Playing the Canada Course in Arizona
Tucson has a number of golf courses that will appeal to the most discerning player
My first understanding of the word “conquistador” referenced men like Hernan Cortez in Mexico (Aztec), Francisco Pizarro in Peru (Inca) and Francisco de Coronado in the American Southwest (Anasazi). Conquistador means “conquerer.” My objective as a Canadian was to conquer the Canada Course (Can-yad-a)] at El Conquistador Golf Course in Tucson, Arizona. For Canadians, Canada means “Indian village” or “community,” but in Spanish it means “canyon.”
Engage in a variety of activities
The Santa Catalina Mountains tower over Tucson, with the foothills a natural topography for a Hilton resort. In addition, Catalina State Park and Coronado National Forest, ideal for hiking, are only a few miles away. The resort is an AAA Four Diamond Resort with three golf courses, 31 tennis courts, five swimming pools, spa facilities, four restaurants, a fitness centre, a 143-foot waterslide and pickleball courts, as well as bike and horse riding trails. In other words, there is no shortage of activities.
Choose between three Hilton golf courses
The three Hilton golf courses are the El Conquistador Golf Club, the Canada Golf Course and the Pusch Ridge, all fully serviced courses. Situated in the middle of the Oro Valley, the resort is overshadowed by the Pusch Ridge, at 5,366 feet, which is part of the Santa Catalina Mountains. Golf architects Greg Nash and Jeff Hardin in 1982 designed the three courses, with the objective of having fun while being challenging. The two architects from Phoenix designed other courses such as Las Caballeros in Wickenburg, Superstition Springs in Apache Junction and Cimarron Golf Courses in Cathedral City. The Pusch Golf Course, with nine holes, is at the Hilton Hotel, while the other two courses are located in the Oro Valley Community Center.
Try your luck on the Canada Course
The first individuals to walk the fairways, between 500 and 1150 AD, were the Hohokam Indians, with their homes located among the Romero Ruins in Catalina State Park. The present Canada Golf Course is not made for walking, because of the hills and distance between holes.
The Canada Course can play long, with 6,636 yards from the back tees, par 72, a course rating of 72 and a slope of 135. Other than the first and final holes, the fairways are generous with only 34 sand traps guarding the greens. The course winds through various ravines and arroyos with only two sharp doglegs. The rolling fairways are lined with palm trees, numerous cacti, palo verde bushes, mesquite trees, various grasses and of course, the magnificent saguaro. The desert area is largely rock, so apply the Desert Rule with a drop and a one stroke penalty (lateral hazard). The fairways are designed with a bowl effect, meaning the ball will be rolling back onto the fairway from the hills. The greens are usually elevated, requiring one or two extra clubs to carry the bunkers and reach the green.
Despite the wakeup call on the first hole, it was the sixth hole that really piqued my interest. At 568 yards, par 5, and a fairway as wide as two football fields, I managed to find the desert! The next hole that stands out is No. 8, a par 3 at 183 yards, with a very elevated green, bordered by ravines and a large sand trap in front of the green. Got a par on that hole! This hole has been rated the Toughest Par 3 in Tucson. Holes No. 10 and 11 have a wash that runs along the entire length of the fairways and fills up when it rains. Hole No. 16 is a par 5 at 533 yards and a good risk-and-reward hole, hitting over the wash or cutting the corner of the lake. If the water does not get you, the three massive sand traps are silently waiting. Both Holes No. 8 and No. 16 are the signature holes, depending on who you talk to. Other holes that held my attention were Holes No. 1, 15 and 18—for all the wrong reasons. The fairways are Bermuda grass/Rye and the greens are bent grass/poa, meaning the greens are soft, roll nicely and break quickly around the hole. If I could only putt!
Public and private
El Conquistador is a private/public golf course. Which course is available to the general public is based on odd days for Conquistador and even days for the Canada Course. Membership is an annual affair that offers unlimited golf on all three courses, as well as privileges to the fitness and aquatic centres. Conquistador also offers various discounts and promotional programs. One of those programs is the Troon Cardholder offering further discounts from green fees to merchandise and restaurant purchases. The pro shop is well equipped with quality golf apparel. The Overlook Restaurant and banquet facilities allows the golf course to host weddings, conventions, community events, tournaments and business meetings. The restaurant features American cuisine with an international twist. They also have special event days including Taco Tuesdays, Sunday Breakfast Buffets and Saturday Date Nights.
Despite all the amenities of the golf course and the Oro Community Center, El Conquistador comes down to golf. If your game is not at par, lessons are available from PGA professionals, both on the driving range and on the course.
As for my personal objective of conquering the Canada Golf Course, that will have to wait for another year.