Starr Pass Country Club - Roadrunner Nine Review

Texas Outside Rating: 9.1

Golf - Resort Public Course · 9 Holes · Par 35
Tucson, AZ

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Starr Pass Country Club - Roadrunner Nine Review

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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Course Slope & Ratings

Tee Box Yardage Rating Slope
Black 3,217 71.6 143
Blue 2,858 67.4 123
White 2,636 66.2 118
Gold 3,083 69.9 131
Red 2,230 68.0 128

Course Information

Course Architect:
Arnold Palmer Redesign
Greens Type:
Greens Condition
Greens Difficulty
Beware of water on 0 holes and the 32 sand traps.

Texas Outside Rating

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


Approximate Weekend
$49.00 to $215.00

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.



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.