Tucson's best courses for the high handicapper
TUCSON, Ariz. - It has been said time and time again: 90 percent of the golfing public can't consistently break 90. So why should courses be designed with the scratch golfer as their target audience?
Tucson has its fair share of monsters for the few who can shoot low, but here are the best places for the rest of us. These are the best choices that keep the layout intriguing and challenging without frustrating the high-handicapper. They spare the long carries and greens with no bailout.
Forty Niner Golf Club - Forty Niner Golf Club's lush, green landscape is a rarity in southern Arizona. Courses just aren't designed these days in Arizona like this one, built in 1961 by William Francis Bell. The land's age gives Forty Niner a distinct, mature feel to it found nowhere else in Tucson. Rather than an endless landscape of cacti, holes are lined by mesquite, giant cottonwood, eucalyptus and weeping willow trees. It was even the home of the PGA Tour's Tucson Open in 1964 and 65.
Forty Niner is just 6,630 yards from the blue tees and 6,134 from the whites. Greens are usually open in front and most shots have an area where a miss-hit isn't too punishing. Assistant Professional Wendy Rasmussen agrees the course, while it has its tricky spots is enjoyable. "The course, as a whole, is very user-friendly," said Rasmussen. "It's so different than any other place in town."
Tucson Omni National - Believe it or not, even the current site used for the Tucson Open is playable for all levels as well. This classic Arizona design opened its first 18 holes in 1968. The nine-hole Green Course rounded out the 27-hole facility in 1982 following a massive renovation of the original layout, removing a handful of oddly placed mounds and bunkers.
Getting the opportunity to play a course the pros play is special for golfers of any ability. That opportunity presented itself when Tucson National went public in 1986 and became Omni Tucson National Golf Resort & Spa. The facility still keeps its roots however, providing great service for guests and keeping the grounds in stellar shape.
Omni National has 188 bunkers and ten lakes, but these hazards are often more aesthetic than penal. The par-5 second hole is a potential two-shotter to the green, less than 500 yards, even from the tips.
Assistant Pro John Flores admits Omni National is a course everyone wants to and can play while in Tucson. "Just about every green has a throat," said Flores. "You can run it up in the middle even on a missed shot. There's also not much trouble aside from a few holes with water."
San Ignacio Golf Club - San Ignacio Golf Club, located 20 minutes south of Tucson in Green Valley opened in 1989. Visibility is a major plus at San Ignacio, which got its name from the 1854 purchase of the land from Mexico. Many of the tees are elevated or the hole is straightforward. No need to expect the unexpected blind shot or bunker here. If you need to work out a few kinks while in Tucson, San Ignacio has one of most inclusive practice facilities in the city and is host to the John Jacobs Golf Schools. The club's elevation at 3,000 feet is among the highest in Tucson, making the summertime heat less intense as well as pushing tee shots a few extra yards.
Heritage Highlands Golf Club - The first thing that will strike you at the first hole of Heritage Highlands Golf Club will most likely be, "which tee should I play from?" Six tee boxes ranging from the 6,904 yard black tees to the 4,844 yard rose tees make the decision tricky. The Arthur Hills design is also crafty at times. The par-4 13th was voted the best short par-4 in a poll of southern Arizona golfers and is the definitive risk/reward hole. The stage and scenery of the front and back sides have little in common. The front side is flat, playing through subtle rolling hills and the Heritage Highlands housing development. The back nine however is in the highlands, very rugged and undulating, weaving through mountains and strolling past lakes. The second nine is by far the more visually appealing of the two, but neither nine is boring by any means.
December 12, 2003