Twenty-five years ago Jack Nicklaus put desert target golf on the map with La Paloma in Tucson and Desert Highlands in Scottsdale. You can see how his design style has evolved at the brand new Ritz-Carlton Golf Club, Dove Mountain, host of the 2009 WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.
The course is a 27-hole expedition through dense desert-mountain foothills, with roomy landing areas, strategically placed fairway bunkers and a handful of forced carries. But the real fun comes on the greens, which deliver intricate interior contouring rather than the sharper-edged broad levels that Jack favored too many times in years past. The Match Play will be contested over the Saguaro and Tortolia nines.
Jack’s favorite nine is the Wild Burro loop, which sits closest to the future hotel site. The PGA Tour opted to use the other two nines for gallery flow purposes, so when you tackle Wild Burro you’ll get to see what the pros missed. That includes perhaps the most dramatic triangle in desert golf: holes 3, 4 and 5, which tangle with Wild Burro Wash. The green at the 470-yard 3rd is an island isolated among the sand and cacti. In other words, a hole that lends itself perfectly to match play.
At least you can enjoy it, even if the pros can’t.