(TUCSON, AZ) When you live in the desert and play golf you are going to have to play “desert”, or call it target style, golf courses. This kind of golf is unique to those of us lucky enough to call Arizona home and we should relish in that fact. Starr Pass is truly the definition of desert golf on many levels; fairways are like strips of Astroturf on the desert floor and are surrounded by ball eating cacti of every variety, dry washes and canyons have to be carried, the occasional wildlife encounter is there to be enjoyed, and the peace and quiet around you is almost deafening at times.
Situated just west of downtown Tucson, up behind “A” mountain, Starr Pass is close to everywhere and very easy to get to. The now 27 hole layout (9 holes were recently added) had played host to the PGA TOUR from 1987 to 1996. Who doesn’t remember Phil Mickelson’s victory in 1991 as an amateur Sundevil? While the TOUR may have moved on, the golf course remains and is still as challenging and beautifully manicured as when the pro’s played here. In fact, Starr Pass is home for many local tournaments and events; not only is the course set up for competitive golf, but the clubhouse is ideal for banquets and awards ceremonies…and offers covered parking, great for individual summer golf as well as tournaments… how cool is that!
On the day my companions and I played, the pro set us up to play the original 18 hole layout. Now I know why Starr Pass was rated by the PGA as one of the toughest tracks on tour. The first two holes are relatively easy par 4’s, good warm up for what follows. The third and fifth holes of the Rattler nine, both par fives, were ranked among the most difficult on tour by the PGA and for good reason. Leave your approach shot short on either hole and you are looking for a lost ball and whatever score you can salvage. Turning to the back nine, now called the Coyote, brings you to some of the best holes in So. AZ. The fiddle shaped #3 is a par 5 that requires some mathematics for each shot to get you into the fat parts of the fairway and avoid the narrow necks in-between, great design feature. Starr Pass gets its name from #6 on Coyote, a relatively short par 4 that plays over the actual pass by pioneers trying to make their way through the rugged wilderness of the Tucson Mountains. Too long and wayward off the tee and you are ricocheting off the walls of the pass, too long on the approach to a shallow green and you are scrambling to save par from well below the green. The finishing hole plays right up to the clubhouse.
With the addition of the Marriott Resort, Starr Pass is the real deal in Southern Arizona golf. A true golf destination for locals seeking a weekend golf getaway and a haven for winter visitors who want a desert golf experience. Lucky us, we get to play Starr Pass whenever we want.
J.W. Starr Pass Resort & Spa
3800 W Starr Pass Blvd.
Tucson, AZ 85745
Phone: (520) 670-0306
Director of Golf; Todd Howard, PGA