Two generations of Nicklaus in Tucson: La Paloma and Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain

By Travel ArticlesFebruary 21, 2012, 3:50 pm

TUCSON, Ariz. -- La Paloma Country Club and The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club's Dove Mountain Course, home of the Accenture Match Play Championship, have a few things in common beyond their location about 30 minutes apart from one another in Tucson. 

Both are 27-hole desert golf courses designed by Jack Nicklaus. And both courses are semi-private with luxury resorts and real estate attached. Each rank among Tucson's elite class of golf courses and are kept superb shape.  

But a lot can change in 25 years. 

From the time Nicklaus constructed La Paloma (1984) to the opening of Dove Mountain (2009), his maturation as a course designer is evident in his designs. 

Tucson has changed too. The differences between La Paloma and Dove Mountain illustrate the growth of golf in the area - and modern equipment. 

Omni Tucson National hosted the PGA Tour's Tucson Open and Chrysler Classic from 1965 thru 2006. But the traditional parkland course became a birdie festival for PGA Tour pros. In 1975, Johnny Miller won the tournament by shooting 61 in the final round. Don Triplett won the last event at 22-under par. 

Tucson simply didn't have a course that could host the 64 best players in the world at the Accenture Match Play Championship. 

But that all changed with Dove Mountain. It was further evidence that the Tucson golf scene was growing up -- and that over 25 years, Nicklaus the designer had evolved as well.

Little room for error at La Paloma Country Club

Nicklaus, as any ardent golf fan knows, was a terrific long iron player. So it's not surprising that many of hisearly designs, including La Paloma, require precise long-iron play.

On La Paloma's three nine-hole courses, each features narrow fairways, elevated greens and forced carries, particularly on long par 3s. It's as if Nicklaus thought every golfer could stripe a 2-iron.

Take the two par 3s on the Hill nine. The fourth hole is 185 yards, and at least 180 yards are all carry. Even worse, the drop-off is completely vertical. Hit a drive 178 yards, and it's lost in the desert. The same goes for No. 8, a 157-yard hole without a safe landing area. There's no bump-and-run option; golfers have to hit high and accurate shots, a Nicklaus trademark.

As for Dove Mountain, it may play over 7,700 yards and hosts the WGC Match Play Championship, but it's an example of Nicklaus thinking more about the average golfer. Unlike La Paloma (which plays 7,088 yards in its longest combination), the fairways at Dove Mountain are wide and welcoming. Nicklaus also cut down on the number of long, forced carries.

Consider The par 3s at Dove Mountain. There are six on the property, and five of them are at least 200 yards -- with the longest measuring 253 yards. But on each, Nicklaus gave golfers an out with either a safe area in front of the green or on either side of the green. 

At La Paloma, there is no such safe haven.

Dove Mountain demands stellar a short game

In designing Dove Mountain, Nicklaus seemed to understand that golf technology was taking the bite out of courses. So he fought back the only way he could: by making the greens unbelievably difficult to putt.

La Paloma's greens, while elevated, are soft and generally forgiving in their undulation and breaks. To say Dove Mountain's greens break a lot is like saying Rush Limbaugh leans a little to the right. Dramatic ridges often run through the middle of the greens, turning even 5-foot putts into an adventure.

'Jack's gone on record as saying greens really are a golf course's only defense anymore when it comes to the best players in the world,' said Jeff McCormick, director of golf operations. 'If you're going to have a golf course here in desert and not have 22–yard fairways and 6-inch deep rough, the greens need to be the challenge.'

Cavernous bunkers are commonplace at Dove Mountain, both on the fairway and around the greens.
Fortunately, Nicklaus had a soft spot for the average golfer. Many of the greens feature a backstop or sideboard that make it easier to access the pin, and the front of the greens are available for bump-and-run shots.

It's those greens, more so than the length, that distinguish Dove Mountain from La Paloma.

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Stock Watch: Strange grumpy; Tiger Time again?

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 1:00 pm

Each week on, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.


Jon Rahm (+9%): This should put his whirlwind 17 months in the proper context: Rahm (38) has earned four worldwide titles in 25 fewer starts – or a full season quicker – than Jordan Spieth (63). This kid is special.

Tommy Fleetwood (+7%): Putting on a stripe show in windy conditions, the Englishman defended his title in Abu Dhabi (thanks to a back-nine 30) and capped a 52-week period in which he won three times, contended in majors and WGCs, and soared inside the top 15 in the world.

Sergio (+3%): Some wholesale equipment changes require months of adjustments. In Garcia’s case, it didn’t even take one start, as the new Callaway staffer dusted the field by five shots in Singapore.

Rory (+2%): Sure, it was a deflating Sunday finish, as he shot his worst round of the week and got whipped by Fleetwood, but big picture he looked refreshed and built some momentum for the rest of his pre-Masters slate. That’s progress.

Ken Duke (+1%): Looking ahead to the senior circuit, Duke, 48, still needs a place to play for the next few years. Hopefully a few sponsors saw what happened in Palm Springs, because his decision to sub in for an injured Corey Pavin for the second and third rounds – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard – was as selfless as it gets.


Austin Cook (-1%): The 54-hole leader in the desert, he closed with 75 – the worst score of anyone inside the top 40. Oy.

Phil (-2%): All of that pre-tournament optimism was tempered by the reality of his first missed cut to start the new year since 2009. Now ranked 45th in the world, his position inside the top 50 – a spot he’s occupied every week since November 1993 – is now in jeopardy.

Careful What You Wish For (-3%): Today’s young players might (foolishly) wish they could have faced Woods in his prime, but they’ll at least get a sense this week of the spectacle he creates. Playing his first Tour event in a year, and following an encouraging warmup in the Bahamas, his mere presence at Torrey is sure to leave everyone else to grind in obscurity.

Curtis Strange (-5%): The two-time U.S. Open champ took exception with the chummy nature of the CareerBuilder playoff, with Rahm and Andrew Landry chatting between shots. “Are you kidding me?” Strange tweeted. “Talking at all?” The quality of golf was superb, so clearly they didn’t need to give each other the silent treatment to summon their best.

Brooks Koepka (-8%): A bummer, the 27-year-old heading to the DL just as he was starting to come into his own. The partially torn tendon in his left wrist is expected to knock him out of action until the Masters, but who knows how long it’ll take him to return to game shape.

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

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

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

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.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

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.