by Jack Rickard
Golf in Tucson and Southern Arizona presents much more than the ongoing battle to make par. It also provides a quick lesson in the native vegetation and desert critters that inhabit many of the area's courses, from the majestic saguaros that have been around for centuries to the elusive roadrunners that never seem to slow down.
And there's also a wonderful sense of history. You might play the same hole Phil Mickelson once birdied, beating the PGA Tour's best as an amateur. Or play the same courses that Annika Sorenstam and Lorena Ochoa honed their games on in college. Or tee it up where Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino, Johnny Miller, and Nancy Lopez won tournaments. Or where Tiger Woods won as a teenager, lost as a collegian, and won as a Tour player, all on different championship courses.
And if you've booked a tee time, don't worry about the weather. There may be only five days a year when the courses are out of play.
The centerpiece of Tucson City Golf's five courses is Randolph Golf Course, which has hosted both PGA and LPGA Tour events. The traditional tree-lined layout would easily be at home in the Northwest. It's where Sorenstam practiced in the early mornings before attending class at The University of Arizona.
Randolph Golf Course in Tucson, Arizona – Jeff Bonner
The Dell Urich Golf Course adjoining Randolph is a sporty par-70 layout, redesigned more than a decade ago. Before the changes, it was named Randolph South and was completely flat. Now the fairways roll and move, all part of a design to contain a 100-year flood. It's named after the late golf pro who worked at Randolph for nearly four decades. The most recent LPGA Tour visit to Tucson was staged here.
The El Rio-Trini Alvarez Golf Course is one of the city's oldest. Enjoy retro golf thanks to architect Ken Kavanaugh's makeover restoring the course's original look – small greens and tree-lined fairways. It hosted the Tucson Open from 1945 to 1961. Legends Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson, and Sam Snead competed there several times, but never managed to win. El Rio is the home of the national First Tee Program, which introduces juniors to the game.
On the east side, the Fred Enke Golf Course is Tucson City Golf's only target course. The challenging desert course uses grass only on the tees, landing areas, and greens. Accuracy off the tees is key here. Otherwise you'll get up close and personal with our native (prickly) plants.
Silverbell Golf Course also underwent a Kavanaugh makeover recently, a redesign that moved five holes originally built on an old landfill. The new layout is so attractive that the Arizona Golf Association brought one of its championship events to the course. Indeed, municipal golf in Tucson rivals any city's muni program.