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Arizona National: Tucson’s Sonoran Desert Superstar

Since the days of the first Skins Games, Arizona golf triggers images of stately Saguaro cactus and glowing sunsets.  Although not all golf courses in the Grand Canyon State boast these features, there’s a special place in the golf world for those that do – Arizona National Golf Club is certainly one of them.

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The 18-hole, par-71 golf course was designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr. in 1996 along the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains and Coronado National Forest. Jones took full advantage of this one-of-a-kind location by following the property’s rugged natural terrain loaded with mesquite-lined arroyos, Saguaro cactus, rock outcroppings, and uniquely, nine natural springs.   Along the way, the diverse 6,785-yard layout presents classic desert-golf challenges.

“Arizona National really has a lot going for it,” said Dennis Palmer, General Manager of the club.  “It’s located on one of the most scenic and vibrant pieces of property in the area.  And Robert Trent Jones Jr. did a great job of accentuating the natural beauty of the place while still providing a solid test of golf.”

The golf course starts out with a manageable “gentlemen’s” hole before reaching the par-5 second where golfers are called on to make a risk-reward decision off the tee as well as an accurate iron approach to a wide but shallow green.  Interestingly, three of the four par 5s turn up the heat with handicap rankings of 1, 2 and 4.

The golf experience ambles along amiably on the front side until running headlong into an ornery trio of holes from No. 9 to No. 11.  The par-3 9th stretches to 223 yards from the back tees and plays uphill.  Good news is the green is large and there’s no bunkers.

Although the 10th is the number-3-handicapped hole on the golf course, many think of it as the most difficult.  At 433 yards from the back tees, solid ball striking is a must.  A fairway bunker pinches in on the left, and a tee shot to the right will likely find a gnarly cactus-filled arroyo.  Careful consideration of the pin sheet is also important on the approach shot, as the green is roughly 40 yards deep.

Playing a whopping 625 yards from the back tees, the par-5 11th hole is the longest on the course.  It calls for as much as a 240-yard carry from the tee, a downhill second and an accurate approach to a green surrounded by gaping bunkers.

After taking on 9 through 11, golfers can breathe a sigh of relief on the 12th tee box.  And just to the right of it, they’ll be amazed to find a reservoir which was constructed by the ancient Hohokam people more than 1000 years ago.  Indeed, nine springs are found on property that have been bubbling with fresh water for eons.  They’re truly amazing, especially for the parched Southwest.

With such a rewarding golf experience, one might assume the greens fees would be on the high side.  They’re not.  In fact, the highest rate during the season is right around $100 with summer rates at a fraction of that.  Plus, there’s a handful of ways to save a buck.

The club’s annual membership program – Mountain Club – offers unlimited green fees year-round.  The program comes in two flavors, Platinum and Gold, and Mountain Club members also receive a 20 percent merchandise discount, 10 percent food discount, no food and beverage minimums, complimentary handicap service, locker and practice balls, traveling privileges at other OB Sports-managed clubs and a host of other benefits.

“The Mountain Club is a great way to enjoy our spectacular golf course year-round,” said Phil Green, President and COO of OB Sports, the management firm for Arizona National.  “Many of the locals only come out in the warmer months when it’s a bit more cost effective but a lot hotter.  The Mountain Club provides more opportunity to enjoy the golf experience anytime of the year.”

Another frequent-player program – The Sonoran Card – comes in at a lower annual cost, but still offers unlimited rounds of golf year-round at preferred Sonoran Card rates.  Up to three guests of the Sonoran Card holder per day may play for the same reduced rate, and they also receive discounts in the golf shop and grill.

From the windswept dunes of Bandon to the Blue Monster of Doral, the look and feel of golf across the United States varies to suit its surroundings.  At Arizona National, the surroundings happen to be some of the most spectacular Sonoran Desert on the planet.  To experience Arizona National Golf Club, make a tee time at ArizonaNationalGolfClub.com or call 520-749-4089.

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