Heritage Highlands: Plenty of Desert Character
MARANA, Ariz. - When making the drive out to Heritage Highlands, you're going to see road signs that say OPEN RANGE with an illustration of a cow. Yes, you're out there. It takes a bit of a drive to get to this course northwest of Tucson in Marana.
But it's all worth it once you arrive. The possibility of free-roaming cattle on the drive in only adds to the charm of this Arthur Hills-designed course. And at the center of all this is the par-4 13th hole, one of the quirkiest holes in the West.
Titled "Arthur's Hill," the 359-yard hole sparks a love/hate relationship among the people who play it. Just ask Robby Watson, the club's director of golf. "People hate it the first time they play it," Watson said. "But they want to come back and play it again. It's a challenge."
The first big challenge comes with the uphill tee shot. A player needs to land in the middle of the fairway to have a decent shot at the green. The reason is that your second shot is all downhill with large rocks on the left side of the fairway that hide the green if you're too far left. If you're in the middle of the fairway and only 100-120 yards from the green, it's all good.
From there, you face a huge drop to the green, so club choice is important. Sure, you may be 120 yards from the pin, but you'll need to go down a club length just because of the elevation change. The green is wide, but fairly shallow to the approach shot, depending on the pin placement. There's lots of bailout room to the left side of the pin, but you'd better not go long or your ball will end up in rough on the back side of the green.
"It's a different hole," Watson said. "It really makes a player think. It's an uphill tee shot, and if you go left, you could be left with a 7- or 8-iron for your approach shot. If you reach the top of the hill, you're looking at a wedge or sand wedge."
The fun doesn't stop when you hit the green. There are more hills to negotiate before you mark your scorecard. "The green is undulated," Watson said. "It requires 100 percent of your attention. You could birdie it one day and triple-bogey it the next.
Watson said he and his father recently played Heritage Highlands and the 13th was one of the highlights of the day. "He birdied it," Watson said of his dad. "He hates that hole. He hit a good tee shot and a great second shot. He stuck it four feet from the hole. He wanted to play it again."
Arthur's sneaky little hill falls in the middle of what Watson calls Heritage Highlands' "Amen Corner." It all begins on the 181-yard 12th, named "Cascades." There's water on the left side of the green and a bunker on the right, just waiting to collect errant shots. There's also a waterfall well behind the green, thus the name.
The 14th, named "Saguaro Crossing," requires just that from the back three tees. It's 427 yards from the black tees and we don't advise hitting from there unless you can rip it. It's 376 from the greens and 312 from the coppers.
Watson said these tee boxes have been photographed for Golf Magazine. The club puts the rose (forward) tees in front of the large group of saguaros. Your tee shot will also need to be accurate because the fairway features deep bunkers and mounds. If you can get over the intimidating tee shot, this hole can be conquered.
Wrapping up the fearsome foursome is "Mirage," a 527-yard par-5 that also has water on the left side of the fairway. Long hitters can reach the green in two, but the water and a fairway that slopes in that direction make this a risky hole.
"Those are four really good holes," Watson said.
Though the back nine is undoubtedly the highlight of the course, the front has a few nice holes of its own. Topping the list is the 397-yard fourth hole. "Sunken Treasure" creates an optical illusion on the green that makes it tough to determine which club to use on your approach shot.
The green is saucer-shaped and the club usually puts the pin at the bottom of the bowl. There's also a sand trap on the right that comes into play if you don't use enough club. One thing that isn't an illusion is the fact that you can see Picacho Peak, located more than 25 miles down the road on the way to Phoenix.
No. 9, called "Transition," features an elevated fairway that slopes from right to left. Two bunkers on the right side of the green collect approach shots and ruin thoughts of birdie or par. The club stress the importance of ready golf. Rangers ask that you play each nine in 2 hours, 10 minutes and they use a flag system to indicate how you're doing. If you get two yellow flags, the ranger will ask you to pick up your ball and move to the next hole.
Greens fees are in line with the Tucson area's other resort courses. From May to September, the rates are a reasonable $45 for 18 holes. The fare falls to $30 after 2 p.m. In April and from October until December, it's $75 before 2 p.m. and $50 after. January through March is the high season, with greens fees of $115 before 2 and $65 afterward.
The course is also only about 5 miles from I-10, the main thoroughfare between Tucson and Phoenix. It's also convenient if you live on the northwest side of Tucson.
But it's well worth the trip, free-roaming cattle or not.
Heritage Highlands Golf and Country Club
Director of golf: Robby Watson
4949 W. Heritage Club Blvd.
Marana, AZ 85653
June 2, 2001