A thick blanket of hunter-green rye grass covered the fairways and greens of the new 27-hole, Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course at the Ritz-Carlton at Dove Mountain.
A series of undulating pathways through the saguaros and desert scrub, the course features a multitude of bunkers and sharp doglegs. “It’s not for the faint of heart,” said Jeff McCormick, the Ritz’s head golf professional.
McCormick zipped around in a golf cart last Friday pointing out the various features of the course, that next month — Feb. 23 through March 1 — will play host to the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship.
The PGA’s top 64 golfers will take to the Tortolita and Saguaro courses (the first 18 holes) to test their mettle on what will “be the longest golf course they’ll play on the PGA tour this year, at almost 7,900 yards,” McCormick boasted.
Crews busily worked under a bright sun last Friday to install scaffolding at various points along the course.
At the clubhouse and pro shop, construction workers and resort employees hummed around in a mad dash to complete work before the Jan. 17 grand-opening of the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club.
Public play, for $225 per player this winter, begins Jan. 18 and will run until the resort opens sometime in October.
McCormick stopped his cart in full view of Hole 5 of the tournament course. With a view of Picacho Peak in the distance, the par-4 hole extended some 539 yards through the desert. “It’s forever,” said McCormick, who’s had the chance to play the challenging course twice.
“The fairways are generous,” he said, motioning to the wide swaths of rich grass carpeting between each tee box and green. “But it tests your short game.”
Not a single green contained a level path to a hole. Too far to the left or right on any hole, and a player risks losing a ball in a bunker or the rough. Too deep or too short — it’s the same sad story.
With its tranquil setting and mountain views on all sides, “it’s almost like you’re the only one here,” McCormick said.
The golf pro’s domain features an appropriately luxurious clubhouse and restaurant.
“There’s 19 fireplaces in there,” he said as he blitzed through the place, which was about a week short of substantial completion.
The golf club’s part of the Ritz-Carlton’s 850-acre complex at Dove Mountain, that once complete, will feature a 250-room resort, full-service spa and 400 luxury home sites.
To mark the opening of the golf course, project developers Kathryn and Tim Bolinger of Greenbrier Southwest Corp. and David Mehl of Tucson-based Cottonwood Properties will hold a “Fore for Four” charity golfing event. Four community organizations will benefit from proceeds of the event — the Ara Parseghian Medical Research Foundation, the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, Tucson Museum of Art and the University of Arizona Foundation.
RITZ-CARLTON GOLF CLUB
WHAT: 27-hole course at Dove Mountain designed by Jack Nicklaus, his first Tucson course in 25 years
WHERE: 6501 Boulder Bridge Pass in Marana, off Dove Mountain Boulevard
DETAILS: Three 9-hole segments — Tortolita, Saguaro and Wild Burro, with a fourth planned for the future. The Tortolita and Saguaro sections will play host to the World Golf Championship-Accenture Match Play Championship Feb. 23-March 1.
CONTACT: 572-3500; rcgolfclubdovemountain.com.