La Paloma Country Club - Hill Course Review

Texas Outside Rating: 9.3

Golf - Resort Private Course · 9 Holes · Par 36
Tucson, AZ
· Stay & Play

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La Paloma Country Club - Hill 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.
  • 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.  Click on the link to learn more from our review of the La Paloma Country Club Canyon Course.

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

We loved the Hill nine and found it to have a very interesting layout that is challenging but fair with lots of variety and some really fun holes.  During your round you'll find near perfect greens and fairways, plenty of bunkering and natural areas, forced carries from almost every tee box, some good risk reward opportunities, and very scenic vistas of the Santa Catalina mountains and the Tucson valley - it just doesn't get much better than all of that. 

Some of the holes that we really liked include:

  • #2 which requires great course management to avoid a long natural bunker along the right leading to a minefield of seven bunkers in a semi-circle around the fairway just in front of a natural waste area guarding the approach to a slightly uphill green
  • #6 sweeps downhill through a valley of tall mounds on each side of the fairway and requires a carry over a ravine and natural area (which you do not want to land in) leading to a green with little room for error
  • #7 is a jaw dropper from the tee box - a 538 par 5 with a big forced carry offering a perfect risk reward opportunity from an elevated tee box to try and carry the natural area leading from in front of the tee box all the way to the green and then your approach shot will need to carry a natural area to a well guarded green
  • Jack redesigned the green on #8 and was voted down on his idea to add a sand bunker in the middle of the green - so he added a big swale in the middle of this 157 yard par 3 green which also has 4 other bunkers guarding it 
  • you'll remember #9 and it'll make you want to come back and play the Hill nine again - two forced carries to an uphill green with huge swales and a grass bunker guarding the front and a what looks like a black diamond mogul ski run at Vail protecting the back side of the green

The fairways are ample from tee box to green but heavily contorued and rolling as well as lined with natural areas, bunkers, swales, and tall ridges.  All of which means you can expect some uneven lies.  If you miss the fairway, in most cases you'll find a first cut that is playable and then a manageable rough (which was dormant when we played) - after that you're most likely lost in the natural areas which you typically don't want to enter thanks to the wide variety of very sticky cactus. Speaking of cactus, on several tee boxes you'll need to avoid the stately tall saguaros which can block your shot and devour your ball.   When we played in late March, the fairways were in perfect condition, soft and lush, and like velvet. 

Greens on the Hill Course at La Paloma Country Club were redone in 2009 and the Golden Bear made that a bear - plenty of slope, undulation, contour (a couple felt like a roller coaster ride), and tiers!  And most are well guarded with tall mounds, swales, collection areas, and some challenging bunkers.  They were in excellent condition, ran around 10 to 11, were true but challenging to read.  Pin placement can be a killer.  The Hill Course greens vary for a tad small to huge but with lots of contour.  Most of the greens were above average size.  Practice putting before you head out. 

Jack also redid all of the bunkers and they are also near perfect - white, fluffy, thick sand.  The lips of the bunkers vary from small  to fairly deep and very challenging if you land near the lip. 

We  stayed at the magnificent Westin La Paloma Resort and played all three courses - loved the Resort and all of it's amenities and we can't wait to get back again.  Here is a link to our review of the Westin La Paloma Resort.  They have a variety of different stay and play packages that are a pretty good deal. 

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Course Slope & Ratings

Tee Box Yardage Rating Slope

Course Information

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

Texas Outside Rating

Overall Rating:
9.3 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.