The JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort & Spa is home to three unique and excellent nine hole courses. Bob Cupp, and PGA Tour Professional, Craig Stadler, together designed and built a first class desert golf experience that offers stunning views of Tucson and the surrounding mountains and some fun golf holes that are fair but challenging for all skill levels. During your round you'll find natural arroyos, contoured sweeping fairways, dramatic elevation changes, bunkers of all shapes and sizes, challenging green complexes, uphill and downhill shots, and swirling winds created by the Tucson Mountains – all of which require you to focus on your club selection and shot making if you want to score well.
The original 18 holes opened for play in 1986 and was home to the Tucson Open between 1987 and 1996. Arnold Palmer was hired to redesign the original 18 holes and add another 9, creating a fantastic Arnold Palmer Signature golf Facility with 27 of some of the best golf holes in Tucson. Each of the three Starr Pass courses wind up and down the Tucson mountains and are aptly named for the ever present desert wildlife – Rattler, Roadrunner, and Coyote. Each of the nines is different and unique and has it's own personality:
- Rattler Course – the Rattler nine is the most challenging and is a true test of your game with the smallest pocketed greens and this nine requires a lot of target golf – we thought it was the most scenic and seemed to be in the best condition from the tee box to the pin
- Roadrunner Course – chiseled out of the side of the Tucson Mountains, Roadrunner starts just outside the JW Marriott Resort and this nine offers dramatic elevation changes and some very fun and challenging holes – it is also the shortest of the nines at 3217 and carries a par of 35 with three great par 3s
- Coyote Course – the terrain on Coyote is completely different and this nine seems more natural as it traverses up and down the Tucson Mountains and it has fewer homes dotting the hillside, some very interesting holes, and more wildlife than the other two nines
Common to all three nines is a true Sonoran Desert luxury golf experience, excellent conditions, first class service, and top notch facilities including the JW Marriott Resort and Spa and a 20,000 square foot clubhouse. You may also find that some of the holes at Starr Pass may frustrate you, enamor you, drive you to the beverage cart, or leave you scratching your head regarding Arnold's true intent. But one thing that is bound to happen is you'll walk off the 18th hole saying that was "awesome" and thinking when you can get back to play it again.
As we reflected back on our golf at Starr Pass we were awe inspired:
- Each golf hole was lush and plush from tee to pin
- There were awesome panoramic vistas of Tucson, the valley, two mountain ranges, and some stunning homes dotting the hillside
- The contrast between the desert, lush fairways, sand bunkers, and fairway rough was striking
- The desert fauna was varied and colorful and wildlife was running wild across the course
- Service and the facilities were top notch
- And we played some fun, unique, memorable, and challenging holes
It just doesn’t get much better than all of that!
The Roadrunner nine at Starr Pass Country Club is the easiest and shortest of the three nines at 3217 yards but it is no walk in the park and if the wind is blowing, Roadrunner may be the hardest of the three courses. This nine is really chiseled out of the mountains and is characterized by dramatic elevation changes, more bunkers, and true desert golf with some outstanding holes, for example:
- #3 is a 193 yard par 3 with a green that seems like it's a mile downhill – what a view and fun hole
- from the tee box #2 looks like an easy 396 yard par 4 with a great view of the valley and mountains – but its tricky with a ravine crossing diagonally across the fairway and then a dog left with a carry to a narrow green over a natural area
- the finishing hole will make you want to come back – slightly up hill to a green 504 yards with 10 strategically placed bunkers of all sizes and a ravine to cross
Roadrunner was in fantastic condition when we played but it's not as lush and plush as Rattler because the sloping terrain doesn't hold the water as well. It also seemed to have the smallest greens but they may have also been the easiest with less slope and undulation, and some of the most stunning views plus several huge beautiful homes dotting the hillside. This nine got the most "Wows!"
Rating and Slope was based on Roadrunner/Coyote Course play.
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Service is top notch and very friendly, the 20,000 square foot clubhouse is home to a well stocked pro shop and excellent restaurant. The practice facilities are excellent.