Golf Channel Am Tour lets you test your game on some of Tucson's top courses
Every sports fan wants to know what it's like to dunk a basketball, hit a 95-mph fastball or sink that 4-foot par putt on No. 18 for the victory and first-place check.
Well, the Golf Channel Am Tour is giving swingers of every stripe -- from scratch players to those who routinely post three-digit scores -- an opportunity to go 1-for-3.
The Am Tour, which features 11 tournaments in the Tucson area, culminating with the Tucson Tour Championship in mid-August, is the closest thing amateurs will get to knowing what touring pros feel like on a week-to-week basis.
The one-day tournaments (the Tour Championship is held over two days) are broken down into separate flights based on handicaps, and the top finishers of each flight receive a Visa gift card (the U.S. Golf Association has ruled the gift card does not violate a player's amateur status). The flight winner also gets a trophy.
"Basically, the idea is to get amateur players in a situation where they can have a live tour experience," said Don Littrell, who runs the Tucson section of the Am Tour.
To do that, the Am Tour plays on some of the country's most renowned golf courses, including Pinehurst No. 2, Troon North and Chambers Bay. The entry fee ranges from $85 to $120 for every tournament.
This is the second year for the Tucson portion of the Am Tour and spots are available in the men's, women's and senior brackets. Interested players can reach him at (520) 990-3818 and visit www.gcamtour.com/tucson for more information.
Here are a few of the upcoming Tucson venues. And if you're thinking Arizona summers are a bit hot to be playing golf, remember it's about 7-10 degrees cooler in the Old Pueblo than it is in the Valley.
Foothills Championship, Skyline Country Club, March 25
Skyline Country Club, a par 71, winds its way through the Sonoran foothills. It's a relatively easy course compared to some of Tucson's more notable layouts. The back tees play only 6,138 yards, and all four par 5s are less than 500 yards. Skyline's best attributes are its doglegs -- there's only one straight par 4 on the course -- and No. 9, a 181-yard uphill par 3 with water short and left and bunkers behind the green.
Crooked Tree Challenge, Crooked Tree Golf Course, May 5
Crooked Tree Golf Course, a 7,065-yard par 72, is a Lee Trevino design that hosted the Monday qualifier of the Tucson Open for years as well as the Southern Arizona Open. It's a traditional layout with wide fairways, small greens and plenty of chipping room around the green. One positive note for the high-handicapper: There are no homes lining the fairways, so the only damage the occasional wayward drive will do is to the scorecard.
Southwest Championship, Starr Pass, July 8
Starr Pass hosted the Tucson Open from 1987-96. During that time, the third and fifth holes were rated two of the most difficult on the PGA Tour. The 27-hole facility made a name for itself in 1991, when a young Arizona State product named Phil Mickelson won his first PGA Tour event. The views of the course are as spectacular as the facility itself.
Northwest Invitational, The Gallery Golf Club, Aug. 12
The Gallery Golf Club is located in Marana, about a 20-minute drive north from downtown Tucson. Tom Lehman and John Fought designed the 36-hole private facility, and players will compete on the South Course, a links-style design that played host to the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in 2007 and 2008.
Tucson Tour Championship, Ventana Canyon, Aug. 17-18
There are 27 holes at Ventana Canyon -- The Tucson Tour Championship will be held on the Mountain and Canyon nines -- but the most memorable is No. 7 on the Canyon, a 445-yard par 4 that drops 30 yards from the tee to a ravine that sits about 250 yards away. From there, the incline to the green is at least 50 yards, and any approach shot short has a good chance of rolling all the way back down the hill before stopping just short of the ravine.
In other words, it's the perfect place for the Tucson Tour Championship.