El Conquistador – Canada Course
We left Casa Grande Saturday and made the short 75-minute drive down I-10 to our next destination Tucson, AZ. On travelling days, even short ones like this, we opt not to golf and during NFL season we never tee it up when playoff games are on. The golf free weekend gives a chance to re charge our batteries and hopefully my creative writing juices. It also gave us the afternoon to do some sightseeing and Myra chose San Xavier Mission, just south of Tucson. What an amazing historical site complete with the stunning white washed mission housing the remarkable chapel, museum and gift shop. Adjacent to it was a climbable stone covered hill containing a grotto and, on the top, a religious shrine. Lunch was native Flatbread with beans and shredded green chili beef prepared on open fires in one of the many wooden food stands run by the indigenous people who lived nearby. Very delicious!
After a fill of NFL highlights and lowlights Sunday, we ventured from Rincon West RV Park 30 minutes north to the Oro Valley where El Conquistador Golf and Tennis, run by the very noted and capable Troon Golf, is located. This location contains the two courses we will play on back to back days. Day 1 The Canada Course (pronounced Can Yada) and Day 2 the Conquistador Course.
As we experienced on Day 1 the courses designed by the original architects Greg Nash and Jeff Hardin are dramatic in design and layout which provides a remarkable desert golf experience.
The Canada Course is a combination of holes with dramatic elevation changes both downward and upward as you climb to highpoint on the Par 3 8thand then begin the back nine with 5 holes back down on the level ground off the valley floor. Countless times your backdrop for your drive or approach shot are the breathtaking Santa Catalina mountains and Pusch Ridge, a dramatic, angled, escarpment.
Our day began in typical fashion and got increasingly better, Bob at the bag drop escorted us out to the Golfmobile and loaded up our clubs and camera gear. We hope his plan to come to Vancouver Island with his wife where we live in 2020 comes to fruition as it would be nice to see this nice man again.
Entering the clubhouse, I was greeted by Shanna from the pro shop who directed me to the Overlook Restaurant. After getting seated and placing our order with our waiter Steven, I left Myra to peruse the menu while I popped downstairs to the pro shop positioned conveniently at ground level.
Shanna introduced me to PGA Head Professional, Erick Womack, as well Food and Beverage Manager, Dave Lewis. After sharing a few minutes discussing the review process we conduct, I headed back up to enjoy a delicious lunch. We shared the chicken quesadilla and an amazing Pacific Rim Salad with breaded chicken pieces, mandarin oranges and crunchy vegetables with a tangy soy ginger dressing. We agreed it was one of the tastiest golf lunches we had enjoyed and then we realized we could drop the word “golf” from that – it was mouthwatering.
Richard, who was very helpful midweek when I had telephoned the pro shop introduced us to Jim the starter. Jim told us to take our time and loosen up and he’d make sure he’d let us know when to take the tee. The practice area is condensed and within close proximity to the clubhouse. It contains separate, dedicated chipping, putting and bunker areas and the driving range.
Warmed up and ready, we were introduced by Jim to another Jim and John, two locals who play here once a week, who we were playing with. The presentation of each hole off the tee was at times breathtaking with the definition of the immaculate green grass of the fairways, the dormant rough and desert vegetation; shrubs, bushes and trees in abundance.
The Canada Course demands a commitment to accuracy off the tee and I didn’t pull out the driver until the Par 5 5th. I would suggest hybrids or a fairway wood to the center of the fairway on most of the Par 4’s to set up full high lofted approach shots required for the many elevated greens on the course. Hole 4 provided a ‘National Geographic” moment as a coyote, totally oblivious to golfers, sunned itself next to the greenside bunker in front. Recent rains nourished the surrounding foliage.
Cacti with blossoms, beautiful yellow flowers and cholla cactus. After the rollercoaster ride from 7 green up to the Par 3 8th tee, John informed us this little nugget was selected in the top 18 toughest Tucson golf holes by a local sports writer. The strong cross wind added to this and although we both missed our par putts we felt like we had conquered it with bogies.
From the green we had a stunning 360 degree of the Oro Valley below, with literally thousands upon thousands of Saguaro cacti looking like chubby breadsticks poking out of the desert floor.
The entire course is not only a golfers dream, but a photographers dream and I trust these photos do it justice. After making the turn and settling into 5 consecutive holes on flatter ground we began the climb again on Hole 15. Myra was on a roll and unintentionally showing off, making back to back par 4’s on 11 and 12 and then topping it off with 40-foot downhill bomb from off the green on 14 to save bogey.
Then we came to the OMG moment of the round, coming over a little rise on the path to witness the view of the Par 5 16th. Before playing it, I was in awe, and more so with every step closer and closer to the green. A sand filled wash that crosses the fairway forces a drive short of it, mine leaking into the desert right where I barely made it over the wash on my second catching it heavy with my hybrid. Three huge, sloped bunkers right of the green and a huge lake left actually assisted me in focusing on playing an accurate shot from 240 yards. “Myra I’m going to rip this 3 wood at the middle bunker with a draw onto the green”. The result was as good as it gets, but still left me with a 50-footer for birdie. Two good putts later and par was very acceptable. The nice thing was Jim joining me on the par squad on that hole.
I could have taken 100 photos of that hole and it still wouldn’t have been enough. In my opinion it is the marquee hole on the course. It is one of the finest Par 5’s I’ve played globally. Hole 17 was the antithesis of the 16th, a short Par 4 with a series of undulated mounds running from 120 yards to about 30 yards out, right in the middle of the fairway, very unique and interesting.
Minimal light late in the day didn’t permit photographing a really great uphill Par 4 finishing hole so I guess you’ll just have to play it yourself to see how good a hole it is. Parring it for me capped off a pretty decent round. I was 43-41 = 84 and Myra incredibly 54-46 for an even 100.
Our two playing partners had some memorable shots also. After a brief chat with Steve, one of the golf club attendants at the bag drop, we pulled away excited about replaying our round in our minds and the prospect of Day 2 on The Conquistador Course. Superintendent Chris Soto can be proud of the maintenance efforts of his team and of note are the tee boxes, so level, and the greens and fairways consistent throughout the course.
Day 1 in the books, Grade A all the way.