The second of the two golf courses at El Conquistador Golf Resort is the Conquistador Course. It was designed by Greg Nash and Jeff Hardin and opened in 1982, three years before the Canada Course. Usually this is where I write a little bit about the history of the course, but because I covered the backstory in my review of the Canada Course the other day, I think I’m just going to skip ahead to the good stuff.
Because the Golf Academy Club Golf Team was in town for this weekend’s National Collegiate Club Golf Association (NCCGA) Desert Regional Tournament, a few of us got to play a practice round at the Troon-managed facility Friday afternoon in preparation for Sunday’s final round. We mapped out the whole course, and boy did those notes come in handy!
The Conquistador Course plays 6,720 yards from the Black Tees to a Par of 71, a course rating of 72.4, and a slope of 129. Here are some of the highlights from Friday’s practice round:
Holes Worth Writing Home About
Let me start by saying that the Conquistador Course is a true desert course in every sense of the word. There are either homes or desert on either side of every fairway. However, the landing areas are still fairly wide, and they’re not so unforgiving that you can’t occasionally still play a shot if you miss your target. I wish I could say the same thing about the Canada Course.
The thing you’ll notice right away, much like the Canada Course, is the elevation changes. Both tee boxes and green complexes are elevated, and a majority of the greens are raised above their fairway counterparts down below. You’ll seriously want to consider taking an extra club in order to get the ball up and onto the putting surface. The ball does fly a little farther because of the higher altitude, but it’s almost offset by the fact you have to hit more club to get to the elevated greens.
My favorite hole on the front nine is the 390-yard Par 4 9th. It’s a slight dogleg right, and there are two bunkers guarding the green short right and short left. The bunker short left doesn’t really come into play, but it’s enough to make you think. You have to navigate your tee shot around mesquite trees to give yourself a shot at another elevated green. When the mesquites get their leaves back and the Bermuda rough grows in, this hole is going to get a lot harder. Great hole.
Again, when you make the turn, there’s no clubhouse and no halfway house. You’re in the deepest part of the golf course. The best hole on the back side, hands down, is the 14th. It’s a 407-yard Par 4, and the mounding of the fairway is stunning.
The mesquite trees have been strategically placed to frustrate you, something the El Conquistador web site calls, “the challenge of negotiating desert vegetation.” That’s one way to put it! This is one of those holes that if you catch at just the right time of day, you’re going to get some great, long desert shadows.
The greens on the Conquistador Course are small, undulating, and multi-tiered, and depending on where you miss, the ryegrass overseed is so thick this time of year, it’ll really grab your club. Try to keep your ball below the hole if you can. Although the greens on Conquistador are running a little slower than the greens on Canada, they still have some speed to them, and if I had to guess, were probably rolling about a ten on the stimp. Remember: everything breaks toward downtown Tucson to the southeast.
Maintenance has done a great job of defining fairway and rough on both courses at El Conquistador. The fairways are a rich, green ryegrass overseed – like a green ribbon – while the rough is a dormant, yellow Bermuda. It’s a really pretty contrast, something I’ve always enjoyed about playing Arizona golf courses over the winter. Try to avoid hitting your ball in the Bermuda grass rough. The grass is thin and the ground is soft enough to muddy your golf ball. Then you won’t know where it’s going.
The thing I love about playing these courses is the views. On the Conquistador Course alone, there are countless vistas of the Catalina and Santa Rita Mountains as well as Pusch Ridge. The back side of the Catalinas is where all the steep rock faces are, and depending on the time of day, they can change from orange to pink to purple.
You can’t walk this course because of the distance between the holes and the elevation changes, but it’s fun to drive up to a tee to find another amazing view. Wildlife sightings are a given. We saw rabbits, ground squirrels, and a really healthy-looking coyote probably wandering the course looking for his next meal.
One thing I will say: for a two course facility, the practice area was a bit of a disappointment. There’s a small putting green with about five hole placements, a small chipping/pitching green, another smallish green with a practice bunker, and a driving range. There are probably 15 hitting areas, and while the range balls are already out there, we had to hit off mats on Friday. I will say that the mats were really nice, some of the nicest mats I’ve ever hit off of, but they were still mats. We did get to warm-up on grass before or tournament rounds this weekend.
My best shot of the day came on the Par 5 5th hole. El Conquistador offers the following description of the hole on its web site:
The memorable 541-yard Par 5 5th hole requires every type of of shot to play over a pond to a two-tiered green protected by bunkers, so choose your club and shot wisely.
For me, this is a three-shot hole, but I spun a wedge back down the slope onto the lower tier to within four feet for birdie. I told you the greens were undulating. Hit it onto the proper level, and you’ll be rewarded. Miss the proper deck, and you could be penalized severely. Thankfully for me, it was the former.
While We’re Young
Both rounds I played out here went relatively fast. We played in about three hours and 40 minutes in our practice round on Friday, and the tournament round was very doable at a little less than four-and-a-half hours. Anytime you can play a tournament round in under five hours, I think you’re doing pretty well.
Next On the Tee
The wife and I are heading to San Diego next month for the wedding of an old college buddy of mine. While we’re there, we’re going to try to play the famous Torrey Pines South Course located just minutes away from where we’re staying. Fingers are crossed!