Beauty Surrounds Courses at Ventana Canyon
It was classic Tucson at dusk, a gorgeous November day that highlighted two beautiful golf courses, both at The Lodge. Arizona in the fall is mild days, a breath-taking sunset, and golf that is ' quite simply - a must-do before one leaves this earth.
The Lodge is very small ' only 50 rooms. It is also very golf-friendly ' two magnificent courses, shared with the adjacent Loews Hotel. Named the Mountain and the Canyon courses, their rugged beauty is breath-taking. Designed by Tom Fazio, the 36 holes fit in with the natural landscape like they have been there for thousands of years.
Basically, Mother Nature did 90-95 percent of Tom Fazios job for him, said Dave Schneider, Ventana Canyons director of golf. He did not have to do a lot of earth-moving, did not have to do a lot replanting. He added a few moguls to the fairways to create his style of golf course, but Mother Nature really did the rest.
The courses are nestled in the foothills of the Santa Catalinas with the Sonoran Desert off in the immediate distance. However, Tucson sits at 3,000 feet of elevation, meaning a 40-degree temperature change in night and day is not at all uncommon. The Coronado National Forest squats on the border of Ventana Canyon, and the city enjoys 350 days of sunshine annually ' postponed due to rain is seldom heard around the Lodge.
The two courses give the golfer different feels ' both are distinctly different in terms of playability.
The Mountain Course ' the first golf course constructed in the mid-80s' is more of a typical-style desert golf course, said Schneider. Thats where there are a lot of forced carries ' you cant top your ball and hope for it to be OK. Youre going to have to carry your ball over some ravines or some washes.
The Canyon Course, which was constructed roughly a year later, is a little bit more friendly, a little bit more of a Midwest-style course. Theres more turf off the teeing areas. It just gives it a feel of a little different playability from that standpoint for all types of golfers.
Fazio, of course, is known for tempting the players with at least one risk-reward hole. The 14th on the Canyon is just such a design, begging the player to launch a howitzer toward the green, while his more conservative self pleads for caution. The par-4 is just 303 yards downhill from the championship tees, only 276 where the average golfer plays, but danger lucks at every turn.
'You are tempted to just blast a driver down there and try to reach it, said Schneider. But the penalty for missing is awfully severe.
The problem is, there are so many tiers in the green and if you happen to reach the wrong plateau, youre dead. Couple that with the strategic bunkering - you can be right next to the flag but have an impossible shot ' and you have a challenge that can be very difficult. That really is a great match-play hole.
Perhaps the most unusual hole, though, is No. 3 on the Mountain Course ' a par-3 which requires a player to tee off on a cliff to reach the green built on a foothill over a 100-foot drop.
The yardage is only 107 yards from the back, 104 from the normal tees. The climb up to the teeing area, though is significant ' steps are made of rock and you almost get dizzy as you clamber up the side of the steep elevation.
As far as the elevation from where youre hitting the ball to where it should land, the elevation change is insignificant, said Schneider. However, the land between you and the hole ' you can go down 100 feet. Then you go back up 100 feet to get to the green.
The hole is in one large canyon with two very large mountains, I guess you would say. And you have to be very precise with your shot - the green is 50-60 percent surrounded by a ledge. If you do not make the putting surface, anywhere from short right to long left, youll go down a 30-40 foot ravine ' hit it off the edge of the planet!
The hole was reputed to have cost $1.5 million to build, making it at the time one of the most expensive ever built. And the green was a break-through in technology back in the 80s. Due to the fact that the hole is in a canyon and does not receive sunlight in the winter months, the construction superintendent placed heating coils within the green. That alone keeps the turf from freezing.
Private balconies at the 50-room Lodge offer incredible views of the courses and the surrounding mountains. Conde Nast magazine makes the Lodge at Ventana Canyon one of its top 75 golf resorts in America.
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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm
Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:
Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft
Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft
Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts
Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts
Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red
Ball: TaylorMade TP5x
Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff
Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.
While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.
Watching Andrew Landry and Jon Rahm in playoff. Walking off tee talking to each other. Are you kidding me ? Talking at all. ?— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.
0 words— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
The issue is I don’t want to make you a bit relaxed or comfortable. High pressure, good.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
Did you watch the end of the NFL games yesterday ? Enough said.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
I didn’t say you couldn’t be friends and competitive. But in a playoff, 1 tiny mistake and you lose, and that devastated me. Friends before and after, competitors during play.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
Did you win ? It’s all about surviving the competition to test yourself.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.
Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over
The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.
As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.
Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.
And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.
And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.
McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.
The Ryder Cup topped his list.
Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.
When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.
“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”
McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.
Or similar assertions from TV analysts.
“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”
European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.
And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.
The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.
Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.
And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.
Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.
The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.
The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.
More bulletin board material, too.
Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.
Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions
Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.
The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.
It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.
The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.
“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”
Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.