TUCSON, Ariz. -- Spencer Cody -- head professional at Sewailo Golf Club at Casino Del Sol Resort -- laughed when he recalled hearing a quote dished out to a regional golf magazine by course superintendent Jonathan Williams.
Williams said the Pascua Yaqui Tribe's new Notah Begay III/Ty Butler-designed golf course was "a story of two Johnsons, Zach and Dustin."
"We gave Williams a hard time when we read the quote," said Cody. "But his words ring pretty true. Some holes you have a chance to challenge the fairway bunkers that are strategically placed by overpowering them (like Dustin), but sometimes you just need to avoid them (like Zach)."
Sewailo Golf Club, a 7,282-yard par 72, is the first course to open in Tucson since the Golf Club at Dove Mountain, former home to the WGC-Accenture Match Play. That was five years ago, and now the Match Play is leaving town.
Sewailo is more parkland than typical Arizona target golf thanks to the tribe's access to the Central Arizona Project water under rights owned by the tribe providing 325 million gallons of water per year -- four to five times that of the average Arizona golf course.
Multiple streams and creeks with four waterfalls were designed to be as natural looking as possible. You won't think of Donald Trump when you see these flowing waters.
Sewailo means "flower world," and the course is loaded with more than 30,000 plants and native flowers salvaged during construction and the planting of thousands more, including a few saguaros here and there. The flower world includes xeroscape -- water reduction plantings -- that certainly follow the theme of the golf course.
Among the plants are wild flowers, including brittle bush, a desert shrub in the sunflower family. It blooms yellow in the early spring. Along the no. 9 and 18 corridor more than 500 rose bushes were planted, with 80 pyracanthas lining one bank. Planted trees include pine, Texas mountain laurel, weeping willows, palo verde, mesquite and flowering evergreens. In a year or two, as the native areas fill in, the course could very well be one of the most colorful outside of Aviara Golf Club near San Diego.
Sewailo Golf Club: Use brain power before you hit
"Players tell us they love the conditioning, the wide fairways, the challenge and the nearly 14 acres of lakes," Spencer said. "But most say the water is not over-powering."
Most agree this course follows a crescendo. Take advantage of the first hole and the front nine because things get harder. The 364-yard first hole takes finesse because a stream crosses the fairway 50 yards short of an enormous undulating double green (shared by the eighth green, 23,900 square feet), but the second hole is a go-for-it, 360-yard par 4.
The most talked-about hole is the double-dogleg 10th, a 638-yard par 5.
"It requires an accurate drive to avoid a lake on the right," Cody said. "And I never dream of reaching this green in two. Aim at the middle bunker on the left that is about 305 yards, and then hit a six iron on the second shot. That will leave you 110 to 115 yards for the third shot."
Sewailo Golf Club: Final thoughts
Even though the GPS is very helpful, having an experienced playing partner such as Vice President of Sales Mark Scheller is priceless on your first journey through this desert. This is definitely a golf course where you must think about your shot, gather information and place it correctly.
Just a matter of feet can produce an A-position drive. Five feet right of the correct landing spot can result in a drive careening down a slope right in to a lake. Talk about the difference in muttering and smiling. Also try and avoid the 67 bunkers, many of which are deep and perilous.
Sewailo will also host the first Jack Nicklaus Academy of Golf in Arizona, offering programs for individuals, groups, golf schools, corporations and the community. The course features an extensive driving range and practice areas for chipping, bunker play and putting. In addition, Sewailo is the home course for the University of Arizona's men's and women's golf teams.
Callaway Golf equipment rentals and instructional programs make this experience noteworthy. Troon Golf, the best at what it does, manages Sewailo, and the course is open to casino resort guests and the general public.
Luxury and fun at Casino Del Sol Resort
Since opening its resort tower in 2011, Casino Del Sol Resort (casinodelsol.com) has been an award-winner. It has become one of the most decorated casino resort properties in Arizona, earning the Forbes Travel Guide Four Star award for its resort, Hiapsi Spa and P.Y. Steakhouse, AAA Four Diamond status for the overall resort, and the Wine Spectator award for P.Y. Steakhouse.
Don't miss the dining experience at PY Steakhouse, but the resort has numerous great places to have breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Accommodations are comfy, upscale and deliver expansive views of the pool area and golf course. Casino Del Sol Resort, located in the southwest edge of Tucson, not far from the airport, also offers guests and players alike a state-of-the-art conference center with breakout rooms, Hiapsi Spa, Oasis pool and bar, two casinos, and AVA outdoor amphitheater.