The Preserve Golf Club at SaddleBrooke may be Tucson's best course you've never heard about

By Travel ArticlesJune 8, 2012, 4:00 am

TUCSON, Ariz. -- The western foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains are rugged, rocky and unforgiving and can be a harsh environment.

But golf course architect Dick Bailey tamed the land -- somewhat -- when he designed The Preserve Golf Club at SaddleBrooke.

The par-72, 7,006-yard course, sitting at 3,200 feet in elevation, may be one of the finest Tucson layouts you've never heard of. Golf course reviewers haven't exactly rushed to the site, but you should.

Looking out from the first tee you can see the wildness of the golf course. Even though this is a Robson Resort Community, a master-planned development for active adults 40 years old and up, homes haven't squeezed many fairways into a line of back yards.

'The scenery alone is worth the price of admission,' said Mike Jahaske, head professional at The Preserve. 'It has the scenery, playability and challenge of a tougher course, making it ideal for all levels of golfers. The course offers the type of challenge that makes you want to go back and play it again.'

Savor the conditioning

From your first fairway lie to your first putt on the undulating greens, you will notice pure conditioning. Sure, there are the wavy fairways, desert arroyos and unplayable wild places you don't want to find. But this golf course is pure.

When you motor up to No. 6, a 168-yard par 3, the view opens up of the Santa Catalina Mountains and the elevated tee requires you to bomb it over a deep desert valley 80 feet below and back up to a green cut in a saddle of a hillside. A lone saguaro looks down to the green from the vicinity of your next tee shot.

'It's a lot of fun to watch the ball fly against the backdrop of the mountains down to the green below,' Jahaske said.

The rest of the course is a lot of fun, too.

'I'm surprised few writers have reviewed this course before, because I had a blast,' said Morgan Zhao of Tucson. 'The course is next to a state trusted land and the views on many holes are gorgeous. Although it's a golf/community course, not many houses have been built and that leaves the wild views even better. Being a desert course, it requires accurate ball placement and the ability to negotiate wind.'

The Preserve Golf Club at SaddleBrooke: The verdict

The Preserve, which opened in 2004, seems a long way north of Tucson. Actually, it's only 25 minutes from downtown and it's worth the drive.

You will enjoy the smooth rolling greens and the numerous dry washes that cross a number of fairways, creating the strategy and demanding accurate approaches. The only water on the course comes into play down the right side of the 18th, a 435-yard par 4.

'Eighteen is a great finishing hole because of the sloping fairway and the lake that runs more than half the length of the hole,' Jahaske said. 'The green allows for some very challenging pin positions, too.'

Robson's plans call for 800 high-end luxury homes eventually filling The Preserve at SaddleBrooke, but they say even then the course will have an open feel.

More at SaddleBrooke than The Preserve

As a homeowner at The Preserve at SaddleBrooke you have access to 63 holes of golf, including MountainView Golf Club (designed by Gary Panks) and the private SaddleBrooke Country Club. Also, not far away in Oracle is SaddleBrooke Ranch Golf Club.

For those who do not play golf, the community still offers plenty of recreations. Two spacious clubhouses offer many resort-style amenities. Residents can enjoy swimming pools and whirlpools, hobby and game rooms, arts and crafts studios and state-of-the-art fitness centers. Outdoor sports courts support hobbies like tennis, bocce ball and basketball.

The DesertView Sports Club & Performing Arts Theater offers additional recreations with its own fitness center, tennis courts, swimming pool and softball field. It is also the site of SaddleBrook's 478-seat theatre and a dog park with separate areas for large and small pets.

When residents want a break from cooking in their own kitchens, they can enjoy a meal at one of SaddleBrooke's casual restaurants. The Mesquite Grill and Palo Verde Bistro feature a Southwestern atmosphere, while The Preserve Restaurant is designed to showcase spectacular mountain views.

Getty Images

Na: I can admit, 'I went through the yips'

By Rex HoggardJuly 17, 2018, 3:35 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following his victory two weeks ago at A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier, Kevin Na said his second triumph on the PGA Tour was the most rewarding of his career.

Although he declined to go into details as to why the victory was so gratifying at The Greenbrier, as he completed his practice round on Tuesday at the Open Championship, Na shed some light on how difficult the last few years have been.

“I went through the yips. The whole world saw that. I told people, 'I can’t take the club back,'” Na said on Tuesday at Carnoustie. “People talked about it, 'He’s a slow player. Look at his routine.' I was admitting to the yips. I didn’t use the word ‘yip’ at the time. Nobody wants to use that word, but I’m over it now so I can use it. The whole world saw it.”


Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


Na, who made headlines for his struggles to begin his backswing when he found himself in the lead at the 2012 Players Championship, said he asked other players who had gone through similar bouts with the game’s most dreaded ailment how they were able to get through it.

“It took time,” he said. “I forced myself a lot. I tried breathing. I tried a trigger. Some guys will have a forward press or the kick of the right knee. That was hard and the crap I got for it was not easy.”

The payoff, however, has steadily arrived this season. Na said he’d been confident with his game this season following a runner-up showing at the Genesis Open and a fourth-place finish at the Fort Worth Invitational, and he felt he was close to a breakthrough. But being able to finish a tournament like he did at The Greenbrier, where he won by five strokes, was particularly rewarding.

“All good now,” he smiled. “I knew I was good enough to win again, but until you do it sometimes you question yourself. It’s just the honest truth.”

Getty Images

Koepka still has chip on his chiseled shoulder

By Ryan LavnerJuly 17, 2018, 3:06 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Brooks Koepka prepared more for this Open than last year's.

He picked up his clubs three times.

That’s three more than last summer, when the only shots he hit between the summer Opens was during a commercial shoot for Michelob Ultra at TPC Sawgrass. He still tied for sixth at The Open a month later.

