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Arizona's Stone Canyon
Here's a golf course that looks like a prehistoric rock garden. Luckily, it plays like a something out of Eden. Between the stark, boulder-strewn Santa Catalina Mountains looming on the east and the Tortolita Mountains to the north, you half expect to see dinosaurs roaming just around the doglegs here.
In fact, this 1,400-acre property in Oro Valley, Ariz. (18 miles north of Tucson), is brilliantly conceived at every point, from the Jay Morrish-designed golf course to the generous land plan, meandering roads and Tuscan-themed home sites and clubhouse. With the homes set back and virtually hidden in the Sonoran foothills here, the golf holes play out of box canyons and alongside rock stacks as if
in their own ancient world. Small wonder this private club ranks No. 78 on Golfweek's best-modern-courses list and No. 20 among golf communities in the U.S.
Some of the back tees are perched on precipices and feel more like launching pads. From 7,317 yards (73.9 rating/140 slope), the course is demanding in the extreme, especially as the desert floor provides little hope for wayward shots. But the fairways are generous, and as you move up to the middle and forward tees, the forced carries all but disappear. There's a great little uphill par-3 sixth hole, all of 145 yards to a humpback green with a splashy waterfall to the left. And the 306-yard, par-4 17th hole plays through a box canyon and is seductive from the tee-especially because at an elevation of 3,000 feet above sea level, golfers get a 5- to 6-percent boost of additional yardage through the thin air.
Stone Canyon is readily accessible via Tucson International Airport (28 miles to the south) and, for business jet travelers, Avra Valley Airport in Marana (10 miles west).
AVRA VALLEY AIRPORT (AVW)
Longest runway: 6,901 ft
Elevation: 2,031 ft
FBO: Tucson Aeroservice Center (520-682-2999)