Citizen Staff Writer
The Ritz-Carlton Golf Course at Dove Mountain in Marana will be easy on fans’ eyes but not so easy on the pros’ nerves when the layout debuts in next week’s Accenture Match Play Championship.
“There will be some pars here,” Match Play executive director Wade Dunagan said about the Jack Nicklaus-designed course.
At 7,849 yards, the par-72 layout is one of the PGA Tour’s longest. Pros must navigate a host of fairway bunkers and tricky greens. A look at the course:
No. 1, Par 4, 460 yards
The desert wash in front is no problem for the pros. A fairway bunker shouldn’t come into play with a driver, but it could with a 3-wood. The hole features wide fairway corridors, and most should be able to avoid the wash before the green. Most will hit a 9-iron to the green.
No. 2, Par 5, 574 yards
It’s the first of long par 5s, but likely candy for long hitters, who can reach with a driver and long iron. The wide bunkers are a Nicklaus signature, and four protect the green. The rough is typically 2 1/2-3 inches deep, and it’s a standard Ritz-Carlton green: sweeping with a lot of movement (10 to 10.5 on the speed scale). Any faster, and balls would fall off.
No. 3, Par 3, 208 yards
The hole has the only large water hazard, but direct tee shots should be safe. The green, which slants to the southeast, looks benign from the tee. But, as with all the greens, the contours make it tricky and fast.
Nicklaus builds with eight to 10 hole placements in mind, so some days the pros may have to play their tee shots safe. The crowd will start to get into the tournament here, with views of shots coming in on No. 2, green on No. 3, approach on No. 4, drive on No. 5, approach on No. 7 and drive on No. 8.
No. 4, Par 4, 393 yards
Not quite drivable, but big hitters will have fun blasting over water to this dogleg left. Beware of bunkers around the green, which slants to the left. But this should be “birdie-ville,” with a solid tee and iron.
No. 5, Par 4, 536 yards
The longest par 4 can be a foil, with a major bunker in the fairway and another one 200 yards from the hole. It dips down and rolls up again, and five small traps guard a hilltop green. The pin placement is bound to be at too many times toward the back of the green, so don’t miss long, come up short or miss right. Wind will make it even more challenging.
“Jack would say, ‘Ah, a driver and an 8-iron,’ ” Ritz-Carlton director of golf Kenn DePew said with a laugh.
No. 6, Par 3, 185 yards
Wide desert surrounds the hole, with an inviting green. But once you get there, it could be precarious. The green slants to the left steeply. Bunkers have steep, shadowy lips – most on the course are very much defined – so even pros can’t get cute. Just a nice sky iron shot to the flag is required.
No. 7, Par 4, 486 yards
A postcard PGA hole.
It has everything, including a humongous fairway “beachfront” and deeply cut bunker to the left of the hilltop green.
“My favorite hole, a classic,” DePew said, “the best fairway bunker in golf.”
It will also have a large grandstand where many fans will congregate. By now, players should be charged up by the high match stakes and by the crowd’s energy.
“A great greenside bunker you want to avoid at all costs,” DePew added.
No. 8, Par 5, 576 yards
Here again, there will be tee box visions of birdies, not to mention bold eagles. There’s a nifty dogleg to the left and enough open space to be aggressive. But beware of a large bunker with high desert grass to the right.
The best angle is to come in from the right. A couple of spectacular green-area bunkers await, but no worries if you can sky it. Once you get there, a tricky green awaits.
No. 9, Par 4, 476 yards
It invites a well-placed layup and a sky iron over fronting desert. The crowd will be thick, especially in the wide fairway area to the left. If a tee shot carries, though, it can go deep into the desert. This hole defines both Ritz-Carlton courses: lush, green, inviting open grass and nasty trouble lurking.
Pros can’t afford not to see the desert for the grass, to fracture an expression.
No. 10, Par 4, 493 yards
This is the first hole heading into the Santa Catalina Mountains backdrop. It’s another example of formidable fairway bunker play with a large landing area.
Most pros should be able to find the green on a hilltop, but a desert swatch will gobble up any wayward approach.
No. 11, Par 5, 659 yards
The tournament’s longest hole and only 600-yarder. It features a sharp dogleg, and once you get around it, the green still feels a long way away (like a trip to Sells), and it features the course’s tightest fairway.
Most pros will take three shots to reach the green, but some long hitters could pull a surprise if they stay clear of the fairway bunkers.
“If one of these guys hits in two, I may never play again,” DePew joked.
No. 12, Par 3, 219 yards
This hole boasts another very large defined green bunker, with a shadowy cut as per PGA standards. The large desert area in front should cause little problem, but the wide green is slanted with decent movement.
No. 13, Par 5, 583 yards
For the pros, this is the “long way back” to the final grouping of holes. The fairway is wider than No. 11 and very open. It’s one of the most scenic holes.
No. 14, Par 4, 449 yards
Players shouldn’t panic at the network of distant bunkers. It connects with No. 17, the only connecting holes on the course. The green slopes to the left, which is common, and the hole likely will play well.
No. 15, Par 4, 343 yards
This “fun” hole is a nice, drivable par 4. This will be the driving hole and undoubtedly will be crucial to most tournament play. The green is classic, according to DePew, and looks like an unfurled flag “flapping up and down.”A bunker in front will catch some balls.
No. 16, Par 3 247 yards
As the hole before, this long par 3 will reward accurate iron play. Beware the large bunkers and the tendency of this contoured course to play tricks. The green is big and inviting.
No. 17, Par 4, 482 yards
This is the major spectator hole, where fans can see much of Nos. 14-17. It has a very large fairway but tough desert area shielding the green. Big carries could cause big problems.
No. 18, Par 4, 480 yards
Like No. 17, it’s a dogleg right. It has an extra wide fairway to the left – to serve a large gallery – and space to the right to play over fairway bunkers. With moving greens, lots of desert and tricky bunkers, this is not a good hole to close in on a match leader. The best strategy for birdie, like Nos. 11 and 17, is to hit softly to a wide area and go over the desert hazard.