Golf in Arizona
After traveling through Tucson and Phoenix last night, an area with which I have long-term history, I was taken back to some of the best golf experiences in my life. About forty miles to the south of Tucson lies Green Valley, about thirty miles from Nogales and the Mexican border. Yes, it’s a retirement community, but these seniors know how to put together a game of golf, and they’re not wimps.
I once heard it said that Ireland was created by an angel who dropped some green paint on the way to paint the western forests. That must be what happened here as well, and there’s no doubt about where you want your ball to land – on the gorgeous green stuff. Green Valley hosts several fine courses, some private and some public. The difference here is that if you’re not a member, you won’t be relegated to a lesser piece of real estate. Choices include the Canoa Hills Golf Course and the San Ignacio Golf Club, two of my favorites. Also available are the Torres Blancas Golf Club and the Canoa Ranch. If you can’t get a tee time, mosey on down to the Tubac Resort and its twenty-seven hole championship course, complete with 98 guest rooms.
These courses are not overly short, and no one gets a break. Hitting it straight is still the hardest part of the game, and penalties for disobeying that directive are harsh. The rough is made of the natural environment, where the birds run instead of fly, and the vegetation will impale you, given half a chance. The contour of the desert makes for creative designs, and after a couple of 18s, you can watch the javalenas run down the street and listen to the coyotes howl at night, six feet on the other side of the wall – exciting stuff.
Incidentally, young people can play these courses as well, but if you are an aspiring pro, two universities sit nearby with stellar credentials. The University of Arizona men won the NCAA Championship in ’92, the women in ’96 and 2000. Alums include names such as Jim Furyk, Robert Gamez, Rory Sabbatini, and Annika Sorenstam and Chris Johnson on the LPGA side.
The Arizon State Sun Devils men won the NCAA in ’90 and ’96, but the women have gathered a heads-above superior record over the years, winning the nationals in ’90, ’92, ’94, ’95, ’97, ’98. Familiar names from both teams include Phil Mickelson and Grace Park, among many others. All in all, they’ve won two men’s and fourteen women’s titles. Between Tucson and Tempe, Arizona apparently has its own all-time, all-star tour.
Not many saw it coming in Tucson, home to the Arizona National in the foothills of the Santa Catalinas and the Coronado National Forest. After the Second World War, thousands of returning GIs and Midwestern nomads moved to the “Old Pueblo,” and by 1960, the population was 220,000, a golf-thirsty population at that. Unfortunately, courses need water, and the demands on local resources have been an ongoing consideration, not unlike Phoenix, which ironically experiences frequent flooding as well.
Writing this from Blythe, California, I would dearly love to take two extra weeks, retrace our steps and play every one of the courses of Tucson and Green Valley. Phoenix would take much longer than that, as it owns more courses than some states. However, the southern states are in a mysterious deep-freeze, at least relatively speaking, so I’ll take a rain-check on one of America’s best golf resources, where any age gets the challenge it wants.