When Jack Nicklaus designed the three nine-hole courses at La Paloma 30 years ago, he was still playing in the Masters and the U.S. Open. The following year, The Westin La Paloma Resort & Spa was built.
The private La Paloma Country Club, with about 380 members, has seen a surge since Troon Golf took over with Patrick Galloway at the helm as general manager. Open to guests of The Westin La Paloma Resort, the course plays at a decent pace set by Troon. “Each Troon course has its own time that it should take to play; as each course is different, so each time is different,” said Galloway. A recent $35 million renovation refreshed the resort and improved the playing surface of the course, including the greens, fairways and new white sands for the bunkers. Long known for its beauty and scenic vistas of the desert and the Catalina Mountains, La Paloma is a favorite, winning a bevy of awards from golf publications and associations.
I teed up on the Ridge and Canyon courses with Patrick Galloway; George Bon, sales manager, The Westin La Paloma Resort & Spa; and Steve White, a member of Global Traveler’s subscriber Globility Board. We had a two-day series of meetings at the resort with Starwood executives and advisors on the habits of individual entrepreneurial travelers, which, of course, include golf.
Hole 1 | 381 yards, par 4
After a full half-day of meetings at The Westin La Paloma Resort, we were ready to tee up. It was an impressive sight, all four of us nailing our drives in prime position to attack the green. From the tee box, favor the left center of the fairway, as there is a line of fairway bunkers on the right and drives tend to kick a little right as they land. I overshot the green, underestimating the strong desert winds. Steve took just the opposite action and came up slightly short, along with George. Patrick (“I have only played three times this year.”) nailed the green for an easy two-putt for the only par. The green, like most at La Paloma, has a great deal of undulation, making putting challenging.
Hole 2 | 411 yards, par 4
As they say, there are no pictures on the scorecard, and I am thankful. My drive was not pretty, taking an unfriendly and nasty bounce into the right fairway bunker. Obviously, you want to avoid this and drive left and forward of this bunker. My next shot was another gem, a screamer that shot through the green and off the back. However, in golf there are always recoveries, and my chip landed within a few inches of the cup for the ugliest par on record.
Hole 5 | 420 yards, par 4
This classic Jack Nicklaus dogleg left played a lot longer with the wind from the Catalina Mountains. We carded a lot of bogeys — all but Steve, who hit the green in regulation for par. From the tee box, big hitters should be able to cut the corner of the dogleg and cozy up a little closer for a high iron shot to the green. A large bunker on the right punishes slicers, and the green has another large bunker front left. Listed as the most difficult hole on the Ridge, plenty of places can bring you to your knees.
Hole 7 | 171 yards, par 3
Seven should be a simple little hole, but it brought some of us to tears. Patrick shot and stuck a ball near enough the pin to hole out for birdie. I continued my unorthodox play, blading a ball and hitting a rock while still gaining ground to the pin. A decent chip and putt gave me par. Steve and George zigzagged so many times I started to get dizzy. A decent shot should give average golfers the result they desire, but beware of the bunker ready to grab you on the right side of the green.
Hole 5 | 542 yards, par 5
Listed as the second-most challenging hole on the Canyon nine, you need a collection of great shots to card a respectable score. It took me two shots to end with less than 100 yards to the green. I overcooked my approach, turning an 80-yard pitch into a 100-yard shot, but I recovered for a 6. A wash runs in front of the green with convenient steps to the bottom and a trap — thanks, Jack! Steve took refuge in this wash, complete with hard sand, rocks and probably a few snakes; but he also secured a double bogey. Our heroes were Patrick, with a birdie, and George, sneaking up on us with a par.
Hole 7 | 445 yards, par 4
This is the Canyon’s signature hole, with a scenic view but a wash on the left that catches players off guard. The green is 30 to 35 feet higher than the fairway, with a dead zone in front. George took the scenic approach, getting his money’s worth on a tour of the course. Ouch!
Hole 8 | 211 yards, par 3
I took the bull by the horns and teed up first as the others gazed at the bunkering. I swung with a vengeance, making what appeared to be perfect contact. The ball sailed up and toward the flag as Patrick said, “That looks like a good shot,” and I said, “Better get going!” I was correct: The ball cleared the overprotective bunker and bounced up but back. I could hear Nicklaus laughing as it bounced back into the bunker. Patrick, on the other hand, sailed over the green and chipped in the cup for a birdie, further rubbing bunker sand in my wounds.
Hole 9 | 418 yards, par 4
A nice finishing hole. I have to hand it to George and Steve — they nailed some powerful drives all day but outdid themselves here. Unfortunately, George’s ball was well struck but well right, and he climbed like a billy goat on the sloping desert hills. Steve’s was near-perfect, and I followed with an equally decent drive. I couldn’t bring it together for a par, but Steve glued his shot to the green, allowing for a finishing par with Patrick. Nine is narrow, and as with all the holes at La Paloma, spraying the ball is not your best plan. Twin fairway bunkers line the left side of the slight dogleg right.
La Paloma Country Club
3660 E. Sunrise Drive
Tucson, AZ 85718
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