This time, Koepka kept his commitment to play the Travelers, then hit balls three times between the final round in Hartford and this past Sunday, when he first arrived here at Carnoustie.

Not that he was concerned, of course.

Koepka’s been playing golf for nearly 20 years. He wasn’t about to forget to how to swing a club after a few weeks off.

“It was pretty much the same thing,” he said Tuesday, during his pre-tournament news conference. “I shared it with one of my best friends, my family, and it was pretty much the same routine. It was fun. We enjoyed it. But I’m excited to get back inside the ropes and start playing again. I think you need to enjoy it any time you win and really embrace it and think about what you’ve done.”

At Shinnecock Hills, Koepka became the first player in nearly 30 years to repeat as U.S. Open champion – a major title that helped him shed his undeserved reputation as just another 20-something talent who relies solely on his awesome power. In fact, he takes immense pride in his improved short game and putting inside 8 feet.

“I can take advantage of long golf courses,” he said, “but I enjoy plotting my way around probably - more than the bombers’ golf courses - where you’ve got to think, be cautious sometimes, and fire at the center of the greens. You’ve got to be very disciplined, and that’s the kind of golf I enjoy.”

Which is why Koepka once again fancies his chances here on the type of links that helped launch his career.

Koepka was out of options domestically after he failed to reach the final stage of Q-School in 2012. So he packed his bags and headed overseas, going on a tear on the European Challenge Tour (Europe’s equivalent of the Web.com circuit) and earning four titles, including one here in Scotland. That experience was the most fun and beneficial part of his career, when he learned to win, be self-sufficient and play in different conditions.


Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


“There’s certain steps, and I embraced it,” Koepka said. “I think that’s where a lot of guys go wrong. You are where you are, and you have to make the best of it instead of just putting your head down and being like, 'Well, I should be on the PGA Tour.' Well, guess what? You’re not. So you’ve got to suck it up wherever you are, make the best of it, and keep plugging away and trying to win everything you can because, eventually, if you’re good enough, you will get out here.”

Koepka has proved that he’s plenty good enough, of course: He’s a combined 20 under in the majors since the beginning of 2017, the best of any player during that span. But he still searches long and hard for a chip to put on his chiseled shoulder.

In his presser after winning at Shinnecock, Koepka said that he sometimes feels disrespected and forgotten, at least compared to his more-ballyhooed peers. It didn’t necessarily bother him – he prefers to stay out of the spotlight anyway, eschewing a media tour after each of his Open titles – but it clearly tweaked him enough for him to admit it publicly.

That feeling didn’t subside after he went back to back at the Open, either. On U.S. Open Sunday, ESPN’s Instagram page didn’t showcase a victorious Koepka, but rather a video of New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. dunking a basketball.

“He’s like 6-foot-2. He’s got hops – we all know that – and he’s got hands. So what’s impressive about that?” Koepka said. “But I always try to find something where I feel like I’m the underdog and put that little chip on my shoulder. Even if you’re No. 1, you’ve got to find a way to keep going and keep that little chip on.

“I think I’ve done a good job of that. I need to continue doing that, because once you’re satisfied, you’re only going to go downhill. You try to find something to get better and better, and that’s what I’m trying to do.”

Now 28, Koepka has a goal of how many majors he’d like to win before his career is over, but he wasn’t about to share it.

Still, he was adamant about one thing: “Right now I’m focused on winning. That’s the only thing I’ve got in my mind. Second place just isn’t good enough. I finished second a lot, and I’m just tired of it. Once you win, it kind of propels you. You have this mindset where you just want to keep winning. It breeds confidence, but you want to have that feeling of gratification: I finally did this. How cool is this?”

So cool that Koepka can’t wait to win another one.

Getty Images

Despite results, Thomas loves links golf

By Jay CoffinJuly 17, 2018, 2:48 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Despite poor results in two previous Open Championships, Justin Thomas contends that he has what it takes to be a good links player. In fact, he believes that he is a good links player.

Two years ago at Royal Troon, Thomas shot 77 in the second round to tie for 53rd place. He was on the wrong side of the draw that week that essentially eliminated anyone from contention who played late Friday afternoon.

Last year at Royal Birkdale, Thomas made a quintuple-bogey 9 on the par-4 sixth hole in the second round and missed the cut by two shots.


Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


“I feel like I’ve played more than two Opens, but I haven’t had any success here,” Thomas said Tuesday at Carnoustie. “I feel like I am a good links player, although I don’t really have the results to show.”

Although he didn’t mention it as a reason for success this week, Thomas is a much different player now than he was two years ago, having ascended to the No. 1 position in the world for a few weeks and now resting comfortably in the second spot.

He also believes a high golf IQ, and the ability to shape different shots into and with the wind are something that will help him in The Open over the next 20 years.

“I truly enjoy the creativity,” Thomas said. “It presents a lot of different strategies, how you want to play it, if you want to be aggressive, if you want to be conservative, if you want to attack some holes, wait on certain winds, whatever it might be. It definitely causes you to think.

“With it being as firm as it is, it definitely adds a whole other variable to it.”

@CallawayGolf via @goodwalkspoiled on Twitter

Watch: Phil flops ball over guy's head from 2 feet away

By Nick MentaJuly 17, 2018, 2:46 pm

Sure, you trust Phil Mickelson to hit a flop shot. But would you trust him to hit one over your head from 2 feet away?

Evidently, this guy did, and his faith was rewarded.

Callaway Golf sent out this Twitter video on Tuesday taken by Mickelson's bother and caddie, Tim, ahead of this week's Open at Carnoustie:

If you look closely, you can see the guy holding his ... breath.

Yeah, that's it. His breath.