Robert Bruce Harris originally designed the Catalina course at Omni Tucson National during 1961, and then the duo of Robert von Hagge and Bruce Devline completed a total redesign during 1983. The course is among a rare few in golf, featuring more par fives than par threes. The five longs to four shorts results in a final strokeplay par of 73.
This was a more tenable setup during a PGA era of shorter distances off the tee, and the course held the Chrysler Open from 1986 until 2006. Although the modern muscle would eat up the 7,200-yard course, there’s more appeal in the variety of par fives for the layman player.
One interesting example is No. 10, which takes inspiration from the Road Hole. Players can challenge the pond along the left with their tee shot (as well as a “wall” of trees) and then strike at a lateral green with a very large version on the Road’s greenside bunker. At just 508 yards, the distance is easily attainable for modern players but the accuracy required remains vexing.
Eight lakes and eighty bunkers lurk elsewhere around the route.
Over the years the Catalina Course was the home layout for the PGA Tour's big event in the Tucson area. The course is more parkland than actual intersection with the desert. There's also the clustering of houses on a number of the holes.
The golf provided is generally good -- a mix bag of holes and there's movement within the routing so players can't just settle into a predictable rhythm.
One of the strengths of the course is the number of holes that feature turn points in the driving areas. Players can take risks as they see fit and if the boldness pays off there will be rewards. Of course, there's a flipside to that card too !
The golf is fun to play but the architectural heft in Arizona has been supplanted by all the golf that's entered the Grand Canyon State scene over the last 25 or so years. Given that reality, a number of the top tier layouts are the one garnering the main frame of attention.
Still worth checking out.
One little factoid unrelated to the architecture -- for a very short time not long after turning professional -- Jack Nicklaus was the touring pro who played out of the facility!
M. James Ward