La Paloma Country Club - Canyon Course Review

Texas Outside Rating: 9.4

Golf - Resort Private Course · 9 Holes · Par 72
Tucson, AZ
· Stay & Play

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La Paloma Country Club - Canyon Course Review

The Westin La Paloma in Tucson is home to 27 outstanding golf holes that were designed by Jack Nicklaus in 1984.  This magnificent private golf club is available for guests of the Weston La Paloma Resort and each of the three nines is a Nicklaus Signature Golf Course and one of his original creations.  Each course has it's own unique characteristics and personality and it was impossible for us to pick a favorite - you'll definitely want to play all three:  

  • Hill Course - the "Golden Bear" redesigned the bunkers and greens on the Hill Course and it's the new greens and bunkers plus the rolling and heavily contoured fairways which distinguish this fun track from the other two nines - read our review of the Hill Course at La Paloma Country Club.
  • Ridge Course - this nine has scenic vistas, elevation changes, flatter fairways, and greens with subtle breaks - the Ridge is the most popular with the ladies because it has the fewest carries from the forward tee boxes. To learn more, read our review of the Ridge Course.
  • Canyon Course - this nine has the reputation of being the hardest of the three courses thanks to some dramatic elevation changes, narrow fairways, some really fun holes, and very challenging approaches.

La Paloma Country Club has a reputation of being one of the best as well as toughest courses in the Tucson area thanks to dramatic elevation changes, forced carries off the tee as well as on the approach shots, plenty of bunkering, challenging greens, and contoured fairways lined with berms, swales, and mounds. 

Common to all three courses at La Paloma Country Club are very good conditions, scenic vistas of the majestic Santa Catalina Mountains and the Tucson valley, excellent service, upscale amenities, and fairways lined by a distinctive desert-scape of flowering cacti, yucca, agave, mature mesquite and Palo Verde trees, and other native vegetation - all of which are meticulously maintained by Troon Management.  In April a lot of the desert fauna bloom with a variety of vibrant colors.  During your round keep an eye out for quail, dove, toads, lizards, bobcats, javalinas, coyotes, and owls all of whom want to share the course with you at dawn and dusk.  

All of that has contributed to La Paloma Country Club winning a number of awards and high accolades, some of which include:

  • rated one of the "Top Ten Courses in Arizona" and included in the "Top 75 Resort Courses in the United States" by Golf Digest 
  • named in the "Top 100 Women-friendly Golf Courses" by Golf for Women
  • ranked in the "50 Best Golf Resorts in the World" by Conde Nast Traveler
  • in 2011 awarded Golf Week's "Best Courses Distinction Award"
  • named  "Top Golf Course" by Zagat

If someone twisted our arm and forced us to pick one the nines that we liked best at La Paloma Country Club, it would have to be the Canyon Nine, but just by a small margin or maybe because it still has three of my golf balls.  To us, the Canyon Course offers something of everything that gets us to continue to play this frustrating and expensive game - scenic vistas, elevation changes, forced carries over natural areas and canyons, rolling contoured fairways, plenty of sand and grass bunkers, risk reward opportunities, challenging green complexes, and lots more.  Plus it has great conditions and it's a challenging but fair layout with very memorable holes and excellent amenities and service. 

Every hole is different and unique and will throw something at you to keep you on your game and to make the hole both fun but challenging.   For example:

  • for forced carries and risk reward opportunities, #2 a 514 par 4/5 wins the prize - this is a beauty with an elevated tee shot over a natural area to a wide fairway that horseshoes right followed by a second shot that will force you to lay up or try to carry the natural area to a downhill skinny and oblong green with no room for error thanks to 3 bunkers and a deep canyon guarding it
  • all the holes are beautiful but on #7 you've got to take your camera (and your "A" game on the #1 handicap hole) to the tips for some pictures and on #4 the view of the Westin La Paloma Resort perched along the ridge with the majestic Santa Catalina mountains in the background plus some stunning homes on the hillside is one to remember
  • both par 3s (178 and 211 yards) require carries over a canyon and natural vegetation to a complex greens with two levels or huge bunkers protecting them
  • #9 is a great finishing hole with an opportunity to show off to all the resort guests watching from their balconies and the golfers enjoying lunch and drinks on the club house patio overlooking the green - on your tee shot stay out of the long grass bunker and natural area on the right and the treacherous sand bunkers on the left and make sure your approach shot is accurate or you may end up in an 8 foot deep grass bunker protecting the front of the green

The fairways and lush and plus and taking a divot made me feel guilty.  Most of the fairways are ample and forgiving with a playable first cut, but don't miss them because the canyons and natural areas will devour your golf balls.  The fairways have plenty of contour, berms, and mounding with sand as well as challenging grass bunkers. 

