The Golf Club at Vistoso Arrives as Major Player in the Tucson Golf Scene

By Shane Sharp, Contributor

TUCSON, Ariz. - Since it opened in 1995, the Golf Club at Vistoso has lived in the shadows of its upscale counterparts at Ventana Canyon and La Paloma. While its foothills brethren have enjoyed the lavish praises of such publications as GOLF Magazine and Golf Digest, Vistoso has flirted with greatness time after time.

The Golf Club at Vistoso
The views at The Golf Club at Vistoso are awe inspiring.
The Golf Club at Vistoso
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Well, it is safe to say that Vistoso's days of flirtation are over, and that the Golf Club at Vistoso has finally arrived as a major player in the Tucson golf scene.

"I really feel that we are right there with the Paloma's and the Ventana's of the world," says Head Pro and General Manager Mark Oswald. "In terms of maintenance and appearance, we might even be better."

And Oswald is not the only one that feels that Vistoso can hang with, and even neck out the big boys of the Tucson valley. Vistoso was recently named the best course in Tucson, the 3rd best public access course in the state, and the 12th best overall course in the state, all by the voraciously read Golf Digest.

What is it about Vistoso that has endeared the course to locals, visitors, and "hard to please" course critics? According to Oswald, it all starts with the greens.

"We have some of the best rolling greens I have ever played," says Oswald speaking about Vistoso's flawless bentgrass dance floors. "They are really true, and some of the best maintained greens out there. Weiskopf did a great job contouring the greens. On a Nicklaus designed course, you work has just begun when you get on the greens. Our greens have more subtle swales than eight foot drop offs."

But the greens are just the beginning of the sublime golfing experience provided by this exquisite Tom Weiskopf designed layout. Fairways on most the holes are ample, and even border on being vast. Unlike the cavernous routing of some desert style courses, Vistoso uses its enviable position between the Tortolita and Santa Catalina Mountains to allow for generous landing areas for almost every tee shot.

Yet Weiskopf's sympathy for a wide variety of sprayed drives does not take away from the challenge of the course one iota. If played from the middle tees, an emphasis is placed on club selection off the tee. A plethora of arroyos (desert washes) come into play by dissecting the fairways at anywhere from 200 to 250 yards out.

The greens are perfect, the fairways are forgiving and fair, the layout is a veritable handbook for how to properly maintain a golf course - so what else could go right? How about tee boxes that rival the greens in perfection. Or maybe Tucson's largest collection of desert wildlife to be seen during a golfing experience including desert hares, cottontail rabbits, snakes, prairie dogs and even coyotes?

Both fabulous bonuses, no doubt, but the one element of Vistoso that lifts it from the comfortable arms of being a "really good golf course", into the strong grasp of being a "great golf course" is the thoughtful design of each hole. Every hole seems to have a couple of ways in which it can be tamed, and even conquered. But get to cocky, and Vistoso will bite back like one of the rattlesnakes living in the shadows of the tee boxes.

"The course is classified as a desert style course, and there are forced carries off every tee," adds Oswald. "The most intimidating factor of the golf course is the forced carry off of the tee boxes. The key is to get people on the right tee boxes for their skill level."

But if you have some confidence in your "big dog" off the tee, the forced carries can become more of a pleasant diversion that an intimidating hazard. It is the challenge that awaits after the tee shot that will make the difference between a good and bad scoring round. But whether you get the best of Vistoso, or it gets the best of you, the clever design, amazing scenery, and flawless maintenance will have you coming back for more. The course offers a number of enticing and affordable summer time specials. Call the pro shop at 520-797-7900 for the deal.

Shane SharpShane Sharp, Contributor

Shane Sharp is vice president of Buffalo Communications, a golf and lifestyle media agency. He was a writer, senior writer and managing editor of from 1997 to 2003.

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