Golfers who were excited about the arrival of the Links at Continental Ranch, previewed in the 19th Hole in June 1999 but open for play prior to that date, will view its demise with sorrow as we do, but do not despair.
In its place our community will be treated to the arrival of an exciting new quarry golf course, which will bear a new name, possibly the Golf Club at Continental Ranch, omitting the Links identity.
Much of the land previously occupied by the Links course will eventually be converted into a residential community, which will overlook much of the course, a business center fronting I-10 and a resort and convention complex.
Only the first hole and portions of several existing holes will be retained from the present course. However, its replacement is guaranteed to excite and thrill everyone inclusive of dedicated fans of a links-style course. If any of our readers happened to be fortunate enough to have visited a northern Florida horse-country town called Ocala and discovered a private residential community called Black Diamond, you may already be familiar with a precursor of this new undertaking at Continental Ranch.
Black Diamond is the home of two 18-hole layouts. One of the courses features the Quarry Nine, a breathtaking collection of Fazio designed holes that transverse, go through and stay within a abandoned construction materials excavation.
This talented designer skillfully converted previously deserted wasteland into one of the most talked about courses in the state, if not the country. Should your visit also include a round on the golf course, you can foresee what will be coming to Marana in 2003.
Fazio magically transformed a gigantic open pit into one of the most memorable nine holes of golf you will ever play. A challenge perhaps to the firm of Gilmore and Graves in Phoenix, and Jack Gilmore in particular, but one this firm appears to be capable of mastering judging by the proposed layout now on display in the Pro Shop at the Links.
The site to be incorporated into a significant portion of Marana's golf attractions, which already includes two formidable golf properties at Dove Mountain, The Gallery and Heritage Highlands, is where the Kiewit Materials Company is presently positioned.
The vast excavation they have used to extract sand and gravel will form the nucleus of nine dynamic golf holes, inclusive of one par 3, the 15th hole, already dubbed the Abyss by the project developer, David B. Graham. Graham, a 1983 Tucson emigrant from London, addressed the Marana Chamber of Commerce this week and revealed the first drawings prepared by Gilmore and Graves.
On the plus side, local golfers and Links' die-hards will still have ample time to play the original course which will remain in place well into 2003 and possibly beyond that.
This is due to a unique proposal that calls for construction of the new nine holes on the land presently occupied by Kiewit Materials with only minor intrusions on the current 18 holes. Practically all of this land is located adjacent to the present Links course.
While I feel sure the Links at Continental Ranch will be missed, I expect that loss to quickly be forgotten once you view what is on the horizon. In recent years the Links lost most of its punitive teeth when native grasses bordering most of the fairways began to wither and die.
Without this key ingredient the course became semi-defenseless with only the wind factor remaining to support the designated objectives of a true Links course. Although new native grass has been planted and is being irrigated, the style of the course is entirely different and will result in the removal of the links identification to be replaced by "The Golf Club at Continental Ranch."
We predict that the new addition will more than offset any feelings of remorse regarding the change in characterization. In response to my question about availability for play, David Graham emphasized that the Links will remain open for play throughout construction. In fact he stated the course has experienced increased interest. Green fees remain at $39 on weekends and $29 during the week until mid-November when new rates will be published.
The Director of Golf for the Links and the new facility will be Dennis Palmer, a former University of Arizona golfer in 1977-79 and a previous resident of Ft. Myers, Florida. I feel sure, if asked, Dennis will gladly point out some of the exceptional holes on his new course.
Completed construction of the new nine is expected to take approximately three years. Meanwhile construction has already begun on enlarging the clubhouse, enclosing a new dining room and improving the kitchen. This phase will be completed in November of this year.
After touring the newly acquired land I found myself growing more and more enthusiastic about this project. There is nothing in our metropolitan area to rival this unique quarry property. I feel quite comfortable predicting that demand for play will exceed all expectations. I also anticipate an increased interest in playing our only Links course while it is still available.
Having been fortunate enough to play Black Diamond, I can attest to the visual delight and the challenge presented by a course that utilizes land considered by many to be worthless. That may have been true before some enterprising architect saw the potential it offered and went about creating a whole new concept.
This facility will be as dramatic as any golf course you have ever played simply because the topography is radically different. Consider that as you visualize working your way down into deep chasms with greens set beneath huge cliffs. That's a thrill all by itself, and rest assured the architects will extract additional scenes that you may never have witnessed before on a golf course.
My guess is the Abyss will be one of those holes. If I am still writing and being published three years from now, I promise to preview The Golf Club at Continental Ranch when it opens for play.
If you have courses you'd like the 19th Hole to preview or review or ideas for future articles, e-mail me at Stuyvegolf@aol.com.