Protected and stately Saguaros with a variety of interesting arms can block some of your tee shots and if you hit one, even though the Saguaros don't golf, they are reluctant to give up your ball - don't try to retrieve the ball if it gets stuck in the middle of one of the Saguaros unless you enjoy getting stickers and coming away looking like a bloody pin cushion.  And don't hit any of the wildlife that are in abundance on the Canyon Course - cute little white tail bunnies, bobcats, ground squirrels, quail, and roadrunners. 

The greens and bunkers on the Canyon nine are from the original design in 1984 and are very playable but not in the best condition.  The sand is thin and heavy and the greens have some bumpy and  rough spots.  Troon has plans to redo the greens as well as the bunkers starting in late 2011.  But don't let that discourage you from going out of your way to play this fantastic course. 

The slope and rated are based on playing the Ridge and Canyon nines together - which is the toughest combination of nines. 

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Course Slope & Ratings

Tee Box Yardage Rating Slope
Black 3,534 72.9 151
Blue 2,991 68.2 132
White 2,761 999.9 129
Gold 3,312 71.4 142
Red 2,627 70.7 128

Course Information

Course Architect:
Jack Nicklaus
Greens Type:
Greens Condition
Greens Difficulty
Not allowed
Course Map
Beware of water on 0 holes and the 26 sand traps.

Texas Outside Rating

Overall Rating:
9.4 out of 10
Fun to Play:
Front Nine Rating:
Back Nine Rating:

Service is good, the pro shop is stocked with everything that you need, the practice facilities are very good, and the club house is spectacular. The restaurant overlooks the course and the mountains and serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner.



Here's How Texas Outside Determines the Scorecard Rating

The Texas Outside rating scale ranges from 1 to 10 – a perfect 10 course would be something like this:  links along a cliff overlooking the Pacific ocean and bordered by tall trees; lush fairways on rolling hills with lots of natural hazards; water (which is crystal clear) on most of the holes; immaculate greens (but they are undulating and tough); lots of variety and character (each hole is completely different and includes blind shots, elevation changes, doglegs, and significant challenges); perfectly manicured traps with the whitest and prettiest sand you’ve ever seen; a nice club house with great food and a 19th hole; a GPS; plenty of beverage carts or your own cooler and ice; and it only costs $40 bucks! What this means is that you probably won’t find any 10s in Texas – try Cabo San Lucas, Pebble Beach, or some of the Hawaii courses! 
Texas Outside rates courses on the following:

  • Beauty – tall trees, rolling hills, beautiful houses, waterfalls, and similar stuff would score high; a 1 would be flat, bushes or cactus instead of trees, and some grass but mostly weeds
  • Difficulty – a straight, 300 yard par 4 with no traps or hazards, no out of bounds or water would probably get a 1; if it is a 460 yard par 4 over two ravines, with water along one side, natural hazards on the other, strategically placed traps or that dreaded tree right in the middle of the fairway, we are talking a 10. 
  • Variety – what would you give a course where all the holes looked and played exactly the same (“I thought we just played that hole!”); were side-by-side, which is good for finding or dodging other people’s balls, but not much fun; and you can see the flag from every tee box?  That’s right, it gets a 1.
  • Fun Scale – a 10 is where you walk off the course and say “now that was fun” and you can’t wait to get back, or you immediately turn around and play another 18 holes
  • Value – a 5 is $50 to $60, a 10 is $20 to $30, and 1 is $200 or so – of course all of this is dependent upon how you liked the course.  For example, if a run down, boring municipal course, with six players on each hole was only $10; it would still get a value rating of 1.
  • Condition – this one’s pretty easy – what condition are the fairways. A 10 commands very lush perfectly manicured fairways, compared to a 1, which has fire ants, weeds, and more dirt than grass!
  • Condition of Greens and Difficulty – very hard to read greens with lots of undulation and tough pin placement, rate very high on the difficulty scale.  Condition is self-explanatory.  

All of the above determines the overall score for the golf course.  In other words, we like courses that are pretty, fun, very challenging with a lot of variety, and fairways and greens in excellent condition – all for $40.  We also tend to play the courses that are affordable for the masses, which means in the $30 to $80 range. We rate hard and we haven’t found a 10 in Texas yet – don’t worry we haven’t given up and we’re still looking.