Forty Niner Country Club: A Quiet Delight
Tucson, AZ - A year ago, Forty Niner Country Club, one of Tucson's original upscale courses, opened its tees to daily fee golfers. In 2000, the IRI Golf Group purchased Forty Niner to give the company a Tucson presence to go with its Green Valley jewel, San Ignacio Golf Club. The major change was providing daily fee golf, but other small changes have been a benefit as well. Forty Niner is now in consistent top shape and is working its way back into the fold of Tucson's upscale golf clubs.
Forty Niner offers a pleasant change of pace from the numerous new desert layouts popping up all over Tucson. Its flat design, with narrow, mesquite-lined fairways and small greens, returns to the traditional style of rewarding solid ball striking with short birdie putts. Hit an errant shot, though, and you'll be pulling another ball out of your bag before the first one even touches down.
Birds' chirping filled the air as I arrived at Forty Niner Country Club. Their song, combined with the huge willow trees at nearby #18, created the peaceful atmosphere for which Forty Niner has long been known. I checked in with one of the friendly assistants and looked around inside the small pro shop. It has your basic golf apparel and equipment along with a nice variety of logo items.
Then I walked over to the dirt driving range to warm-up. Yardage markers run down the middle, but there aren't any other targets to aim at, so I was forced to estimate my actual yardages. Nearing my tee time, I headed back toward #1 and the large practice green. Its green speed approximates those on the course and provided enough holes that I could practice almost every putt I might face during the round. Forty Niner's greens roll true, but only about 8 on the stimpmeter, so you need to give it a firm stroke to get it to the hole. Once my tee time rolled around, I crossed the cart path and stepped up to the first tee.
Forty Niner opens with a straightaway, 400-yard par 4, with mesquite trees lining both sides of the fairway. The intriguing aspect of #1 comes on the second shot. You're faced with a blind approach, which you can either fly onto the green or bounce down the hill and onto the green. A bunker on each side that catches all shots not correctly aligned, guards the putting surface. But hit the green and you should have a short birdie putt. #1 is my favorite hole at Forty Niner. It creates a unique challenge of a blind second with the many different options that aren't available on the other holes.
The only other unique hole is the 360-yard #2. An accurate tee shot with a fairway wood or long iron must be played to keep the ball from rolling into the desert at the end of the fairway. The second shot is severely downhill over that desert. Hit a wedge into the small green guarded by two bunkers in the front. The green is very firm, making it difficult to stick shots near the cup. More likely, you'll have a twenty-footer for birdie.
From #3 on, the holes are flat, straightforward, and very similar. Mesquites, willows, and houses line the fairways, with multiple bunkers guarding the small greens. The greens aren't elevated, creating easy chip shots. The par 5's are reachable, but there's not much margin for error. This would be an ideal layout for the Fred Funk type player who hits almost every fairway and green and doesn't need to overpower the course. But if you start pressing here, you'll be in for a long day.
Two of Forty Niner's prettiest holes are the backside par 3's, #10 and #18. Both are mid-to-short irons over a lake with bunkers on the sides of the green. Large weeping willows full of chirping birds sway in the backdrop. Both holes can be birdied, but catch the shot heavy and it's in the drink. Just like all of Forty Niner's holes, hit a good shot and you'll be rewarded, but hit a clunker and you'll pay the price.
After the round make sure to check out the clubhouse next to the pro shop. An assortment of beverages is available along with daily food specials. It's a comfortable place to relax and give thanks that your score is still near the temperature.
Forty Niner Country Club
12000 East Tanque Verde Road
Tucson, Arizona 85749
May 1, 2001