Golf: Dove Tale

  • James A. Frank

"Do you think they will like it?" asks Kenn Depew, general manager of the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club, Dove Mountain, outside of Tucson, Ariz. "They" are the pros of the PGA Tour. "It" is the club’s still-growing-in Tortolita course, which will debut in late February when it hosts the tour’s Accenture Match Play Tournament.

Jack Nicklaus designed Tortolita—part of a 27-hole complex at a new Ritz-Carlton resort 20 miles northwest of downtown Tucson—with the tournament in mind. His layout should entice the pros to attempt heroic (and potentially fatal) shots when battling mano a mano, as match play demands.

The most obvious sign of Tortolita’s professional purpose is its length; the course will measure 7,800 yards from the back tees, making it the longest track on the PGA Tour. But four other sets of tees—and the course’s 2,500-foot elevation, which should add distance to shots—will make Tortolita manageable for most amateur golfers as well. The course will have relatively few blind shots, so its large, shapely fairway bunkers and other hazards will almost always be in clear view. Some golfers, however, may have trouble staying focused on their targets as they play through the eerily silent, cactus-lined canyons of the scenic Tortolita ("little turtledove") Mountains.

Nicklaus’ large, undulating greens at Dove Mountain will form several peaks and valleys of their own. Good scores at the club will hinge on hitting precise spots on the putting surfaces and then mastering breaks both super and subtle. Miss by too much and you will find your ball hanging precariously from a sharply sloping chipping area or lodged deep in a bunker. Natural desert washes also will present hurdles on several holes; Nicklaus has incorporated the mostly dry streambeds along and across fairways and in front of greens.

Construction on the back nine of Dove Mountain’s other course, also designed by Nicklaus, will begin on the 850-acre property in 2010. The two 18-hole courses will alternate daily for play by club members and by guests of the Ritz-Carlton hotel, which is scheduled to open in fall 2009. Tucked into a box canyon, the hotel—with 250 rooms, 24 casitas, a 17,000-square-foot spa, swimming pools (including one with a 235-foot-long waterslide), and three restaurants—will be surrounded by the Tortolita Mountains, where visitors can enjoy 20 miles of hiking and equestrian trails.

As for golfers’ enjoyment of the Tortolita course, Depew can rest easy. The members and guests of the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club—as well as the pros who inaugurate it—will no doubt find peace at Dove Mountain.

The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club, Dove Mountain, 520.572.8000, www.dovemountain.com/ritz

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