The Gallery Golf Club: A New Gem in the Desert
TUCSON, Az - Tom Lehman and John Fought's recently completed desert course, The Gallery Golf Club, combines excellent customer service with a challenging layout. Located northwest of Tucson, it's nestled at the base of the Tortolita Mountains. Even from the parking lot it's clear that the round will be filled with breath-taking views of the lush desert mountain-scape.
Upon arriving at The Gallery, I checked in at the pro shop and was greeted by Paul Nolan, the head pro, and two friendly assistants. Paul was especially helpful in answering my questions and making sure that I had an enjoyable golfing experience. After check-in, he directed me to Mitch, the cart attendant, who to my good fortune, was a friend from years past. He drove us over to my car and loaded my clubs on the cart. Then, the starter also came over to the car and led me to the driving range. He told me that he would return a little before my tee time and direct me to the putting green.
At the range, the balls and tees were laid out waiting for me. There are six greens on the grass-covered range; however, there isn't a yardage sign anywhere. I asked the starter what the distances were, and he could only approximate. This was disappointing because I wanted to know before I teed off how far the ball would travel on the course that day. The range does, however, provide an accurate indication of how the wind will affect shots. There was a constant breeze that forced me to play at different times one more or one less club.
About five minutes before my tee time the starter came back and directed me to the waterfall-shaped practice putting green adjacent to the first tee. It was somewhat slow and also very bumpy putting into the grain. Fortunately, such is not the case on the course. The greens have grown in fully, there are no dead or rough spots, and the spikeless shoe requirement has eliminated spike marks. Most importantly, they roll a consistent speed, near 9 on the stimpmeter.
Once it was my tee time, the starter informed me and we went to the first tee. He explained how the course plays from the different tees and that the course record is 64, shot last December by Don Pooley. He gave me a yardage book and a ball mark repair tool and explained that there are 150-yard pins in the middle of the fairway that can be used as aiming devices. On shorter holes there's a 100-yard red pin. From the fairway, the yardage can be found both on sprinklers and by using the yardage book. The pins are classified as red-front, white-middle, and blue-back. Pin sheets are not provided, and the yardage book shows only the contour of the green, not the length of each section.
My cart came equipped with tees, water bottle and towel, which all came in handy during the round. I suggest that you bring your own water. There's a cart girl offering has food and drink for sale, but water is not available on the course. Also, there aren't any bathrooms on the course. The only one available is when you make the turn.
The Gallery is very generous off the tee, with some of the widest fairways in southern Arizona. The difficulty comes on the second shots. The greens are guarded by desert and multiple bunkers with dense sand making it difficult to get much height on sand shots. Also, the greens are very firm. Even if you play a Balata, your ball will rarely stop quickly, and it will never spin back. Further, if you don't hit the proper section of the green, the contour can create putts that are almost impossible to get close to the cup. If you do get an approach close, though, you only have to get the birdie putt on line and the quick, true greens will do the rest.
At 7412 yards, The Gallery is one of Arizona's longest courses. Long hitters will have a field day here. Fairways are firm, providing lots of roll off the tee. Three of the par 5's are reachable with two solid shots. I found them some of the most beautiful holes on the course. The only par 5 unreachable in two is #9. Measuring 725 yards, this is the longest hole I have ever seen. Fortunately, the tee is elevated, considerably shortening the hole.
Besides the championship, there are three other sets, with the rojo, the women's tees, the shortest at 5423 yards. Paul Nolan was quick to inform me that they don't have a forced carry of more than twenty yards on any hole but one. That hole, the 164-yard #12, requires about an eighty-yard carry over a maintained hazard, so it's always kept in playable condition. Each set of tees has a unique tee box and is designed specifically for the level of golfer who typically plays from that tee. The starter helps to guide you to the tee he believes would suit your game.
A round at The Gallery is $100, including mandatory cart. Memberships can be purchased in the pro shop. At this time both the pro shop and clubhouse are in temporary trailers, but their permanent homes are under construction and should be open by the end of February. The pro shop offers a limited selection of apparel and equipment, which is sure to increase at the new facility. The clubhouse is already very comfortable, with ten tables, four plush chairs each, and a limited selection of food and drink. When The Gallery is completed both the pro shop and clubhouse are certain to complement one of southern Arizona's best desert courses.
I-10 to Tangerine, 5 miles east, then 6 mi. north on Dove Mountain Rd. Questions and reservations call (520) 744-2555.
February 1, 1999