When Oro Valley engineering officials began planning for the La Cañada Drive widening project, a problem quickly arose. Errant golf balls hit from the fourth tee of a nearby golf course were routinely landing in what would be the right lane of southbound La Cañada once the work is complete.
“It’s one of our best holes,” said Mark Oswald, director of golf with the Hilton El Conquistador.
When town officials heard of the situation, they decided to hire a golf-course architect to help them come up with a plan.
The result of that plan is an agreement for the town to pay $420,000 to reconfigure the fairway and tee box of the fourth hole. The town council Wednesday night will vote to approve the agreement.
The first option the architect came up with was to erect a golf ball net to line the fairway to keep back the stray tee shots.
But the possibility of a 1,200-foot long, 120-foot tall net bordering the roadway didn’t sit well with town leaders or neighbors. More than the web stretching nearly a quarter of a mile along La Cañada, the cost was equally unattractive — $500,000, plus annual maintenance costs and the likelihood of buying a new net every five years.
The second option, ultimately chosen by town and country club officials, was to rearrange the fourth hole in a way that minimizes the chances of golf balls causing broken windshields and dented fenders.
When the rebuilt hole is completed, golfers will notice a lower tee box, more trees lining the fairway that backs up against La Cañada, and a large swath of desert between the fairway’s end and the green.
Even though it will be 20 yards shorter, which will encourage golfers using irons instead of drivers to tee off, players are going to be faced with a more challenging second shot.
“We’re trying to keep drivers out of people’s hands on that hole,” Oswald said. “It’s probably going to be one of our tougher holes.”
Town officials are unwilling to take responsibility for any adverse affects the project has on players’ games.
“It’s still going to be a par 4,” said Oro Valley spokeswoman Mary Davis, adding, “I think golf on any hole is challenging.”
Town leaders said a state loan would provide the money to pay for the golf course reconfiguration, which will be repaid using Pima Association of Governments Highway User Revenue Funds. The town will use the money to pay the total costs of construction.
The town paid $17,100 for the design portion while the country club paid the remaining $1,900.
Work should be completed in September.
Oro Valley officials are excited about the public-private partnership. In fact, if the council approves the partnership, town manager David Andrews intends to put the project in for a Metro Pima Alliance Common Ground Award. The award recognizes public/private partnerships and collaborations in addressing planning and development projects.
“This project symbolizes that beautifully,” Davis said. “Everybody was working together from the outset to find solutions.”
Perhaps golfers will look past the bogeys if the town brings home an accolade in November.