Jack Nicklaus laid out the three nines – Ridge, Canyon and Hill – at La Paloma Country Club in the mid-1980s. Nestled in the foothills of the Catalina Mountains, all 27 holes of this impressive layout were renovated in 2013 when the course underwent an extensive makeover.
The best piece of advice I can give those who venture to La Paloma is be sure to be playing well because the Ridge and Canyon Nines do not suffer fools gladly. Plenty of resorts have opted to "dumb down" their designs -- providing for ample fairways, with bunkers and other obstacles either out of way or minimized and with putting greens devoid of interesting contours. Frankly, how many resort courses sport a 150 slope from the tips and even 141 from the next sets of tee markers?
For better players the stark contrast between verdant closely cropped grass and the desert wilderness will provide a rush of excitement. For those who have difficulty in keeping one's ball in play -- be prepared to be under constant pressure.
The course went through a makeover a few years back but the terror provided on miscues is very much alive and well. The downside is the proliferation of off-course housing that engulfs quite a few of the holes. I remember playing the course in its early days around 1986-87 and the desert connection was truly alive and well.
On a number of the holes you will encounter tapered fairways -- securing the ideal approach angles to the greens is always an issue when playing. La Paloma insists that if you decide to pull out the driver you'd best be sure you have the wherewithal for consistent placement. Spraying the ball is a quick indicator of a very long day with corresponding high numbers of the card.
As I mentioned, better players may have a far different viewpoint than those on the higher end of the handicap ladder. Generally, a quality layout should be able to engender good feeling from the widest range of handicap types. La Paloma would work even better as a private club because as a resort layout it can be quite the brute.
M. James Ward