The Gallery Golf Club: A Desert Masterpiece Ready for the PGA Tour

By Scott Behmer, Contributor

MARANA, AZ - Tom Lehman and John Fought's desert masterpiece, The Gallery Golf Club, combines excellent customer service, a challenging layout, and breathtaking views from every well-designed hole.

The Gallery Golf Club
The greens at The Gallery Golf Club are pristine.
The Gallery Golf Club
If you go

Located just northwest of Tucson, it's nestled at the base of the Tortolita Mountains and takes advantage of the stunning mountain- and city-scape. At next year's Tucson Open, each competitor will play an opening round here. So here's a look at one of southern Arizona's finest venues.

Upon arriving at The Gallery last Wednesday, I checked in at the pro shop and was greeted by head pro Paul Nolan 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 the cart attendant who drove us over to my car and loaded my clubs onto 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 is not 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's a very accurate representation of the putting surfaces 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 10 on the stimpmeter.

The starter informed me once it was my tee time and we went to the first tee. He explained how the course plays from the different tees and noted that the course record is 64 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 is 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, but the yardage book shows both the length and contour of the green. On approach shots, play them about five yards short of the hole to account for some release.

The Gallery is very generous off the tee, with some of the widest fairways in Southern Arizona. The difficulty comes on the second shots. Greens are guarded by desert and multiple bunkers with dense sand, making it difficult to get much height on sand shots.

Further, if you do not hit the proper section of the green, its 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. How many ten-footers you make will help determine your final score.

At 7,412 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 played. Fortunately, the tee is elevated, shortening the hole somewhat. It should be fun to watch John Daly try to hit this green in two.

Besides the championship tees, there are three other sets, with the rojo, the women's tees, being the shortest at 5,423 yards. Paul Nolan had been quick to inform me that they do not 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, which is 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 cart. Make sure to take time before or after your round to peruse the merchandise in the grand pro shop. It has a wide selection of golf attire and equipment. Then, cross the hallway to the large luxury clubhouse overlooking the #1 fairway and #9 green.

Decorated in South American art, it is one of the most impressive course dining areas in Arizona. It is open seven days a week during play hours, as well as until 10pm on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Serving everything from burgers to salmon, it should not be missed.

With the Tour playing here for the first time in January, now is your chance to try your hand at what will surely become a hotbed after its rave reviews get around. There are open tee times daily, so don't wait. Come play this self-proclaimed "Masterpiece of the West."

Scott Behmer, Contributor

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