7 days in advance.
PRO SHOP PHONE: (520) 577-4061

Chip Shot: As many tough courses as Tom Watson has played and conquered, the No.3 hole on the Mountain Course got the best of one of the greatest golfers to ever tee it up. Once during the Merrill Lynch Shoot-Out, Watson four putted the No.3 green, and went on to lose the tournament to Fuzzy Zoeller.

"At the time, it was a two tiered green," says Lamberti. "We've rebuilt it a little bit. Now it is more of a mound than a tier."

Nonetheless, local legend has it that Watson has never been back since.

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.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment