Of Tucson’s five municipal golf courses, Randolph North is the longest and the best. It opened in 1925 with sand fairways and cottonseed greens at Randolph Park, an oasis left to the city by American railroad tycoon Epes Randolph in the early 1900s on land he stipulated must be used for parks and recreation. The greens were sprayed with oil to keep them from blowing away, and they had to be raked after each group of golfers putted out.
The course didn’t get grassed until 1936. Legendary course designer William P. Bell, who also designed the Adobe Course at Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix and Bel-Air Country Club in Los Angeles, slept on the clubhouse floor during the project, which was completed with labor provided by one of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal programs. He would be back in Tucson a few years later for the design and construction of Tucson Country Club, a private facility, in 1947.
Bell’s son, William F., designed the other course sharing the Randolph Golf Complex, Randolph South, in 1961. It re-opened in 1996 as Dell Urich after undergoing an extensive renovation. Both courses are managed by OB Sports in Scottdale. Together, they make up the 2nd-most played public golf complex in the country (with more than 100,000 rounds annually) behind only San Diego’s Torrey Pines.
Randolph North was the host site of the PGA Tour’s Tucson Open from 1979-1983, the Champions Tour’s Seiko Tucson Match Play Championship from 1984-1986, and finally the LPGA’s Welch’s/Fry’s Championship from 1981-2002. The parkland-style course’s tree-lined fairways run parallel to one other, and there is water in play on five holes. There are four sets of tees whose recommendation vary based on Handicap. Randolph North plays 6,902 yards from the Blue Tees to a Par of 72, a course rating of 72.1, and a slope of 128. Here are some of the highlights of the round:
Holes Worth Writing Home About
My favorite hole on the front nine has to be the Par 4 opening hole. The slight dogleg left measures just 365 yards, but you really have to work your ball from right to left to shorten up the hole. It’s a pretty straightforward hole, but what a great hole to start. If you were playing a tournament here, it would be a pretty easy par and would offer a potential birdie opportunity. The course has fairly small greens, a built-in defense mechanism. The front nine plays almost 150 yards shorter than the back and is just a little easier.
On the back nine, there are a lot of great holes, but I really like the 360-yard Par 4 17th. The hole curves left to right, and the green slopes from back to front. There are bunkers on either side of the green complex, but they really don’t come into play if you find the fairway. There’s nothing between you and the hole. If you’re a little too aggressive off the tee and you try to cut off the corner, you could find yourself in a bit of tree trouble. One thing I will say is that there are a lot of overhanging tree limbs that could potentially come into play from the Blue Tees. On one tee box, there is a Eucalyptus tree that feels like it’s in the middle of the box even though there’s plenty of room to clear it.
I still vaguely remember playing Randolph North with a childhood friend of mine when I was 12 or 13 years old. I carried around a set of MacGregor Jack Nicklaus Golden Bear golf clubs my parents had bought for me at a neighborhood yard sale. The set had a wooden driver and three wood, a 5-iron, a 7-iron, a 9-iron, and a putter with those really slippery rubber grips. We used to walk, and I can remember how my shoulder would get rubbed raw by the thin leather strap of the dark green golf bag. I may have also played the course as part of the Ricki Rarick Junior Golf Program.
I played Randolph North on a Friday afternoon for just $17 and change. Granted, it was 102 degrees, but in the summer, you can find some pretty nice golf courses in Arizona for next to nothing. Randolph North is one of them. Arizona courses don’t exact their revenge until the winter when rates double, triple, or worse. If you book your tee time through Tucson City Golf, you don’t have to pay booking fees.
The practice facility at Randolph is really good. The driving range is grass, and there are multiple practice putting and chipping greens throughout the complex. Bear in mind that the bermuda greens on the North Course were recently top-dressed. The sand was so thick that on one green, someone was able to write the word “help.”
My best shot of the day came on the Par 5 13th. It’s just 480 yards from the Blue Tees, and of the four Par 5s on Randolph North, two are reachable in two. I hit a hybrid into the green for an easy two-putt birdie that could have been an eagle if the greens had been rolling just a little truer.
While We’re Young
We teed off on the 10th hole at around one o’clock and got off the course three hours later. Had we been able to play through a foursome ahead of us, the round could have been 30-45 minutes faster.
Next On the Tee
Dell Urich or Quarry Pines Golf Club. It will all depend on if I can sneak out on the Monday before I have to go back to school.